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Thursday, February 22, 2024 | Daily Newspaper published by GPPC Doha, Qatar.
 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.
Qatar-Indonesia Business Council president Farhan al-Sayed
Business
‘Positive vibe’ driving optimism in Qatar’s commercial sector, says business council official

Qatar’s commercial sector is witnessing a “positive vibe” after a rise in market activity due to the gradual easing of Covid-19 restrictions in the country, according to the president of the Qatar-Indonesia Business Council (QIBC). “The steady opening of the markets as a result of the gradual lifting of Covid-19 restrictions has created a positive vibe in many industries across the country, especially in the commercial sector, which was at the receiving end of the pandemic’s impact on world economies,” QIBC president Farhan al-Sayed told Gulf Times. Major players and stakeholders in the private sector, especially many residents in Qatar, welcomed Phase 3 of the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, which came into effect recently, al-Sayed pointed out. Al-Sayed noted that many commercial businesses, such as restaurants and mall tenants, as well as other retail stores across the country, “are benefiting well” from the influx of more customers “now that people are allowed to go places that were previously restricted under Covid-19 health and safety protocols.” “The government, particularly the health ministry, has effectively handled the repercussions of the health pandemic, which is why Qatar is now seen as a safe country to visit. “At the heels of a very successful Covid-19 vaccine rollout, Qatar recently opened one of the world’s largest vaccination centres. This gives the international community a glimpse of how the Government of Qatar is serious in looking after the welfare of the country’s citizens and residents,” al-Sayed stressed. He also said, “In Qatar, domestic tourism is picking up as many families are taking a ‘staycation’. A number of destinations, such as the beaches and other outdoor areas outside of Doha, are now being frequented by citizens and residents. According to al-Sayed, Hamad International Airport (HIA) “is also witnessing an uptick in passenger activity” as many citizens and residents have started travelling abroad to celebrate Eid al-Adha. Qatar residents also made the most of the Eid holidays to visit loved ones back in their home countries, he said. “Because a large majority of people in Qatar have received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, this has given them the assurance and the confidence to start travelling both domestically and internationally. “However, it is still important for fully-vaccinated people to continue taking the necessary precautions against the coronavirus by maintaining physical distancing, wearing masks, and practising good hygiene. We should not let our guard down,” al-Sayed adde

Consumer confidence in online transactions is further increasing as more currency exchange houses in Qatar are enhancing their digital operations, an industry expert has said.
Business
Secure digital platforms boost consumer confidence, says exchange house executive

Consumer confidence in online transactions is further increasing as more currency exchange houses in Qatar are enhancing their digital operations, an industry expert has said. “Online transactions have been improving and I do not see it slowing down, considering that many customers benefited from the digital operations of exchange houses and the creation of mobile apps to address customers’ needs, especially at the height of the pandemic. “Digitalisation has made it much easier for many people in terms of sending remittances for example; now, customers do not have to leave the comforts of their homes to send money. The direction now is going towards digitalisation, which is why on the technology front exchange houses are enhancing and improving the facilitation of online operations,” Trust Exchange general manager KNS Das told Gulf Times. Das also explained that with the constant advancements in technology, more people will be sending money from home “without hesitation,” as well as when registering their personal details as part of the KYC (know your customer), a mandatory process among financial institutions and non-banking finance companies when verifying and identifying a client’s genuine identity. “We are all trying to implement the eKYC (identity that is verified electronically), which means a customer can accomplish the registration and upload the necessary photo, ID, and other personal details remotely. This is being implemented in phases and once completed, it would be easier to send money from home,” Das pointed out. Taking a cue from Qatar Central Bank (QCB), Das said financial institutions are beefing up their digitalisation processes in order to conduct safe and secure online transactions. “Everyone in the industry wants to further improve the volume and the number of transactions through their digital platforms to reduce cash collections; with less cash, online transactions provide more clarity,” Das said. As the country celebrates Eid al-Adha, Das said remittance flow “has been improving” since Ramadan. “The market is gradually improving and we are now seeing good moments for remittances; as these developments continue, we expect remittance activities to return to pre-pandemic levels,” Das added. At the height of the pandemic last year, many countries worldwide initiated lockdowns to curb the spread of Covid-19. This prompted exchange houses to reinforce and develop their digital platforms and to create mobile apps to cater to customers in lockdown. Al Zaman Exchange finance manager Santhosh Kesavan earlier told Gulf Times that the company addressed these challenges by focusing on its online platforms, which, he noted, played a significant role during the lockdown.    

Exchange houses are bracing for a surge in demand for foreign currencies following the gradual easing of Covid-19 measures and revision of the country's travel and return policy, which has prompted many citizens and residents of Qatar to travel abroad.
Qatar
Foreign currency demand up as travel picks up

