Author

Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Daily Newspaper published by GPPC Doha, Qatar.
×
Subscribe now for Gulf Times
Personalise your news and receive Newsletters!
By signing up with an email address, I acknowledge that I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy .
Your email exists
 Peter Alagos
Peter Alagos
Peter Alagos reports on Business and general news for Gulf Times. He is a Kapampangan journalist with a writing career of almost 30 years. His photographs have been published in several books, including a book on the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption launched by former Philippine president Fidel V. Ramos. Peter has also taught journalism in two universities.
Alfredo E Pascual, Department of Trade and Industry Secretary, Philippines.
Business
‘Pivotal legislative reforms’ seen to attract Qatar FDI for key Philippine projects

The Philippines has implemented pivotal legislative reforms or “key economic liberalisation laws” as part of its transformative agenda to enhance its attractiveness for foreign direct investments (FDIs), such as those from Qatar and other countries.The government has embarked on a strategic shift to attract more FDI, fostering an environment more conducive for foreign investors and driving economic growth and development, said Alfredo E Pascual, the secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).Pascual said these key economic liberalisation laws include the following: the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act (or Republic Act No 11534); Amendments to the Foreign Investments Act of 1991 (RA No 11647); Amendments to the Retail Trade Liberalisation Act (RA No 11595); Amendments to the Public Service Act (RA No 11659); Amendments to Section 19 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Renewable Energy (RE) Act of 2008; RA No 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Act; Executive Order (EO) No 18, Series of 2023 Constituting Green Lanes for Strategic Investments; and revised guidelines and procedures for entering into joint venture (JV) agreements between government and private entities.In a previous interview with Gulf Times, Pascual identified several specific sectors or industries that could be infused with Qatari investments. These priority sectors include agribusiness/agriculture; energy efficiency technologies and RE; infrastructure and public-private partnership (PPP) projects, such as real estate development and logistics; Artificial intelligence (AI); Information Technology and Business Process Management (IT-BPM); manufacturing; oil and gas; processed and speciality food (Halal food); and tourism, including hospitality.Pascual emphasised that the CREATE Act harmonised the differing incentive packages offered by the Philippines’ various Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs) into a single and unified incentive menu.“Through this, we aim at providing greater certainty to foreign investors as to ‘incentives availment’. We believe that this could also potentially help attract more FDIs in the country through the Strategic Investment Priority Plan (SIPP),” Pascual told Gulf Times.Through RA No 11647, Pascual said the Philippine government reduced the minimum paid-up capital requirement from $200,000 to $100,000 (subject to certain conditions on technology use and domestic employment, among others) for foreign investors to set up and fully own domestic enterprises, including small and medium-sized enterprises.“This is established under the Inter-Agency Investment Promotion Co-ordination Committee (IIPCC), which is tasked to integrate all promotion and facilitation initiatives to encourage foreign investments,” he said.Similarly, Pascual said RA No 11595 has lowered the minimum paid-up capital requirement from $2.5mn to $500,000.00 for foreign retail investors. This has enabled setting up foreign retail investments easier through the removal of the certification of pre-qualification requirements, the removal of the public offering of shares, and the reduction in the minimum investment requirement per store, he said.He said the Philippines has liberalised foreign ownership of projects engaging in exploration, development, and utilisation of solar, wind, hydro, and ocean resources to hasten the transition to RE resources.As of April 2024, the DTI, through the Board of Investments (BOI), has granted green lane endorsement to 59 projects, covering investments in manufacturing, digital infrastructure, and food security, among others amounting to P1.90tn.He said the Revised Guidelines and Procedures for Entering into JV Agreements between Government and Private Entities was designed to enhance competition for projects under JVs.“We work to enhance the performance of private sector parties and strengthen checks and balances to ensure the technical and financial viability of government projects,” Pascual added.

Varghese Cherian, chief revenue officer at Builder.ai.
Business
Qatar, Gulf region is rife with innovation and opportunity, says industry expert

An official of a next-gen app development platform has stressed the importance of supporting Gulf-based entrepreneurs and expressed optimism about the GCC region’s potential for innovation and opportunity in the future.Varghese Cherian, chief revenue officer at Builder.ai, noted that while the Gulf region has an abundance of ideas, entrepreneurs and startup founders in the GCC still require guidance to transform their concepts into successful business ventures.In October 2023, Builer.ai signed a memorandum of understanding with the Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy, whose website stated that under the MoU, “the company will support the chamber’s ‘Create Apps in Dubai’ initiative by offering free prototyping to the app developer community and co-funding the winners of the ‘App Olympics’ competition to build a new mobile application in Dubai.”“We’re trying to bring the ecosystem together and making sure that startups are enabled by positioning Builder.ai as a key player in the development of the GCC region’s entrepreneurial landscape.“We intend to bridge the gap between the idea and execution stage... if things go well in the next three or four or five years, this region is going to be moving with ideas and opportunities,” Cherian told Gulf Times.In Qatar where the company is charting an ambitious expansion strategy, Builer.ai has participated in several top-level events, such as the country’s first-ever Web Summit Qatar.It is also engaging with different public and private sector entities, including the Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) to mentor future entrepreneurs, as well as collaborations with Startup Grind for knowledge exchange and the sharing of best practices and experiences with different startups and entrepreneurs in the country.“One thing that we’re very conscious about is how difficult it is to be an entrepreneur. There’s a lot of struggle that happens to get to where we are, so one of the things that we have been doing is to go and talk to people in different forums.“We engage with different folks who are probably future entrepreneurs to guide them about the best strategies to utilise at whatever stage they are in to make sure they succeed,” Cherian further explained.Earlier, Startup Grind Qatar announced that it forged a strategic partnership with Builder.ai as part of joint initiatives to drive growth in the country’s startup community by utilising innovative technology solutions.Cherian said, “We’ve started the engagement with Startup Grind in Qatar, and we’re taking it to the global stage. We went and met the global team in the US and among our discussion is that there is a particular focus on the Gulf and that there is a need to engage more in the region.”Asked about Builder.ai’s upcoming plans in Qatar, Cherian added: “I think there are a lot of opportunities. We are engaging with a lot of entities. Probably in the next 12 months, you’ll hear a lot about the initiatives that we’re trying to achieve, whether it’s in the private sector, semi-government, or the government. We’re trying to make a lot of things impactful for Qatar.”

