The Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) has announced plans to offer a range of financial incentives worth up to $2bn in a bid to increase its attractiveness as an alternative location to Dubai.
The incentive plan is targeted at multinational companies able to give a commitment to set up a business hub in the Gulf nation for up to a decade and is set to kick off in the first quarter of next year.
The government will provide free office space, tax incentives as well as seed capital to cover five years of operating expenses in return. The QFC location would also mean companies would have access to the local market and to government contracts.
Money in the bank
The fund for the scheme is already established and the government is just finalising its governance and administration structures before allocating the money, Yousuf Al Jaida, chief executive officer of the Qatar Financial Centre Authority, told Bloomberg TV.
“It’s there, ready to be tapped, sitting in a bank account under government supervision,” he said.
“We expect every single QFC company to have full access to government tenders and have unlimited access to the local market be it corporate and retail.”
Al Jaida said Qatar was mainly targeting firms in countries such as Kuwait, Oman, Iraq, Syria and potentially some others in Asia and had already built a “healthy pipeline” of applicants.
The target audience reflects the current diplomatic realities across the Middle East and Africa after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, the Maldives, Mauritania, Senegal, Djibouti, the Comoros all cut economic and diplomatic ties with Qatar in June last year.
The rift was linked to accusations of financing terrorist groups and having close ties with Iran, all charges that Qatar rejects.
New free zones
The first “free zone” in Qatar, the Umm Al Houl Free Zone, located next to the Hamad International Port, will also be ready to receive local and foreign investors during the first quarter of 2019, the government has said.
The minister of state and chairman of the Free Zones Authority, Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Sayed, announced the opening earlier this week and said said a second Free Zone, Abu Fontas, which is located next to Hamad International Airport and has a gate on the airport to facilitate cargo operations and associated matters, will also be launched next year.
He revealed that the Free Zones Authority is engaged in early negotiations with some major international companies to reach joint ventures in those areas, stressing that some of these companies will be operating from Qatar.