Exchange houses are bracing for a surge in demand for foreign currencies following the gradual easing of Covid-19 measures and revision of the country's travel and return policy, which has prompted many citizens and residents of Qatar to travel abroad. While a number of countries are allowing quarantine-free holidays for vaccinated visitors from Qatar and elsewhere, the easing of hotel quarantine rules in Qatar has also led to a spike in the demand for travel, it is learnt. Trust Exchange general manager K N S Das lauded the measures undertaken by the Government of Qatar to curb the spread of Covid-19 and for spearheading a massive and successful vaccination campaign. These developments, he said, have ushered in a variety of changes in the market: “As Covid-19 restrictions continue to be relaxed and there is more movement in the community, people are starting to travel, hence the currency business has witnessed an uptick this month,” Das told Gulf Times yesterday. He said, “Because more people are embarking on travel, there has been a tendency to take more foreign currencies and the result is good. We are preparing for this surge and that is why we are importing foreign currencies to address the needs of the public.” Among the major currencies that are in demand are the US dollar and the euro, as well as the Turkish lira, pointed out Das, who added that Asian currencies “are slightly” picking up demand, as well. Long queues of travellers could already be seen outside many exchange houses in malls and elsewhere, said a source familiar with these developments. "People are able to travel now thanks to vaccination, testing and compliance with Covid-19 protocols. Hence, there has been a corresponding rise in the demand for foreign currencies and people could be seen lining up outside these exchange houses," he added. Earlier this month, the authorities announced the start of Phase 3 of the gradual lifting of Covid-19 restrictions in the country. Many residents, as well as major stakeholders and players in the business community, welcomed the announcement. Under Phase 3, private healthcare facilities are now allowed to operate in full capacity. Other rules include “allowing children in cinemas subject to conditions, increasing the capacity of Doha Metro and public transport, driving schools, wedding halls, barbershops, amusement parks, entertainment centres, museums, libraries, nurseries, educational centres and private training centres, and allowing more people in a group to gather in parks and on beaches and opening playgrounds and exercising equipment there”, it was reported earlier. “Our business depends on the actions and activities of people, so these recent developments and changes in health and safety protocols for Covid-19 had spurred a lot of movement in the markets, which is why the industry stands to gain from all of this," said Das. “The more that money comes to the hands of workers, the more business we get. In the same way, the more affluent lot who want to travel take foreign currencies, which is why we are expecting a surge in demand. All these recent government decisions have been advantageous for exchange houses,” he added.    

QICCA general counsel Dr Minas Khatchadourian.
Qatar
QICCA official calls for law on Qatar’s heritage conservation

An official of the Qatar International Centre for Conciliation and Arbitration (QICCA) has called for the speedy promulgation of a law that aims to protect and conserve Qatar’s cultural heritage. According to QICCA general counsel Dr Minas Khatchadourian, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) maintains a database of National Cultural Heritage Laws, where more than 2,700 laws of 188 member states are published. “In addition, Qatar and 17 other Arab countries have ratified the convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. There are 86 properties, representing the rich cultural and natural Arab heritage, which are inscribed on the World Heritage list,” Khatchadourian said in a paper titled ‘Does Qatar need a specific law to protect and preserve its cultural heritage?’ He said the conservation of heritage buildings comes with several key benefits, such as economic sustainability, development and promotion of heritage tourism, and conservation and restoration. Khatchadourian said the enhancement of existing neighbourhoods and infrastructure, as well as various industries, such as construction firms and product manufacturers also benefit from heritage conservation. “Conserving the ‘Qatari built heritage’ should be an integral part of the urban planning and development in Qatar. Qatar may be a country with very limited land space, but that does not stop it from retaining the beauty, nostalgia and culture that lies within the walls of the heritage buildings. Finally, conservation and restoration of heritage buildings are the ultimate forms of recycling,” he explained. Khatchadourian further noted that the development and promotion of heritage tourism “are often rooted by historic buildings”, which he described as “powerful and tangible connections to our past are the ways in which people today come in touch with the past”. “Heritage buildings are also increasingly accepted as important venues linking a new generation with an older one, and thus as places to be used for education and citizenship. “Revitalising old neighbourhoods – the buildings and the landscape – ensures that our quality of life is improved, and that community cohesion is maintained. These intriguing and tangible connections to the past spurs interest for tourists to soak in its distinct ambience and this alone helps attract business,” Khatchadourian pointed out. He continued, “Conservation is not a mere preservation of a façade or freezing a building in time. By favouring the restoration of old buildings, the ambiance, character and a living piece of Qatar’s history are preserved. Most importantly, they also add variety and spark visual interest within Doha.” On special legal provisions to conserve archaeological sites, Khatchadourian said to conserve archaeological sites and preserve their environments and landscapes, the national laws give the competent authorities, the power to draft plans for preservation of archaeological sites, to catalogue, trace, classify, designate or re-classify the sites as special reserved land or zones. “Also, if a possible archaeological site is discovered in the course of a construction project or other land development work, such construction or development work shall be immediately suspended, and the discovery shall be reported to the concerned authority,” he said. On the conservation of natural landscapes and geoparks, he said: “Any alteration of or damage to the natural status of a natural reserve should be prohibited by law, imposing sanctions such as fines and imprisonment. “Therefore, in order to preserve this heritage to the future generations, no one shall be allowed to enter the designated zones of the natural landscapes and geoparks without the permission of the competent authority.” He added, “Another important provision of the law should regulate the management and conservation of monuments to include different tasks, such as a routine conservation and periodic restoration of the buildings; the establishment of a contingency plan for all the tangible elements, put in place specific measures anti-burglary, anti-disaster and insurance measures; and any other matters relevant to the management and conservation of monuments.”    

QICCA general counsel Dr Minas Khatchadourian
Qatar
QICCA official calls for law on Qatar’s heritage conservation