Alexander Wiedmer and Soumaya Ben Beya Dridje, partner and junior partner, respectively, at Rasmal Ventures, during a Startup Grind Qatar panel discussion. PICTURE: Thajudheen
Business
VC experts see Qatar as launchpad for regional, global expansion

The country’s growing ecosystem is providing startup founders with the opportunity to utilise Qatar as a springboard for expanding their operations in the region or other international markets, according to experts from a Qatar-based venture capital (VC) fund manager.Alexander Wiedmer and Soumaya Ben Beya Dridje, partner and junior partner, respectively, at Rasmal Ventures, were part of a Startup Grind Qatar panel, which discussed Qatar’s growing startup ecosystem and how these small businesses have been scaling and commercialising over the last couple of years.According to Wiedmer, it is a “super exciting time” to set up shop in Qatar. He further discussed current developments in the country’s VC and startup ecosystem, particularly citing Qatar Investment Authority’s (QIA) $1bn “fund of funds” to attract VCs here.During the opening ceremony of the first-ever Web Summit Qatar 2024, HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani announced the QIA’s billion-dollar investment in international and regional VC funds to support local and international entrepreneurs.Speaking at one of Web Summit Qatar 2024 panel discussions, QIA chief investment officer – Americas, Mohamed al-Sowaidi said the the QIA’s $1bn investment underlines Qatar’s attractiveness as a destination for international funds.Wiedmer emphasised that this fund of funds will lead to more local and international VCs in Qatar, which will in turn attract more entrepreneurs to the country.“Qatar has previously not received much attention in terms of innovation due to political reasons, but this is changing. There will be more VCs here. There will be more VCs from the outside looking at the companies in Qatar. And so it’s a very good time to set up a company in Qatar. I think it’s only looking up,” Wiedmer said.Similarly, Ben Beya Dridje pointed out the strategic advantages of establishing a startup in Qatar, especially for startups targeting regional clients. She noted that the country is an ideal springboard to the regional market and beyond for either local or international startups that want to grow and expand their operations.Ben Beya Dridje also underscored Qatar’s potential in specific sectors, citing for example energy tech. Despite Qatar’s small market size, she stressed that the country can be significant for certain industries.

Indosat president director and CEO Vikram Sinha.
Business
Indosat looks to grow home broadband subscribers to 2mn by 2028

Indosat Ooredoo Hutchison (Indosat) is looking to increase its active subscribers to 2mn in the next four years by capitalising on the home broadband $4bn market potential by 2028, a top official has said.Indosat president director and CEO Vikram Sinha spoke about the company’s plans for its home broadband business following the recent MNC Play acquisition, saying “the company’s home broadband business will become an increasingly important contributor to Indosat’s growth in the future.”In November 2023, Indosat announced the collaboration between Asianet (a Lightstorm Group entity) and PT MNC Kabel Mediacom (MNC Play), in bringing world-class digital experience to customers.“We recently moved to expand this business by acquiring MNC Play’s customer assets. That acquisition transformed the scale of our fibre-to-the-home business, adding around 300,000 customers and strengthening our offering to include Internet Protocol Television Services (IPTV),” he said.According to Sinha, the impact of the deal is expected to be “highly positive,” bolstering Indosat’s EBITDA from 2024 and solidifying the company’s position in the rapidly growing home broadband market. Currently, Indosat’s home broadband business is catering to over 339,000 customers across Indonesia, he noted.Sinha said, “During ‘IOH Capital Market Day 2024’, we shared that the home broadband opportunity will have a $4bn market potential by 2028. We aim to capture an 8% to 10% market share by growing our active subscribers to 2mn in 2028.”Two and a half years after the merger of Indosat and Hutchinson 3 Indonesia, Sinha said Indosat now has more than 100mn customers, making it “one of the only top 10 telcos worldwide with that number of subscribers.”He said Indosat delivered “remarkable achievements” after the merger and network integration in 2023. Over the last 30 months, Indosat already reached more than $400mn in annualised synergies.“We have completed most of the big integration initiatives, mainly around network integration, although there is still some work to do. Our performance is a testament to the success of the merger – our market cap has more than doubled, our share price has increased over 50% in the last 12 months, our Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) has increased, and we are delivering a sustainable net profit to our shareholders. We have the highest total shareholder returns at 56%, the highest EBITDA growth in APAC. These numbers should instil confidence in our collective future,” he said.Sinha added: “From day one, it was clear that this merger would benefit Indosat, our customers, our employees, and Indonesia. This strategic decision was driven by our purpose of empowering every Indonesian, not solely shareholder interests. The subsequent growth of the industry following our merger serves as a testament to its positive effects on the country and its people.”

Varghese Cherian, chief revenue officer at Builder.ai.
Business
Startup Grind Qatar, Builder.ai strategic ties offer entrepreneurs access to digitisation

Startup Grind Qatar and Builder.ai have forged a strategic partnership to empower Qatar’s startup community with innovative technology solutions.According to a statement from Startup Grind Qatar, the strategic partnership is expected to drive growth and innovation within the country’s startup ecosystem by leveraging Builder.ai's platform.Qatar-based startups stand to gain from this collaboration by getting access to Builder.ai's platform and expertise, enabling entrepreneurs to streamline their development processes, accelerate time-to-market, and scale their businesses efficiently.Startup Grind Qatar has been leading the country’s startup community by providing cutting-edge technology solutions and support to startups in the region. Builder.ai, on the other hand, is a London-based next-gen app development platform charting an ambitious expansion strategy in Qatar.Last year, Builder.ai announced an investment of over $250mn in a Series D funding led by the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA). Speaking to Gulf Times during the Web Summit Qatar, Builder.ai CEO and co-founder Sachin Dev Duggal said the company’s expansion plan here “promises to revolutionise Qatar’s entrepreneurial landscape and drive digital transformation across various sectors in the country.”Varghese Cherian, chief revenue officer at Builder.ai, said: “We are excited to join forces with Startup Grind Qatar to empower local startups with the tools and resources they need to succeed in today’s competitive market.“At Builder.ai, we are committed to supporting entrepreneurship and fostering innovation, and this partnership exemplifies our dedication to driving digital transformation and growth within the Qatar startup community.”The partnership stipulates that Builder.ai will offer exclusive benefits and tailored support to startups in Qatar through workshops, ‘appathons’, and advisory, including access to Builder.ai's AI-powered software development platform, personalised consultations, and educational resources to help startups build, launch, and scale their digital products effectively.Startup Grind Qatar’s statement further noted, “We are thrilled to partner with Builder.ai to provide our community of entrepreneurs with state-of-the-art technology solutions that will empower them to bring their ideas to life and drive business success. Through this collaboration, we aim to create a thriving ecosystem where startups in Qatar can thrive, innovate, and achieve their full potential.”The statement added: “The partnership between Builder.ai and Startup Grind Qatar signifies a shared commitment to fostering entrepreneurship, technological advancement, and economic growth in Qatar by transforming the way software is created. Builder.ai’s platform allows entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes to adopt a software-first approach and empower the next generation of Qatari entrepreneurs.”Visit www.builder.ai and www.startupgrind.com/qatar for more information.