An official of the Qatar International Centre for Conciliation and Arbitration (QICCA) has called for the speedy promulgation of a law that aims to protect and conserve Qatar’s cultural heritage. According to QICCA general counsel Dr Minas Khatchadourian, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) maintains a database of National Cultural Heritage Laws, where more than 2,700 laws of 188 member states are published. “In addition, Qatar and 17 other Arab countries have ratified the convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. There are 86 properties, representing the rich cultural and natural Arab heritage, which are inscribed on the World Heritage list,” Khatchadourian said in a paper titled ‘Does Qatar need a specific law to protect and preserve its cultural heritage?’ He said the conservation of heritage buildings comes with several key benefits, such as economic sustainability, development and promotion of heritage tourism, and conservation and restoration. Khatchadourian said the enhancement of existing neighbourhoods and infrastructure, as well as various industries, such as construction firms and product manufacturers also benefit from heritage conservation. “Conserving the ‘Qatari built heritage’ should be an integral part of the urban planning and development in Qatar. Qatar may be a country with very limited land space, but that does not stop it from retaining the beauty, nostalgia and culture that lies within the walls of the heritage buildings. Finally, conservation and restoration of heritage buildings are the ultimate forms of recycling,” he explained. Khatchadourian further noted that the development and promotion of heritage tourism “are often rooted by historic buildings”, which he described as “powerful and tangible connections to our past are the ways in which people today come in touch with the past”. “Heritage buildings are also increasingly accepted as important venues linking a new generation with an older one, and thus as places to be used for education and citizenship. “Revitalising old neighbourhoods – the buildings and the landscape – ensures that our quality of life is improved, and that community cohesion is maintained. These intriguing and tangible connections to the past spurs interest for tourists to soak in its distinct ambience and this alone helps attract business,” Khatchadourian pointed out. He continued, “Conservation is not a mere preservation of a façade or freezing a building in time. By favouring the restoration of old buildings, the ambiance, character and a living piece of Qatar’s history are preserved. Most importantly, they also add variety and spark visual interest within Doha.” On special legal provisions to conserve archaeological sites, Khatchadourian said to conserve archaeological sites and preserve their environments and landscapes, the national laws give the competent authorities, the power to draft plans for preservation of archaeological sites, to catalogue, trace, classify, designate or re-classify the sites as special reserved land or zones. “Also, if a possible archaeological site is discovered in the course of a construction project or other land development work, such construction or development work shall be immediately suspended, and the discovery shall be reported to the concerned authority,” he said. On the conservation of natural landscapes and geoparks, he said: “Any alteration of or damage to the natural status of a natural reserve should be prohibited by law, imposing sanctions such as fines and imprisonment. “Therefore, in order to preserve this heritage to the future generations, no one shall be allowed to enter the designated zones of the natural landscapes and geoparks without the permission of the competent authority.” He added, “Another important provision of the law should regulate the management and conservation of monuments to include different tasks, such as a routine conservation and periodic restoration of the buildings; the establishment of a contingency plan for all the tangible elements, put in place specific measures anti-burglary, anti-disaster and insurance measures; and any other matters relevant to the management and conservation of monuments.”

The QDB headquarters in Doha. QBIC is the largest and pioneering mixed-use business incubator in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region founded by Qatar Development Bank.
Business
QBIC holds virtual 'Demo Day' for 14th batch of startups

The Qatar Business Incubator Centre (QBIC), founded by Qatar Development Bank (QDB), held yesterday its second virtual ‘Demo Day’ with 12 startups graduating from the Lean Entrepreneurship Programme and Lean Accelerator Programme, presenting their innovative ideas during the event. The following startups, Caffeine, Cybergy, iFor Build, Smart Shuttle, Souqti, StopOver, StoryDeck, The Real State CRM, Vastry, VOP, Faserly, and Sparets, presented their projects before a panel of experts, angel investors, aspiring entrepreneurs, and stakeholders. They were also given three minutes for a Q&A with the panel of experts during the event, which carried the theme ‘Qatar’s Fastest-Growing Startups, Your Next Smart Investment’. This cohort, the 14th batch of graduates from the aforementioned programmes, had received weeks of training, guidance, and counselling from the different teams in the incubator. Demo Day, which was hosted by entrepreneurship adviser Mahmoud al-Mahmoud, was held at the Bedaya Centre, and was sponsored by the incubating partner, Ooredoo Network, and entrepreneurship ecosystem partners, Qatar Financial Centre, Doha Tech Angels, Mansour Bin Khalifa Holding Group, and Snoonu. Commenting on the event, Hamad bin Dashin al-Qahtani, director general of QBIC, said: “QBIC, and QDB of course as our founding organisation, was and still is the first and largest supporter of entrepreneurship in Qatar. We strive year after year to develop our programmes and incubators to accommodate the largest possible number of startups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to serve our vision and that of our beloved country, Qatar. “We strive to achieve excellence in this area in line with our goal to achieve the diversification of the local economy and also to help Qatari companies access local, regional, and international markets.” This year, QBIC has prepared a website dedicated to Demo Day where investors, aspiring entrepreneurs, and experts are able to view the list of participating startups and organise virtual meetings with the startup owners. The site can be accessed via demoday.qbic.qa. It is worth noting that despite the graduation of these startups, QBIC will stay in touch with them to continue providing them with advice and guidance in order to ensure the existence of a robust business ecosystem and provide a sustainable business environment for entrepreneurs in the State of Qatar. QBIC is the largest and pioneering mixed-use business incubator in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region founded by Qatar Development Bank. To learn more about the event, visit demoday.qbic.qa.    

Tawfeeq Travel Group CEO Rehan Ali Syed.
Qatar
‘Major boost to tourism’ seen in 3rd quarter with opening of markets

Domestic tourism is seen to make great strides by the third quarter of this year following the government’s easing of pandemic-related protocols, as well as forecasts by authorities that Qatar will be able to achieve herd immunity in the near period, an expert in the travel industry has said. With a large number of Qatar’s population getting vaccinated, “there is a lot of positive vibes coming in, especially with the number of Covid-19 infection cases in Qatar dropping”, according to Tawfeeq Travel Group CEO Rehan Ali Syed. Also, as part of the gradual lifting of Covid-19 restrictions, the Ministry of Public Health had on Thursday exempted fully vaccinated passengers from quarantine while announcing the new travel policy that would come into effect on July 12. Dr Abdullatif al-Khal, chair of the National Health Strategic Group on Covid-19 and head of Infectious Diseases at Hamad Medical Corporation, said in a Qatar TV interview that the national vaccination programme is progressing at a rapid pace and the "majority of the eligible population of Qatar will have received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccines by September". This progress of the vaccination programme makes Qatar "one of the safest countries to visit", said Syed. "Depending on the borders to open up, I am sure we can foresee a major boost in tourism in the third quarter,” he told Gulf Times. He said: “The opening of Hilton Salwa’s theme park and the indoor theme park in Doha Oasis will be an added attraction for visitors to come to Qatar. Also, the lifting of the economic blockade early this year has eased travel between countries in the region and their citizens seamlessly. We are also hoping the cruise season will start by November depending on approvals from the authorities.” Syed emphasised that the government’s immunisation programme against Covid-19 helped stimulate the growth of domestic tourism in Qatar. The authorities recently opened one of the largest vaccination centres in the world as part of its massive and successful vaccination campaign. “We are all thankful to His Highness the Amir for extending immunisation facilities to each and every one living in Qatar. We also doff our hats to the Ministry of Public Health for closely monitoring the pandemic and taking the necessary precautions. The restrictions imposed by the ministry have helped us stay safe and secure. The well-organised vaccination procedures at health centres and other facilities made the vaccines easily accessible for different age groups," he noted. “There has been a surge in several outdoor activities, including those at entertainment facilities, after Covid-19 numbers have come down and restrictions were eased in phases. Many families have finally got some respite to step out with their children and enjoy the facilities in places like parks, beaches etc,” Syed explained. Syed also stressed that citizens and residents must continue to observe social distancing, regular hand washing, and the wearing of masks while travelling domestically or outside Qatar. “We have already seen a surge in businesses after the easing of restrictions and with the third phase beginning, I am sure the country will soon be completely open to its citizens and residents. However, we should not forget the precautions that have been suggested by the health ministry. As long as we adhere to the guidelines and with a more controlled opening of markets, we can enjoy several outdoor activities with friends and groups of people,” he said. He added: “The influx of new people will also give a boost to domestic tourism but it all depends on the status of the pandemic. I can foresee that towards the end of the year, when the weather gets cooler, there will be a major surge in domestic activity. “The travel industry has always been the first to bear the brunt of the pandemic’s impact and last to recover from it, but then we have to be optimistic and work with certain limitations and look at adding various products in our portfolios to leverage the same to customers. The FIFA matches coming up and expected cruise season will be a big boost for domestic tourism.”    

HE the Minister of Transport and Communications Jassim Saif Ahmed al-Sulaiti joins Dr Rana Abdullah al-Fares, Kuwaitu2019s Minister of Public Works and Minister of State for Communication and Information Technology Affairs, including several ministers, high-profile officials, technology firm representatives, and guests who watched the launch event via livestreaming.
Business
Tasmu Platform to operate smart solutions in healthcare, agriculture, food security

The recently-launched Tasmu Platform will operate several smart solutions, including those in the healthcare and agriculture sectors, as well as in food security, the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MoTC) announced on Wednesday. The launch of Tasmu highlighted that the ‘Virtual Consultation’ is a healthcare smart solution developed in partnership with the Ministry of Public Health to ensure that with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the local community could access medical advice, diagnoses, and prescriptions from the comfort and safety of their homes. The Tasmu Platform also houses the ‘Tasmu Digital Farmer Community’, an environment smart solution developed in conjunction with the Agricultural Affairs Department of the Ministry of Municipality and Environment (MME). It leverages Tasmu's integration of real-time weather data from the Qatar Meteorology Department and high-resolution satellite imaging from the Centre for Geographic Information System to assist farmers with professional advice on production planning, crop best practices, and pest and disease management. Tasmu’s ‘National Food Security Analytics’ smart solution, which was formed in collaboration with the Food Security Department at the MME, also unlocks the power of the Tasmu's AI-driven decision-making capabilities and acts as a centralised database integrating insights from various stakeholders to provide recommendations to government officials and business owners that will help safeguard national food security. To further the nation’s economy and quality of life, the state-of-the-art cloud-based Tasmu Platform aims to orchestrate Qatar’s digital ecosystem by acting as a central body that breaks silos between priority sectors, government entities, and individuals. The platform is designed to be accessible from anywhere and at any time. It is based on Azure Cloud, offering myriad Software-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service, and Infrastructure-as-a-Service capabilities. Based on these building blocks, the platform allows public and private entities to access its large cloud storage and high-computing power to readily push smart solutions to market with the help of various platform services such as payment gateways, data and video analytics, IoT, machine learning (ML), and AI. Tasmu features some of the world’s best data capabilities, such as data ingestion, processing, integration, and more, supported by a strong governance model that is designed to encourage cross-sector collaboration and data-sharing, while ensuring data privacy and security. It will enable large-scale governmental smart-city solutions by interconnecting data and leveraging key advanced products such as its Geographic Information System platform capabilities that are powered by innovative satellite imagery technology. Additionally, the platform will provide SMEs with the opportunity to leverage advanced data analytics and managed services, along with key SOC and NOC offerings, to assist operations and security. Businesses will be able to quickly build, deploy, and update their solutions anywhere, which will help accelerate Qatar’s digital ecosystem. The Tasmu Platform further aims to launch more than 200 smart solutions over the next decade, to create a smart, sustainable, and vibrant society with cutting-edge technologies and innovation.    

Reem Mohamed al-Mansoori, MoTC assistant undersecretary of Digital Society Development; and Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad bin Nasser al-Thani, Ooredoo chief commercial officer.
Business
Tasmu Platform seen boosting growth of Qatar’s digital economy

The Tasmu Platform, which was launched in a ceremony Wednesday by the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MoTC), would contribute to the growth of Qatar’s digital economy, according to Reem Mohamed al-Mansoori, assistant undersecretary of Digital Society Development at the MoTC. Speaking at the event, al-Masoori described the Tasmu Platform as the “backbone” of Qatar’s digital infrastructure to enable the collection and analysis of data across the nation. “This will support the development of collaborative smart solutions that will enhance everyone’s daily life. The platform’s large cloud storage and high-computing capacity, combined with services such as payment gateways, data analytics, weather, and traffic control systems, 5G, and IoT are available to public and private sectors, as well as developers across the country. This reflects why the Tasmu Platform sits at the heart of all services and smart solutions that will be provided in Qatar,” she said. According to al-Mansoori, the Tasmu performs three fundamental functions. First, it promotes communication between government entities, businesses, and individuals across sectors to ensure collaborative efforts when developing smart solutions in Qatar. Second, it will provide the public and private sectors with advanced technologies that can be utilised to develop smart solutions and applications that meet national KPIs. Third, it will store and analyse national data and develop key insights to support decision-making and resource management across all organisations in Qatar, al-Mansoori explained. Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad bin Nasser al-Thani, chief commercial officer at Ooredoo, said: “We were immensely proud to launch Tasmu Platform and kickstart the phenomenal Tasmu Programme that will propel our country towards its goal of becoming one of the world’s advanced smart countries. “As a leading telecommunications operator with innovation firmly at the heart of our strategy, working with some of the world’s greatest technology innovators, we are committed to supporting the Qatar National Vision 2030 and the digital transformation of our beloved country.” Sheikh Nasser added: “We are proud to be playing such a pivotal role in this inspiring project with our esteemed partners and extend our gratitude to the government of Qatar for placing its trust in us to deliver Tasmu Platform.”    