Anders Bjorn Hansen, the ambassador of Denmark to the UAE and Qatar. PICTURE: Thajudheen
Business
Danish envoy sees potential Qatar-Denmark ties in green solutions

Anders Bjorn Hansen, the ambassador of Denmark to the UAE and Qatar, has underscored potential collaboration between the Scandinavian country and Qatar in technology and both nations’ robust ties in the healthcare sector.The ambassador also underscored Denmark’s expertise in sustainable practices, wherein Danish companies could play a role in Qatar’s initiatives to transition into a green and knowledge-based economy.“I think one of the areas where we have a lot of expertise can be within green transition and green solutions, so we are always engaged in assisting Danish companies who want to have a stronger presence in the Qatari market...I’m quite sure we already have other Danish companies involved in different sectors, as well,” Hansen told Gulf Times.Over the years, Qatar has aggressively rolled out a wide range of programmes, including international partnerships with global tech giants and other organisations, to boost its digitalisation journey.The ambassador expressed optimism about Denmark’s role in Qatar’s push for digitalisation in key areas, including artificial intelligence (AI). Hansen said: “I’m quite sure we can; we have several leading companies in Denmark specialising in this field. Demark is a very highly digitalised country, so we have companies that could certainly contribute to this area in cooperation with the government and other companies in Qatar.”Similarly, the ambassador addressed the potential for collaboration in the startup sector between Qatar and Denmark, highlighting the need for entrepreneurs’ will and determination, and the importance of access to financing opportunities.Hansen also elaborated on Denmark’s biomedical landscape, describing it as “thriving” and “characterised by innovation, collaboration, and strong emphasis on research and development.”“Denmark takes pride in a thriving biomedical landscape characterised by innovation, collaboration, and strong emphasis on research and development. The country’s biomedical sector is vibrant with a focus on biopharmaceutical diagnostics and therapeutic development and the country hosts numerous biotech companies engaged in drug discovery, critical development and commercialisation of novel therapies,” Hansen said.Emphasising the longstanding interest between Denmark and Qatar in healthcare collaboration, Hansen said: “Both countries have unique strengths that can contribute various aspects of healthcare, including medical research, technology, and healthcare delivery. This collaboration involves sharing best practices, strategies and resources to improve the overall health and well-being of their populations.”Hansen also expressed optimism about the future, citing a recent signing ceremony renewing the strategic contract between Qatar-based Ebn Sina Medical and Novo Nordisk: “We all believe in the positive impact that this collaboration will have on the healthcare sector in Qatar and the beginning of a new era of cooperation, innovation, and growth as the partners work together to navigate challenges, seize opportunities and deliver value to stakeholders across the healthcare value chain.”

Anders Bjorn Hansen, the ambassador of Denmark to the UAE and Qatar. PICTURE: Thajudheen
Qatar
Danish envoy sees potential Qatar-Denmark ties in green solutions

Anders Bjorn Hansen, the ambassador of Denmark to the UAE and Qatar, has underscored potential collaboration between the Scandinavian country and Qatar in technology and both nations’ robust ties in the healthcare sector.The ambassador also underscored Denmark’s expertise in sustainable practices, wherein Danish companies could play a role in Qatar’s initiatives to transition into a green and knowledge-based economy.“I think one of the areas where we have a lot of expertise can be within green transition and green solutions, so we are always engaged in assisting Danish companies who want to have a stronger presence in the Qatari market...I’m quite sure we already have other Danish companies involved in different sectors, as well,” Hansen told Gulf Times.Over the years, Qatar has aggressively rolled out a wide range of programmes, including international partnerships with global tech giants and other organisations, to boost its digitalisation journey.The ambassador expressed optimism about Denmark’s role in Qatar’s push for digitalisation in key areas, including artificial intelligence (AI). Hansen said: “I’m quite sure we can; we have several leading companies in Denmark specialising in this field. Demark is a very highly digitalised country, so we have companies that could certainly contribute to this area in cooperation with the government and other companies in Qatar.”Similarly, the ambassador addressed the potential for collaboration in the startup sector between Qatar and Denmark, highlighting the need for entrepreneurs’ will and determination, and the importance of access to financing opportunities.Hansen also elaborated on Denmark’s biomedical landscape, describing it as “thriving” and “characterised by innovation, collaboration, and strong emphasis on research and development.”“Denmark takes pride in a thriving biomedical landscape characterised by innovation, collaboration, and strong emphasis on research and development. The country’s biomedical sector is vibrant with a focus on biopharmaceutical diagnostics and therapeutic development and the country hosts numerous biotech companies engaged in drug discovery, critical development and commercialisation of novel therapies,” Hansen said.Emphasising the longstanding interest between Denmark and Qatar in healthcare collaboration, Hansen said: “Both countries have unique strengths that can contribute various aspects of healthcare, including medical research, technology, and healthcare delivery. This collaboration involves sharing best practices, strategies and resources to improve the overall health and well-being of their populations.”Hansen also expressed optimism about the future, citing a recent signing ceremony renewing the strategic contract between Qatar-based Ebn Sina Medical and Novo Nordisk: “We all believe in the positive impact that this collaboration will have on the healthcare sector in Qatar and the beginning of a new era of cooperation, innovation, and growth as the partners work together to navigate challenges, seize opportunities and deliver value to stakeholders across the healthcare value chain.”

Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo E Pascual.
Business
Philippines eyeing Qatari investments in renewable energy, AI

The top official of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in the Philippines has identified several specific sectors or industries that could be infused with investments from the State of Qatar.DTI Secretary Alfredo E Pascual said Qatar may pour investments in the following priority sectors: agribusiness/agriculture; energy efficiency technologies and renewable energy (RE); infrastructure and public-private partnership (PPP) projects, such as real estate development and logistics; artificial intelligence (AI); Information Technology and Business Process Management (IT-BPM); manufacturing; oil and gas; processed and speciality food (Halal food); and tourism, including hospitality.In an interview with Gulf Times, Pascual said the Philippine government welcomes investment stakes in the RE sector to accelerate the exploration and development of RE sources, achieve energy self-reliance, and produce clean energy to mitigate the effect of climate change.According to Pascual, a total of 1,002 projects were awarded RE contracts as of December 31, 2022. Of these, 216 are existing facilities, with a total installed capacity of 5,571MW. Meanwhile, 786 projects with a potential capacity of 80,399MW are still under the predevelopment and development stage.Pascual said variable RE technologies, particularly wind and solar, have the highest combined potential of 67,046MW, comprising 83% of the total potential capacity. For ocean energy, the Philippines potentially has 24MW from eight proposed projects.The DTI secretary noted that the DTI sees potential for increased collaboration or joint ventures between Philippine and Qatari companies in the RE industry and other related downstream supply chain operations.“We also offer various opportunities in this field. Aside from the development and operation of RE projects, the Philippines can also host Qatari companies and their partners/suppliers engaged in the production and supply of turbine, foundation, cable and substation, and EPC/construction,” Pascual emphasised.Pascual also stressed that IT-BPM is a key pillar of the Philippine economy and serves as an enabler of support industries essential to the global value chain linkages of the aerospace, automotive, and electronics industries.He said the Philippine IT-BPM industry specialises in around 10 sector verticals and thus, also represents a major contributor to the competitiveness, productivity, and efficiency of the respective sectors they are supporting. Some of these are bank and financial institutions, the aerospace sector, the electronics industry, and healthcare, Pascual pointed out.“Moreover, the sector was valued at $35bn in 2023 and is currently employing 1.7mn. Based on the projections of the IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP), the industry is expected to grow to $59bn by 2028.“The Philippines can also serve as a captive base/global business service centre for finance, accounting, logistics, data analytics, and other high-value services. Further, we boast of its software development capabilities, with a total manpower of 200,000,” Pascual said.The DTI is also prioritising PPP infrastructure projects, particularly in the fields of water storage and management, renewable energy, waste management, logistics, transportation, Information and Communications Technology (ICT), urban development, and disaster mitigation, Pascual said.“Sustainable infrastructure is vital to the achievement of global clean growth and climate resilience. Hence, the administration of President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos, Jr has pledged to expand on ‘Build, Build, Build’, the previous leadership’s committed infrastructure programme, which was intended to launch a ‘golden age’ for infrastructure and economic growth. The programme has since been renamed ‘Build, Better, More’. President Marcos approved 198 high-impact infrastructure flagship projects (IFPs) worth P8.8tn ($155tn),” Pascual said.He added: “We are actively working towards establishing the Philippines as a manufacturing and logistics hub in Asia, particularly for Halal products. Efforts are also being made to streamline certifications for Philippine products in Qatar, aiming to reduce the burden on exporters and facilitate trade.”

Alexander Wiedmer, partner, Rasmal Ventures. PICTURES: Thajudheen
Business
Open Door VC initiative seen to spur growth in Qatar’s startup ecosystem

Stakeholders in Qatar's startup ecosystem stand to gain from a programme aimed at supporting startup owners and entrepreneurs in addressing a wide variety of challenges. The "Open-Door VC programme", which will be launched soon by Rasmal Ventures, takes a page from the "office hour," where university professors and teaching assistants in the US schedule a meeting with their students outside class hours. Alexander Wiedmer, partner, Rasmal Ventures, made the announcement during Startup Grind Qatar's regular panel discussion, where he was joined by colleague Soumaya Ben Beya Dridje, junior partner. The event was moderated by Startup Grind Doha chapter director Indica Amarasinghe. Wiedmer explained that the 'Open-Door VC programme' is part of Rasmal Ventures' commitment to support the country's startup ecosystem. While Qatar has an abundance of workshops and fora that provide advice and other helpful resources to entrepreneurs, he noted that the programme adds to this by addressing a startup's concerns in detail. Each month, we will dedicate a morning or afternoon to having in-person meetings with startups. One of our partners at Rasmal Ventures will be available to welcome a startup to our office at Workinton Lusail, and to discuss a subject pre-defined by the entrepreneur. The goal of this initiative is to provide entrepreneurs in Qatar with the opportunity to meet with a venture capital professional to tackle a difficulty, brainstorm solutions, and gain valuable insights on a specific challenge they are facing- Wiedmer further explained. He added: "The ecosystem provides workshops that cover a range of startup topics. Rasmal Ventures is a proud contributor to them, and they are also important. With Open-Door VC, we aim to do something different; to contribute a new resource for entrepreneurs in Qatar: The ability to unlock a particular obstacle the startup is facing in a very direct and concrete one-on-one interview." During the panel discussion, Ben Beya Dridje also said: "We are here in Qatar, so we want to add value and contribute our part in elevating the startup ecosystem. This programme will foster growth and collaboration in the community. Helping startups and entrepreneurs prepare for their journey will make it easier for us to invest because they are VC-ready." She added: "Within the team, we have a strong shared value: "The more you give to the ecosystem, the more you receive". Not only will we share this mindset with the community, but most importantly, we will demonstrate it."

Qatar Chamber board member Abdulrahman bin Abdullah al-Ansari.
Qatar
Qatar Chamber official lauds issuance of Ministerial Resolution No 123 of 2024

Qatar Chamber board member Abdulrahman bin Abdullah al-Ansari has lauded the issuance of Ministerial Resolution No (123) of 2024, which lowers the rental value of the ministry's industrial zone lands.Al-Ansari, who is also the chairman of the chamber’s Industry Committee, told Gulf Times in an interview that the Ministerial Resolution will create a positive impact in different sectors across the country.Earlier, HE the Minister of Municipality Abdullah bin Hamad bin Abdullah al-Attiyah issued the resolution to support the growth of the national economy, enhancing the role of the private sector in diversifying the economy, and contributing to supporting the development process witnessed by the country.Al-Ansari also expressed optimism that this development will propel growth in Qatar’s industrial sector, as well as drive the creation and exports of products bearing the ‘Made in Qatar’ trademark.“There is no doubt that this decision will help a lot and its impact will also be reflected positively in the cost of products and services, as well as in other sectors like logistics and manufacturing.“These are important decisions that will reflect on cost...it is a chain. If it costs me less, then I will able to provide better services at lower costs,” al-Ansari explained, noting that the Ministerial Resolution was issued at an appropriate time, citing economic headwinds being experienced worldwide.Al-Ansari emphasised that Qatar Chamber has been working with different government ministries and other authorities to ensure that the private sector can play its role in the development of the national economy.Highlighting its role as a private sector leader, al-Ansari said Qatar Chamber has a wide range of committees for each business sector, including real estate, insurance, banking, industry, commerce, and transportation, among others.“These committees discuss the challenges in their sectors. They also prepare reports that are raised to the relevant authorities in government. We hold regular consultations and meetings with various ministries and the government reconsiders the issues raised based on our input,” al-Ansari noted.He added: “There are many developments and initiatives in the pipeline that will further push the economic diversification initiatives of Qatar. We are working night and day to transform these developments into a reality.”