Minister of Transport and Communications launches Qatar Program (TASMU)rnrn
Qatar
Transport minister launches ‘Tasmu Platform’ to bolster Smart Qatar Vision

HE the Minister of Transport and Communications Jassim Saif Ahmed al-Sulaiti launched Wednesday the Tasmu Platform, which is seen to push forward the competitiveness of Qatar’s economy through ICT and the latest technologies. The event, which was held under the patronage of HE the Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz al-Thani, was attended by Dr Rana Abdullah al-Fares, Kuwait’s Minister of Public Works and Minister of State for Communication and Information Technology Affairs, including several ministers, high-profile officials, technology firm representatives, and guests who watched the launch event via livestreaming. The Tasmu Platform aims to harness advanced technology and innovation to provide smart solutions and applications across five priority sectors: transportation, healthcare, logistics, environment, and sports. The platform was designed to create and foster an enabling digital environment by powering and linking all sectors, smart solutions, and digital services in Qatar to drive sustainable economic diversification, address key national challenges, and support decision making, innovation, research, entrepreneurship, and businesses. In his opening speech, al-Sulaiti said Qatar’s visionary leadership realised years ago the importance of investing in emerging technologies and innovation to drive sustainable development and the national economy.       “The ministry has been actively working towards realising this vision, which will secure a bright future for the State of Qatar and our responsibility was to develop the right digital infrastructure and technical capabilities that will help all key sectors in Qatar to remain at the forefront of information and communications technology on a global level, thus ushering in the digital innovation era with full confidence,” al-Sulaiti said. He said, “Today, we came together to witness the launch of the Tasmu Platform, a remarkable achievement for the Tasmu Programme on its journey to build a smart Qatar and enhance the digital economy for Qatar and the region. The platform, which is one of the most innovative cloud-based smart city solutions with world-class artificial intelligence, big data, and cybersecurity capabilities, was developed in conjunction with an international consortium led by Ooredoo.” The minister said the Tasmu Platform sits at the heart of the Smart Qatar Programme - connecting government entities and private businesses operating in priority sectors to coordinate efforts and combine goals. The sector alignment, he explained, will ensure that users can have access to comprehensive smart solutions from a single source. The Tasmu Platform will also be a national source of information that will provide accurate analytics and insight across sectors to support decision-making, resource management, and focused investments to ensure the growth of our economy and society. The Tasmu Platform offerings will holistically enable a nationwide digital transformation while aspiring to meet the Qatar National Vision 2030. The launch of the platform includes a comprehensive offering of 37 products and services that are in line with Tasmu’s value proposition and span across five main pillars: IoT device onboarding and management, enablers and accelerators, smart city value addition, revenue generation, and platform support.  

QICCA general counsel Dr Minas Khatchadourian.
Qatar
QICCA exec lauds Qatar Museums chair for promoting cultural heritage

An official of the Qatar International Centre for Conciliation and Arbitration (QICCA) has lauded the efforts of Qatar Museums (QM) in promoting the cultural heritage of the country through the staging of a variety of initiatives and events. QICCA general counsel Dr Minas Khatchadourian, who earlier called for a law protecting Qatar’s cultural heritage, commended the “extremely admirable” and “laudable and meritorious efforts” of Qatar Museums Chairperson HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani in organising “an extremely important mission” by creating new museums and awareness about Qatar’s cultural heritage. The cultural heritage of every county is a valuable part of the cultural heritage of the world as a whole, said Khatchadourian, citing the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) in a paper titled *Does Qatar need a specific law to protect and preserve its cultural heritage?. He said the growing recognition of the importance of cultural heritage has resulted in the formation of strengthening of international cultural heritage organisations whose goal involves protection, promotion, management, and dissemination of the cultural heritage. At the international level, several organisations are involved in the protection and management of the world’s cultural heritage, Khatchadourian said, adding that among the most prominent organisations are Unesco, the International Council of Museums, the International Council on Monuments and Sites, and the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property. To increase awareness of the country’s cultural heritage, he suggested the conduct of heritage walks, such as strolling along the alleys of Souq Waqif, and holding heritage festivals like Darb Al Saai and horse breeding, among others. “Heritage walks are examples of convenient ways to create awareness among the public about cultural heritage, with the aim to instil and to endorse awareness about heritage buildings and their conservation,” Khatchadourian said. “A heritage walk not only brings the public closer to past heritage but offers a long way in providing intangible enticements for conservation.” “It is the best way to educate youth; a heritage walk enables people to obtain knowledge on one’s culture, customs, philosophy, traditions, and rituals,” he added. “It also enables Qataris to recall and remind them about the rich culture and history.” Khatchadourian said: “When properly prearranged, heritage festivals have the potential to fascinate, exhibit cultural traditions and educate the general public about the rich culture, and at the same time, raise the economic impact on the community.”    