Indosat president director and CEO Vikram Sinha.
Business
Indosat leverages new technologies, global ties to drive growth

Indosat Ooredoo Hutchison (Indosat) has embarked on the next phase of its strategy to further the company’s growth, according to Indosat president director and CEO Vikram Sinha.Sinha told Gulf Times in an exclusive interview that Indosat is on a transformation journey from a traditional Telco focused on providing connectivity to a TechCo that leverages new technologies and global partnerships to offer digital services and experiences that ride on top of its connectivity.“Our shift to a TechCo model is not just about growth, it's about putting our customers at the heart of everything we do. We are transforming from a network-centric to a service-centric company, with a strong focus on enhancing the customer experience. This customer-centric approach is what will drive our success in the future.“As we transition to a TechCo, we recognise the importance of partnerships. We are diligently working to identify the right partners and operating models to roll out digital services at scale. This collaborative approach is not just about creating a digital ecosystem, but about building a community of success, where all our stakeholders, including our customers, can thrive,” Sinha explained.Sinha sand Indosat’s transition to a TechCo is based on five key pillars: ‘Empowering Indonesia’, ‘Marvelous experience’, ‘Innovation’, ‘Talent’, and ‘Mutual co-operation’ (or ‘Gotong royong’).“We are serving a vast and growing digital economy to empower Indonesia. We are also committed to delivering a marvellous experience for all stakeholders: partners, employees, society, and customers. The company is building an innovation engine that employs new technologies like data analytics and AI to drive operational and service improvement.“Indosat Ooredoo Hutchison is building the next generation of leaders with digital capabilities, and we are being enabled through partnerships with some of the world's leading technology giants,” Sinha emphasised.On the other hand, Indosat is also moving towards a more flexible asset-light model to free up capital to reinvest in technology and innovation that makes a real difference to its customers' experiences, he noted.“We believe it is the right strategy to work with partners who are experts in managing infrastructure. This is also a key part of our transformation from being a traditional Telco to a TechCo,” Sinha further explained.Speaking on Indosat’s utilisation of artificial intelligence (AI), including the company’s new partnership with Nvidia, Sinha said: “At Indosat, we have embarked on our journey from a traditional Telco to an AI-native TechCo. This means that we are changing from a company that only provides connectivity to one that leverages new technologies—cloud, AI, and cybersecurity—and partnerships with global technology companies to offer digital services and experiences on top of our connectivity and to drive the productivity of our operations.“Our focus on data analytics and AI is not just a strategic move, but a commitment to our more than 100mn customers. We believe that these technologies are foundational elements for enhancing their experience. With the appointment of a Chief Enterprise Data Analytics Officer, we are spearheading the democratisation of data access, a step that will significantly improve our service and customer experience.”Sinha added: “Another key focus is on AI-cloud services. In February 2024, we announced a groundbreaking partnership with Nvidia, through our subsidiary Lintasarta as the national preferred cloud provider, to establish Indonesia's sovereign AI cloud capabilities, positioning the nation at the forefront of the global AI cloud community. Through this collaboration, we will harness Nvidia's cutting-edge technology to offer AI Cloud services to Indonesian customers, utilising data centres operated by BDx Indonesia, a joint venture between Indosat, Lintasarta, and BDx Data Centres.“Our partnership with Nvidia is more than just business. It's about contributing to the development of a truly digital nation in Indonesia. By democratising access to AI cloud services, we are unlocking the potential of every Indonesian business, creating jobs, and fostering opportunities for all Indonesians. We are proud to be a part of this transformative journey.”

HE the Minister of Municipality Abdullah bin Hamad bin Abdullah al-Attiyah delivering a speech at the event. PICTURE: Thajudheen.
Qatar
PM launches Smaisma development project

HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani yesterday launched the multi-billion Qatari riyal Smaisma Project, which is expected to become Qatar’s new urban landmark, adding to the country’s growing list of unique tourist destinations along its coast.Smaisma is the Ministry of Municipality’s latest project, which will be managed by Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Company. The launch was attended by HE the Minister of Municipality Abdullah bin Hamad bin Abdullah al-Attiyah and key figures from the government, investment, tourism, and real estate communities.In a speech, al-Attiyah stressed the importance of collaboration between partners in the public and private sector to continue and reinforce the growth trajectory that Qatar has been witnessing.Al-Attiyah said, “As we move steadily towards achieving Qatar National Vision 2030, we are building a future more prosperous and stable for future generations, economically, socially and environmentally. We look forward to enriching the tourism sector with more projects that meet the needs of this vital industry.”Engineer Ali bin Mohamed al-Ali, CEO of Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Company, thanked the Ministry of Municipality for placing its trust in Qatari Diar to manage the project.Al-Ali said, “This latest project has been planned under the umbrella of the Ministry of Municipality and in line with the path of continued economic growth pursued by the State of Qatar. This project will set a new standard for tourism in the region and write a new and exciting chapter in Qatar’s ongoing success story.”He added: “The Qatari real estate market is valued at $485bn in 2024, and attracts the most foreign direct investments after the energy sector. This industry has witnessed notable growth in the past few years, driven by an increase in demand on residential and retail spaces, growth in visitor numbers, and Qatar’s hosting of mega events and development in the business and trade sector.”The Smaisma Project will span 8mn sq m, and extends along 7km of pristine beachfront on Qatar’s eastern coast, in an area known as Smaisma Beach, providing novel tourist and entertainment experiences to the people of Qatar and its visitors.It provides promising investment opportunities with 16 tourism zones available for development by the private sector, including resorts spread out over four zones each with a unique design and character. In addition, the project will feature a large-scale theme park, 18-hole golf course, residential villas, and a yacht marina, as well as luxury restaurants and retailers.Sustainability will be a fundamental pillar of the project, with reliance on smart construction systems, in addition to the use of local and recycled materials, as well as the latest in construction technology. To Page 12