Afreeq chairman Joseph Rivera.
Business
Qatar’s real estate sector picking up after pandemic lull, says expert

Buoyed by a massive Covid-19 vaccination programme and a successful campaign to curb the spread of coronavirus in the country, investors and major stakeholders have a positive outlook for Qatar’s real estate sector, a Doha-based industry expert said. Joseph Rivera, the chairman of the Association of Filipino Realtors & Entrepreneur Executives in Qatar (Afreeq), said Qatar's property market, including domestic and international real estate investments, is improving as confidence of investors in buying is making a comeback. “With daily cases now falling below 150, I have no doubts that the market activity in Qatar’s real estate sector would now return alongside our physical health stability,” Rivera told Gulf Times on Friday. “The building and buying appetite in the property market may have slightly slowed down in the past year, but we are now seeing a lot of optimism and positivity among investors and stakeholders,” he continued. Rivera noted that market activity in the real estate sector “is expected to pick-up in the coming period” despite new variants of the coronavirus, as well as ongoing protocols to limit the spread of Covid-19. He also said the easing of travel restrictions and the influx of newly-hired expatriates from abroad would be a welcome development in the residential segment, considering that job generation is expected to pick up in Qatar in the run-up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup. “For as long as Qatar’s existing health protocols remain strictly enforced, I’m confident that the country’s excellent health system would be able to handle the latest variants even with the opening of borders to more migrants and visitors as we get closer to the 2022 FIFA World Cup. “Even this early, brand-new apartments and villa compounds are starting to fill up as we start to see more newly-arrived expatriates looking for housing accommodations. This scenario is also reflected in the international property scene as more and more developers from countries, such as the US, Turkey, the UAE, the UK, and not just from the Philippines have started being aggressive again in marketing their outbound property offerings to both existing and new residents here in Doha,” Rivera stressed. Rivera, who is also one of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority’s (PEZA) accredited investment promotions partners, pointed out that Qatar’s initiatives against the Covid-19 pandemic not only helped stimulate the domestic property market but has also enticed international real estate companies to venture here. “More and more clients from both the leasing and selling sectors in Qatar's real estate scene have been more aggressive lately with the patronage of properties with premium value as compared to those that have just been making lateral movements, if not downgrading in the past year. “Office spaces have started to move again, while prime commercial leasing prices remained above average. I believe this is also one of the main reasons that a major developer in the Philippines has chosen Qatar as its hub in offering its industrial and commercial investment opportunities to the Middle East, African, European, and Asian markets,” Rivera explained.    

Qicca general counsel Dr Minas Khatchadourian.
Qatar
Qicca official calls for law protecting Qatar’s cultural heritage

An official of the Qatar International Centre for Conciliation and Arbitration (Qicca) at Qatar Chamber has underscored the need for a law that focuses on the conservation of Qatar’s cultural heritage. In a paper titled ‘Does Qatar need a specific law to protect and preserve its cultural heritage?’, Dr Minas Khatchadourian, Qicca general counsel, stated that the LNG-rich Gulf state “is rich of many treasures and attractions, which represent its exceptional patrimony and extraordinary cultural heritage.” “The term cultural heritage means the designated or registered tangible or intangible Qatari cultural heritages which are of cultural value from the point of view of history, art or science. “As for the intangible Qatari cultural heritages, these include the traditional arts, craftsmanship, oral traditions and expressions, ceremonies, festivals, and folkloric customs, among others,” Khatchadourian explained. He said: “It is expected that any law dedicated to protecting and preserving the Qatari cultural heritage, shall appoint an authority (Ministry of Culture and Sports) or, I suggest, the Qatar museums authority or the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development to be the competent authority to review, register and declare the list of tangible and intangible Qatari cultural heritages.” “Furthermore, I believe that the said authority shall be competent to put in place committees in charge to review the designation, registration, or revocation of various types of cultural heritage and other important matters,” Khatchadourian noted. To explain further the cultural function of the Qatari heritage, Khatchadourian said the cultural function of heritage is the direct inclusion of heritage in Qatari society and social activities, in particular in the areas of education and the handing-down of knowledge and experience from past periods for the purpose of raising national awareness and consolidating cultural identity. According to Khatchadourian, the preservation of cultural heritage could be ensured through the following activities, preservation, and protection of cultural monuments (hereinafter monument), heritage conservation areas, and the environments of cultural value surrounding thereof; protection of archaeological finds and protected archaeological sites; and safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage. “Therefore, I recommend the promulgation of an effective, proactive, empowering heritage conservation law quickly. Qatar’s ancient settlements, forts, towers, wells, and rock carvings, among others, that represent unique sites to marvel and explore by visitors and history lovers. “Towers in villages safeguarded the wealth of the community, and many of the forts protected the coastline against marauders and invading armies date back to the 19th century,” Khatchadourian explained. He added: “Also, Ras Brouq white cliffs, Al Jassasiya rock-carving sites, the island of Bin Ghannam (or Jazirat Bin Ghannam) are few great natural heritage examples. The island of Bin Ghannam on the east coast of Qatar sits in a sheltered location inside Khor Al Shaqiq Bay. “The island was probably never permanently inhabited but visited for specific reasons at different periods. It was a place of transit, a temporary campsite for trade with Bahrain and was used by fishermen or pearl divers as early as the beginning of the 2nd millennium BCE.”    

Panama ambassador Musa Asvat.
Business
Panama Canal to play key role in Qatar-Latin America trade, says envoy

The Panama Canal would play a vital role in enhancing trade between the State of Qatar and its partner countries in Latin America, according to Panama’s top diplomat in Qatar. Ambassador Musa Asvat said the Panama Canal has improved world trade, transportation, and connectivity for over a century, and connects 144 maritime routes that reach up to 160 countries worldwide. He said the expanded canal doubled the tonnage capacity of the waterway, enabling the transit of up to container ships and 90% of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) carrier fleet, offering significant time savings for LNG producers in the US when exporting to Asia. “For instance, the Panama Canal serves as a perfect point of connectivity and trade relations between the State of Qatar and the Americas, in particular Latin America, since it becomes the perfect trade connection for goods and commodities, such as LNG between the State of Qatar and Latin America,” Asvat told Gulf Times. Asvat noted that Panama also has the adequate infrastructure that enhances its connectivity and allows commercial activities to flourish and expand throughout the Americas. Elaborating further on Panama’s ports and logistics infrastructure, Asvat said Panama has ports in both the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean, and a major free zone – the Colon Free Zone, as well as special economic zones. “We have an international airport that serves as the hub of the Americas, and the Panama Canal railroad, which connects ports in the Pacific and the Atlantic, thus in terms of trade and commercial activities, Panama can a great partner to the State of Qatar,” Asvat emphasised. He added: “In addition to offering safe, reliable, and efficient service, the Panama Canal is committed to global efforts to reduce emissions from the maritime industry, including the IMO’s initial GHG strategy, IMO 2020, and the UN Sustainable Development Goal 13 (SDG), which calls for urgent action to combat climate change and its impact. “By offering a shorter route for ships, the Panama Canal contributed to a reduction of more than 13mn tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions in 2020, in comparison to the most likely alternative routes. In addition, the Panama Canal launched its process of decarbonising its operations, with aims of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.” Earlier, Asvat pointed out that Panama is keen to strengthen its economic ties with Qatar through the exchange of best practices and knowledge-sharing in various fields, including ports management and logistics. Ends    

GORD founding chairman Dr Yousef al-Horr delivering a speech while looking on is Dr Mohamed Althaf, director of LuLu Group International.
Business
‘Qatar is leading GCC region in sustainable practices’, says GORD official

The State of Qatar has accomplished several milestones in the implementation of initiatives related to sustainable development, an official of the Gulf Organisation for Research and Development (GORD) has said. According to GORD founding chairman Dr Yousef al-Horr, the organisation is working with the Planning and Statistics Authority on data that would provide public information related to the certification of establishments and other projects. “We did a survey on achievements in terms of the implementation of green requirements and specifications in Qatar’s building environment. Over the last 10 years, there were more than 1,500 projects with 1.7bn square feet of assessed master plans, such as Lusail City, special economic zones, Barwa City, and the Lekwhiya Police City. “Also, we have around 200mn square feet of buildings certified; the master plans are platinum designed on sustainable practices like transportation, infrastructure, and landscaping. I would say that Qatar is number one in the region in this regard,” he emphasised. According to al-Horr these statistics will be released in the coming period, and the information will include the type of certification for new or existing buildings and master plans for individual construction projects. On incentivising establishments that are implementing sustainable development practices, al-Horr said GORD is discussing with different government agencies to initiate a countrywide incentive scheme “to encourage the market to go towards this direction.” Al-Horr said GORD is working with the government and private sectors to meet the requirements of the environment pillar of Qatar National Vision 2030. Citing the retail sector, al-Horr said LuLu Hypermarket in Qatar has become one of the first retailers in the Mena region to achieve sustainable operations certification under the Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS) from GORD. Upon completion of necessary audits by sustainability experts from GSAS Trust and GORD Labs, the project achieved an overall score of 1.51, which corresponds to a ‘Gold’ rating under the GSAS operations certification. Only recently, al-Horr handed over to Dr Mohamed Althaf, director of LuLu Group International, the GSAS certificate and plaque during an awarding ceremony held at LuLu Hypermarket’s Al Messila branch. LuLu Hypermarket has identified environmental management as one of its highest corporate priorities to reduce the risk to the environment and the organisation. To achieve ‘Gold’ certification rating, several site audits, and desk reviews were conducted for the assessment of current operational and maintenance practices at LuLu’s Al Messila branch. The retail sector, al-Horr explained, “is very crucial” as this industry operates at the frontlines and deals directly with the general public. In an earlier statement, it was noted that LuLu and GORD are now initiating dialogue on facility upgrade through GORD-managed ‘ESCO model’ approach whereby energy-saving opportunities will be implemented resulting in cost savings and carbon emission reduction.    

The Dibsy team aims to revolutionise payment transactions in the Mena region
Business
Qatar-based fintech raises QR1.1mn pre-seed funding

A Qatar-based fintech company, which aims to revolutionise payment transactions in the Mena region, has raised QR1.1mn in seed funding, it was announced on Sunday. According to Ahmed Isse, co-founder of Dibsy, the company will use the funds to invest in new hires and business development to grow its market share in Qatar. The company will also broaden its scope to offer more services around its payment solutions, he noted. Isse said, “Businesses in Qatar will be able to accept payments with a quick click, whether they have an online storefront or not. Dibsy will change the region's payments landscape. “As the country embraces digital transformation, the demand for quick, easy, and online payments is rising. Dibsy has set out to fuel the growth of digital payments, enabling both online and offline businesses to accept multiple forms of payments in one place.” Isse explained that instead of spending many weeks and money into setting up a digital payment solution for their businesses, business owners can now set up online payments very quickly. “They can, in fact, start selling in a matter of days. Dibsy has an easy registration process that eliminates layers of bureaucracy and paperwork for business owners. At www.dibsy.one, businesses can now use Dibsy to get everything up and running very quickly with our simple onboarding,” Isse pointed out. Isse also explained that Dibsy offers affordable, straightforward onboarding, and fast integration with simple Application Programming Interface (API). With this tool, business owners can accept payments through their website, Apps, or messaging platforms, he said. Merchants that have not yet moved their businesses online will significantly benefit from this technology, allowing them to send payment links to customers using SMS, WhatsApp, e-mail, or on social media platforms, Isse noted. “Our tool will have an easy integration for online checkouts,” said co-founder Anouar el-Mekki, who added that Dibsy recognises that customer service is a notable setback for many of its competitors and sets high priorities into putting merchants first. The company will offer merchants’ services and world-class support to businesses in many industries, el-Mekki said. Loyan Farah, co-founder, said: “We started Dibsy to enhance payment services with businesses in mind.” Farah added Dibsy, which is also supported by Qatar Financial Centre (QFC), was able to secure $300,000 in pre-seed funding led by Salem Khalaf al-Mannai and local angel investors.    