Builder.ai CEO and co-founder Sachin Dev Duggal.
Business
‘Composable software’ could democratise tech entrepreneurship, says industry expert

A global software development company is set to play a key role in Qatar’s rapidly developing tech ecosystem by supporting local entrepreneurs and collaborations with key institutions in the country.Citing partnership with Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), Sachin Dev Duggal, CEO and co-founder of Builder.ai, said the company is working to revolutionise Qatar’s startup ecosystem by empowering local entrepreneurs and lowering engineering risks and costs, making it easy for them to develop products.“Doha is very important to us because of the strategic access we get through QIA. On a global perspective, QIA is now leading the charge in terms of sovereign funds, or even funds for that matter, that are helping companies crossover from early stages to later stages.“Having them as a partner is powerful given how wide that portfolio is. And similarly, they think of us as a good contributor into the portfolio because we can help so many of their non-technical investments or technology investments make that transformation jump,” Duggal told Gulf Times in an exclusive interview.According to Duggal, Builder.ai utilises the ‘Robin Hood model’ to provide startups access to advanced technology. “We charge enterprises a lot more. We use that excess or that additional amount, to drive price down at the lower end, so at the startup and the entrepreneur,” he explained.He further explained how Builder.ai’s unique business model is making advanced tech more accessible to startups: “We call it ‘composable software’, because what we’re saying is, it’s as good as how you talk about your idea. It’s as good as how you answer certain questions about your idea or the problem you’re trying to solve.“That suddenly makes it a very level playing field, where everybody can now be an entrepreneur. Everybody, because all they’ve got to do is think about a novel concept or a novel idea or a problem they’re solving.”Duggal also underscored Builder.ai’s ability to reduce engineering and product risk for startups “by 20x,” addressing major challenges, such as engineering issues, in the startup ecosystem where failure rates can reach “70% to 80%.”He noted that the company envisions to forge more partnerships and collaborations with Qatar’s leading academic institutions. Leveraging the country’s educational system will further attract talent back to Doha, Duggal also pointed out.“We’ve been having several conversations with various constituents of the Qatar ecosystem around how we could do research and development here. And what we’re hearing now is a lot of folks want to come back to Doha; maybe they’ve had their PhDs overseas and want to come back,” he revealed.To encourage Qatar’s aspiring entrepreneurs, Duggal emphasised the need for global collaboration and the importance of grit, perseverance, and pushing boundaries.Duggal said, “Collaborate internationally or globally, there’s no harm in that. Also, stay in Doha. It’s going to change quickly and fast, and you want to be at the precipice of that wave...a lot of times we say an entrepreneur is gifted, but I don’t think the gift is the talent. It’s not enough. Talent is grit, dedication, showing up, following through, and dealing with the 100 no’s before you get the 101st yes is the talent.”

CQBF executive director Yasser Dhouib.
Qatar
Canadian firms to join World Summit AI Qatar

Some 15-20 Canadian companies are expected to participate in the World Summit AI Qatar slated in Doha by the end the year, an official of the Canadian-Qatari Business Forum (CQBF) has said.Yasser Dhouib, executive director of the Canadian-Qatari Business Forum (CQBF), said the participating companies accompanying the CQBF delegation to the summit represent a variety of sectors, including manufacturing, robotics, healthcare, cleantech, transportation and logistics, education, energy, finance, agri-food, and retail.“The presence of the Canadian-Qatari Business Forum at the World Summit AI Qatar from December 10-11 at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre and the Web Summit Qatar 2025 reflects CQBF’s firm commitment to foster strategic initiatives, business opportunities, and partnerships with companies in Qatar and fruitful return of investments for their Canadian counterparts,” Dhouib told Gulf Times.Dhouib’s statement follows CQBF’s “successful participation” in the recently concluded Collision 2024 held in Toronto. He noted that Collision is dubbed as “North America’s fastest-growing tech conference, bringing together Fortune 500 companies, groundbreaking startups, and world-class speakers.”“The CQBF’s attendance at Collision demonstrates our efforts to draw Canadian high-tech companies and AI technology into Qatar’s vision for becoming a regional hub for high-tech investment,” Dhouib explained.According to Dhouib, the CQBF reported a “significant presence” at Collision, fostering partnerships with key Qatari entities, such as Invest Qatar and its initiative, Startup Qatar, “a one-stop online platform catering to all business requirements and serving as the single comprehensive national resource for information, support and opportunities offered to startups.”The involvement of Qatari government agencies like Qatar Research, Development and Innovation (QRDI) Council confirms a strong commitment to collaborative initiatives between both countries, said Dhouib, who highlighted Canada’s “strategic importance” in Qatar’s plans, thus positioning the CQBF “as a pivotal partner in this initiative.”Dhouib emphasised that CQBF is keen to work with other strategic public and private sector partners from Qatar and Canada in the realm of tech and IT, among other sectors, ahead of the upcoming World Summit AI Qatar.The CQBF plans to engage with private and government authorities, such as Qatar Chamber, the Qatari Businessmen Association (QBA), and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) to achieve the goals of Qatar National Vision 2030, Dhouib said.Similarly, CQBF also collaborates with Canadian federal and provincial organisations to advance the development and deployment of AI technologies, Dhouib said, adding that this aims to leverage Canada’s strengths in AI for international partnerships and economic growth.“The CQBF works with the governments of Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick to promote Canadian AI innovations on a global stage. We have jointly supported trade missions that highlight Canadian AI capabilities and facilitate partnerships in Qatar.“Through the Global Affairs Canada, the CQBF has co-ordinated efforts to connect Canadian AI firms with Qatari counterparts, supporting the exchange of technology and expertise between the two nations,” he explained.Dhouib noted that the CQBF collaborates with Montreal startups and the Investissement Quebec to support Quebec-based AI startups in exploring opportunities in Qatar. This includes organising workshops and networking events tailored to bridging Quebec’s tech ecosystem with Qatari markets, he also said.Dhouib further explained that the CQBF is encouraging Canadian companies across the country to explore collaborative opportunities and solidify partnerships. “Meetings and roundtable discussions are being scheduled to address mutual interests in technology and innovation sectors, aligning with Qatar’s strategic vision for AI and digital transformation,” he emphasised.Dhouib said the CQBF is embarking on long-term prospective partnerships with Toronto Global, an umbrella group of hi-tech and IA Canadian companies, as well as MaRS, the world's largest urban innovation hub in Toronto that supports startups in the health, clean tech, fintech, and enterprise sectors.“The CQBF is crafting partnerships with Startup Montreal as the main hub for high-tech investment companies. This is certainly an important asset that the CQBF is gearing up to present for prospective Qatari companies and business partners.“Thanks to its pan-Canadian outreach, the CQBF, in collaboration with provincial and territorial governments, is interested to create a Canadian-Qatari business partnership and the opportunity for interchangeable approaches of know-how transfer and expertise,” Dhouib added.

Gulf Times
Business
Global partnerships to boost Qatar’s sustainable farming industry

Joint ventures (JVs) and collaborative initiatives with international partners, such as Sweden-based agritech firm, Moving Floors, could help propel Qatar to the forefront of sustainable farming, creating a positive impact on the economy.Moving Floor CEO and co-founder Peg Söderberg expressed optimism about potential collaborations with the Gulf state, saying a collaboration can position Qatar as a leader in sustainable, high-quality agricultural equipment, attracting further investment and driving economic growth.In an exclusive interview with Gulf Times following a recent visit to Qatar to explore investment opportunities, Peg Söderberg, further explained: “A partnership between Moving Floor and Qatar can have several positive economic impacts. It can create employment opportunities in the agricultural sector, from technology installation and maintenance to farm operations. Knowledge-sharing initiatives can enhance the skills of the local workforce, fostering innovation and expertise in sustainable farming.”Söderberg pointed out that Moving Floor manufactures prefabricated modules that are installed at farms. Citing Qatar’s “excellent logistics” and free zones, she said the country could, in the long term, serve as a strategic export hub for Moving Floor, as well as a gateway to surrounding regions.“Most countries strive for self-sufficiency in food production, at least to some extent, as it is the backbone of society. This means Moving Floor has a big global market potential as we can renovate or build new barns, whether they are small or mega-farms,” she emphasised.Aside from JVs, Söderberg noted that Moving Floor is also anticipating potential opportunities for technology transfers and playing a role in Qatar’s existing agriculture investment projects to implement the company’s sustainable farming systems in the region and hot, arid Gulf climates.“Our technology is adaptable to various climates, including the hot and arid conditions of the Gulf region. Collaborating with Qatari agricultural projects can help implement sustainable farming systems that are efficient and resilient.“We can bring our expertise in automated cleaning solutions, which can be tailored to meet the unique environmental and agricultural needs of Qatar, ensuring enhanced productivity and sustainability. Localising sales and assembly is part of the Moving Floor go-to-market plan,” Söderberg stressed.She also said: “In a joint venture, Sweden and Qatar can leverage their respective strengths to create a powerful synergy. With more than 100 commercial dairy farms and 10 university collaborations running, Sweden’s expertise in sustainable farming and advanced agricultural technologies can provide innovative solutions and best practices.“Meanwhile, Qatar’s financial resources can support large-scale implementation and infrastructure development. This partnership can drive advancements in agricultural productivity and sustainability, combining Swedish innovation with Qatari investment to achieve shared goals in food security and economic growth.”Söderberg noted that other forms of collaboration between Moving Floor and Qatari partners that could drive innovation and impact foreign direct investment (FDI) flows in this sector include pilot farms, research and development (R&D) partnerships, training programmes, and knowledge exchange initiatives.She said: “Establishing research centres in Qatar focused on sustainable agriculture could drive innovation and adaptation of technologies to local conditions. Training programmes for local farmers and agricultural workers on the use of automated systems and sustainable practices can enhance skills and productivity. These collaborations can attract further FDI by showcasing Qatar as a hub for advanced, sustainable farming practices.”Söderberg added: “Automated cleaning systems maintain high sanitation standards, reducing the risk of contamination and disease. Additionally, our technology can improve traceability in supply chains by providing accurate records of cleaning and animal health, supporting transparency and trust in food production.”

Swedish ambassador Gautam Bhattacharyya.
Business
Opportunities rife for Qatar-Sweden economic ties: Swedish envoy

Qatar has abundant opportunities for Swedish companies to contribute to the Gulf nation’s ambitious goals to position itself as a regional hub for sports, tourism, and mega-events, Swedish ambassador Gautam Bhattacharyya has said.Citing the successful hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Bhattacharyya emphasised Swedish telecom giant Ericsson’s successful 5G rollout during the global sporting event. “This underscores how the company assured the technical backbone during the football matches. We also had a Swedish firm providing the state-of-the-art pool for the World Aquatics Championships that Doha recently hosted,” he pointed out.Beyond infrastructure, the ambassador emphasised that people-to-people ties are flourishing through the sports arena: “Sweden is a great sporting nation. And Swedish experts are working in Qatar across football, table tennis, horse riding, and more. Swedish teams visit here frequently for the country’s training camps, leveraging Qatar’s world-class facilities.”Similarly, Bhattacharyya lauded Aspetar, a world-leading specialised orthopaedic and sports medicine hospital headquartered in Doha and the first of its kind in the Middle East. Under Aspetar’s elite athlete healthcare services, the ambassador said Swedish national level athletes regularly receive world-class treatment and rehabilitation there. “Sweden is also well-known for sports therapy and there is further scope for collaboration in this field” Bhattacharyya noted.Asked how businesses from Sweden and Qatar could contribute to strengthening cultural ties and fostering mutual understanding, Bhattacharyya underscored commonalities between the two nations, describing them as smaller countries that have transitioned from subsistence level to export-led wealth.“Both peoples, Qataris and Swedes, were traditionally hardy, self-sufficient and very hardworking, affected by the often harsh climate and nature in both countries, so there is some kind of basic similarity in their inherited cultural substrata. Today, Sweden is a very hyper-modern, innovative European country with fairly individualistic values.“Qatar, on the other hand, has a more family-oriented, collectivistic value. But still, or precisely because of the differences, there is ample space for collaboration in culture, sports and other areas” the ambassador explained.According to Bhattacharyya, Qatar’s acquisition of a major Turkish 18th century art collection “The Biby Collection”, formerly owned by Sweden, reflects linkages in traditional arts. However, he noted that unconventional synergies are also underway, such as interconnecting the Qatari, Indian, and Swedish film industries through a multi-nation co-production initiative.“It pays to think out of the box. It’s not always just between Qatar and Sweden. Qatar is a great midway point between many geographies and with top-modern facilities here, allowing room for creative initiatives”.Moreover, the ambassador noted that Sweden’s large Arab diaspora provides a bridge, evidenced by the prominent Malmo Arab Film Festival, one of the biggest Arab language film festivals in Europe, where Qatari films have received various awards and prizes.Bhattacharyya also suggested opportunities for mutual learning with Sweden’s approach to inclusive economic growth, citing Swedish expertise in adapting workplaces for those with special needs like autism. “Qatar and Sweden can learn together, especially in implementing new pedagogic methods and technologies for elderly people and children with special needs, such as autism. These are areas where Sweden has a strong focus.“We have companies specialising in the needs of people who are visually or audibly impaired, or other functional impairments. We have adapted our workplaces to address the needs of these people. And I believe Qatar is taking the same direction, so, again that’s another great area for collaboration,” Bhattacharyya further emphasised.