Dr Mohamed Althaf, director of LuLu Group International, receiving the GSAS certificate and plaque from GORD founding chairman Dr Yousef Mohamed al-Horr during an awarding ceremony held at LuLu Hypermarketu2019s Al Messila branch recently.
Business
LuLu gets 1st GSAS gold rating in Mena region for sustainable operations

LuLu Hypermarket in Qatar has become one of the first retailers in the Mena region to achieve sustainable operations certification under the Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS) from the Gulf Organisation for Research and Development (GORD). Upon completion of necessary audits by sustainability experts from GSAS Trust and GORD Labs, the project achieved an overall score of 1.51, which corresponds to a ‘Gold’ rating under the GSAS operations certification. Dr Mohamed Althaf, director of LuLu Group International, received the GSAS certificate and plaque during an awarding ceremony held at LuLu Hypermarket’s Al Messila branch recently. Acknowledging LuLu Group’s initiative to implement GSAS operations as a tool to cut down its carbon footprint, Dr Yousef al-Horr, founding chairman of GORD, said: “Data emerging from latest surveys is consistently pointing towards changing consumer sentiments and behaviours. Customers today are far more informed to choose sustainability. “At the same time, retailers, too, have the power to influence sustainable practices among its customers. By achieving GSAS operations certificate with ‘Gold’ rating, LuLu International has demonstrated its conscious efforts towards operational excellence, which is incomplete without environmental sustainability. We congratulate the organisation and hope that its initiative inspires others in the retail sector.” Althaf said, “I am very pleased to receive the GSAS-OP Certification with ‘Gold’ rating from the Gulf Organisation for Research and Development. This is an important milestone in our efforts to make our business more sustainable and circular. LuLu Group has been making serious efforts to minimise our impact on the environment and reduce our carbon footprint by half by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. “We will focus on cutting carbon emissions, plastic packaging, food waste, and water use. At the same time, we are looking into increasing sustainable practices, such as recycling. We are also exploring to invest in modern innovations like reverse vending machines and vertical farming.” Althaf added: “Our co-operation with GORD began in 2019. Over the last two years, we have built a solid collaborative partnership with GORD. The most valuable benefit we have gained from co-operation with GORD is being able to utilise their know-how and long experience. We appreciate the support given by GORD’s founding chairman, Dr Yousef Mohamed al-Horr, and his dedicated, committed professional team.” The GSAS is the Mena region’s first green building certification system that assesses and guides projects on reducing their environmental footprint during design, construction, and operations stages. The LuLu Hypermarket building at Al Messila features two stories and a basement providing a total floor area of 14,650sq m to accommodate the hypermarket to become the "one-stop-shop" for daily essentials and unique product offerings for a multi-ethnic client profile living in and around Al Messila neighbourhood. During the audits by sustainability experts at GORD, all these facilities were thoroughly analysed in terms of operations and maintenance before being given the appropriate rating for GSAS operations certification, which is valid for four years from the date of issuance. All these audits were conducted during operational hours without interrupting the day-to-day business at the hypermarket. LuLu Hypermarket has identified environmental management as one of its highest corporate priorities to reduce the risk to the environment and the organisation. To achieve ‘Gold’ certification rating, several site audits, and desk reviews were conducted for the assessment of current operational and maintenance practices at LuLu Hypermarket’s Al Messila branch. Based on the outcomes of the energy audits conducted during the certification course, LuLu and GORD are now initiating a dialogue on facility upgrade through GORD-managed ‘ESCO model’ approach whereby energy-saving opportunities will be implemented resulting in cost savings and carbon emission reduction.  

Dr Mohamed Althaf, director, LuLu Group.
Qatar
LuLu eyes launch of Qatar’s ‘largest green store': official

Preparations are underway for the launch of Qatar’s “largest green store,” which is poised to set a benchmark in sustainability practices and environmental protection in the retail industry, an official of LuLu Group has said. “I think the most exciting phase for LuLu as a company is the opening of more stores in Qatar. In the past year, we launched successful store openings, but they were smaller in format,” Dr Mohamed Althaf, director, LuLu Group, told Gulf Times. “The biggest LuLu in Qatar is yet to come; so, we are now getting ready to open some of the best stores in the Middle East. And we plan to start with Abu Sidra, which is a green store; it would be the largest LuLu store in the country,” he stressed. According to Althaf, the LuLu Abu Sidra store will feature many new departments, and “it is the first store that is now based on sustainability and circularity.” Althaf pointed out that the store was designed to minimise, reduce, and eliminate the company’s carbon footprint in the industry. “We are going to brand it as the first sustainable store in the region; there are a lot of refilling (zero-waste) stations and many environmentally-friendly practices to be done in the store. “I hope this store would be a global benchmark in the area of sustainability,” Althaf emphasised, adding that the company will be minimising the use of plastics, switching its focus to use only biodegradable plastics. He said other LuLu stores slated to open this year, including Abu Sidra “is now ready, and we are just waiting for staff to arrive.” “Also, our project in Ain Khalid is getting ready, while in Salwa Road, a third project is also ready. At the Doha Mall, we also have a LuLu store inside the establishment. These projects may open in the next quarter, so 2021 is going to be the biggest in terms of store openings in Qatar,” Althaf explained. On LuLu’s local manufacturing and in-house branding initiatives, Althaf said the hypermarket chain has contracted about 20 products, “but we are attempting to bring it up to 40 commodity brands.” “They are either at product development stage or on the approval side, while some of them are already available within the stores, so that programme is going on quite well,” Althaf revealed. On LuLu’s logistics and storage plans, Althaf said: “LuLu has now signed up with Qatar Free Zones; we are now in the design stage. With Manateq, we have warehousing under construction now, hopefully, this year it would be ready. “The company is now in talks with other entities for the storage of commodities. We want to guarantee food availability in the country as part of our efforts to support Qatar’s food security measures.”