FAM CEO Hakan Buskhe. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Business
Innovation, knowledge exchange to drive Qatar-Sweden sustainability goals

Qatar and Sweden share a high potential in forging sustainability partnerships driven by innovation and knowledge exchange, according to the CEO of FAM, a Swedish private holding company founded by the Wallenberg family.Hakan Buskhe recently led a high-level business delegation to Qatar comprising Swedish CEOs, who explored the country’s investment opportunities and industrial landscape to foster partnerships between Swedish and Qatari companies.In an exclusive interview with Gulf Times, Buskhe highlighted both countries’ parallel development pursuits, including Qatar’s sustainable development goals outlined in its 2030 National Vision, and Sweden’s expertise in renewable energy, urban planning, and environmental technologies that could support Qatar’s efforts.Buskhe also emphasised the potential range for knowledge sharing and collaborative innovation between Qatar and Sweden across sectors like sustainable cities, waste management, circular economy, agriculture, and food security.“There is strong potential for joint sharing of knowledge. For example, Sweden has been carbon-neutral in supplying electricity due to various circumstances for many years. We have utilised that to develop our products for the global market.“Of course, Qatar has its unique requirements. Yet, from what I've gathered through our interactions with various institutions and companies in Qatar, there is a significant opportunity to evolve and enhance sustainability. This shared goal aligns us closely,” Buskhe explained.Citing another commonality between both nations, Buskhe lauded Qatar Foundation’s (QF) focus on sustainability through research and development (R&D), saying this reflects the mutual commitment to sustainability, innovation, and learning from each other’s experiences.“It is important to note that Sweden and Qatar have different development paths. Among Sweden’s natural resources is iron ore; we have forests and many rivers, as well as green steel and sustainable electricity.But I think the understanding and the willingness to go in that direction is also very strong in Qatar as it is in Sweden. It is a genuine direction for both countries. And I think we can compare notes and learn from each other,” Buskhe explained.On the back of knowledge sharing and innovative collaboration befitting Qatar and Sweden’s forward-looking visions, Buskhe also emphasised the potential breadth of a sustainability partnership spanning renewable energy, agri-tech, smart cities, and circular economy solutions, among others.Buskhe pointed out that Sweden boasts a longstanding tradition in waste management, citing waste as “a good resource.” He noted that only “1%” of Sweden’s waste is sent to landfills, while the remaining “99%” is recycled or repurposed. He stressed that waste disposal and management is not solely a government responsibility but a collective effort of society.“In Sweden today, people spend the weekends sorting or engaging in recycling-related activities. Growing up in the ‘60s, we didn’t have this type of waste management. However, each individual has an impact on society, so everyone, not just the government of the city or municipality, must be responsible for doing their part in the circular economy.“Not only can Qatar and Sweden exchange or compare notes in the area of industrial technology and machinery, but also in terms of mindset whether it is on recycling or other ways to protect the environment,” Buskhe further explained.

Philippine ambassador Lillibeth V Pono and other embassy diplomats receiving Qatar's Minister of Justice and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs HE Ibrahim bin Ali al-Mohannadi and Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Department of Protocol director ambassador Ibrahim Fakhroo during the commemoration of the 126th anniversary of the Declaration of Philippine Independence held in Doha last Thursday. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Business
Qatari firms show strong interest in Philippine partnerships, says envoy

Major players and stakeholders in Qatar’s private sector have expressed keen interest in partnering with their counterparts in the Philippines, according to the southeast Asian nation’s top diplomat here. Ambassador Lillibeth V Pono told Gulf Times that the Philippine embassy in Qatar has been facilitating connections between both countries’ private sectors amid efforts by the administration of Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr to push for more foreign direct investment (FDI). According to Pono, one of the mandates of the embassy is to promote the Philippines’ economic interests through economic diplomacy and economic intelligence initiatives, as well as sharing opportunities and facilitating dialogues with businesses and other private sector stakeholders. The ambassador said the embassy is also assisting the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in the Philippines during the conduct of the Outbound Business Matching Mission (OBMM), which is organised by the DTI- Export Marketing Bureau (DTI-EMB), together with the Philippine Trade and Investment Centre (PTIC) – Dubai and Centre for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM). Pono also expressed optimism for potential collaboration between the private sectors of the Philippines and Qatar, citing business-to-business dialogue involving “big initiatives that could not be revealed at the moment.” However, Pono said the memorandum of understanding signed by Qatar Chamber with the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), as well as with the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, during the “historic” state visit of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani last April 2024 reflect the robust relations between both nations’ private sectors. In an interview with Qatar News Agency, PCCI president Enunina Mangio described His Highness the Amir’s state visit as “a significant event for the Philippine business sector” and “represents Qatar’s sincere interest in contributing to the Philippine’s development goals.” During her speech at the embassy’s recent commemoration of the 126th anniversary of the Declaration of Philippine Independence held in the presence of HE the Minister of Justice and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Ibrahim bin Ali al-Mohannadi in Doha, Pono lauded His Highness the Amir’s visit as "a demonstration of efforts to galvanise the action needed to elevate our bilateral relations to new heights.” Pono said: “During the visit, we witnessed the signing of several landmark agreements and the straightforward and sincere dialogue between the Amir and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr on further expanding the scope of bilateral co-operation, notably in trade and investment, agriculture, energy, defence, culture, climate change, and labour, among many other areas.” The ambassador also said: “The Philippines and Qatar commit to working closely to foster stronger economic relations, and we will be glad to have more and more Qatar investors becoming part of the Philippines’ growth trajectory. “We are a reliable and stable partner with our sound micro-economic fundamentals, an agile, educated, and skilled workforce, and business-friendly climate. We are now considered as one of the fastest-growing economies in the Asian region, expected to hit 6% growth in 2024 from 5.5% in 2023.”