There is considerable opportunity for co-operation between the governments and companies of South Korea and Qatar to construct a high-efficiency energy mix, especially in the hydrogen, renewable energy, and nuclear power sectors, an official of South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy has said.“South Korea is planning to continuously reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the power generation sector by utilising nuclear power and expanding renewable energy, adopting a hydrogen blending method with natural gas, and phasing out additional coal-fired power plants,” Kwon Hyun-chul, Director of the Middle East and African Trade Division, told Gulf Times in an exclusive interview.With the accelerating race to secure clean hydrogen, a new form of energy, the South Korean government is working to spread the hydrogen economy, and through the new government’s hydrogen economy policy announced last November, it plans to utilise hydrogen as a major means of reducing greenhouse gas levels in the future, Kwon emphasised.“We understand that Qatar also engaged in large-scale blue hydrogen and ammonia projects, and has strengths in producing blue hydrogen, while South Korea has technological prowess and distribution experience in applications, such as hydrogen vehicles and fuel cells, so we hope that co-operation on hydrogen projects between the two countries will create synergy in the future,” Kwon pointed out.Regarding renewable energy co-operation, South Korea, having accumulated substantial policy experience through proactive renewable energy distribution policies, can be a valuable co-operation partner for Qatar’s energy transition and climate policies, Kwon said.“Continued co-operation is expected between both countries’ companies on large-scale renewable energy projects like solar power plants,” he further explained.On prospects for future co-operation in the industrial and energy sectors, Kwon noted that Qatar is the third largest trading partner for South Korea in the Middle East, maintaining continuous collaboration in various fields, starting with over “$14bn” in goods trade.“Especially in the ongoing uncertainty in the global energy market, Qatar and South Korea are maintaining an important co-operative relationship in the energy sector as the largest mutual LNG trading nations,” Kwon stressed.He added: “We hope the co-operation on LNG between South Korea and Qatar continues to expand, and South Korean companies participate not only in major energy-related projects like energy plants and LNG carrier constructions that are being promoted by Qatar but also in the non-petroleum energy sectors like digital, finance, logistics services, and renewable energy. We earnestly expect keen interest in South Korean companies in the future.”
LuLu Group is keen on integrating its digital transformation strategy into its climate action plan to lower the hypermarket chain’s impact on the environment, a top official has said.“The group has appointed a sustainability officer to oversee this integration because we believe that automating many of LuLu’s processes could help reduce our carbon emissions,” said Dr Mohamed Althaf, director of LuLu Group International.According to Althaf, LuLu is taking a page from a study by Google, where artificial intelligence (AI) was used to optimise their high-energy machines. He said the AI engine designed solutions that were 40% more efficient than commercial engineering due to its extensive database.He said LuLu Group has applied its engineering expertise to make its buildings energy efficient, achieving a 24% reduction from 2021 to 2023. “This achievement is certified,” he said, “and the learnings are being applied to our new buildings, resulting in further reductions.”But Althaf also acknowledged the limitations to how much engineering skills could contribute to LuLu’s net zero target. To avoid reaching a plateau, he said LuLu is considering employing AI to explore more possibilities, such as recalibrating the group’s supply chain, improving maintenance, and monitoring the health of their machines, including chillers, freezers, and vehicles.“We are also interested in using AI for preventive maintenance and designing efficient assortments for our trucks, both locally and internationally. The goal is to minimise wastage of space and determine the optimal height for stacking goods. These are projects we are very interested in pursuing,” he said.Althaf said AI could also play a role in various aspects of the group’s operations, including optimising energy usage. He stressed that AI could contribute significantly to waste reduction and management by creating strategies to reduce waste in its supply chain.In terms of nutrition, Althaf said AI could quickly develop recipes and solutions that haven’t been explored before, such as AI’s role in designing protocols, particularly for transportation. Another area for AI’s potential is in predictive maintenance, ensuring better prediction and prevention of issues before they occur, he also noted.Acknowledging the challenges that AI can address, Althaf said the most critical for the group is achieving its net zero goals, which LuLu aims to integrate with the digital transformation of its businesses.“Our achievements, such as establishing the first net-neutral store and the first digital shop at Hamad International Airport, aim to motivate our team and draw attention to these initiatives.“These milestones could encourage others within the organisation to consider how we can achieve similar results and explore strategies to incorporate AI into various aspects of the business,” he emphasised.Althaf underscored that LuLu Group is currently working on setting up its first metaverse store, which is envisioned as a place for people to experience LuLu’s climate action plan and healthy eating initiatives. He also explained that LuLu’s metaverse store is seen as an engagement zone, allowing people to experience a new technology that would be vital in the coming years.“We aim to enhance our capacity in the virtual world and ensure that this metaverse store allows people to experience LuLu’s climate-friendly initiatives, such as plant-friendly food options and refill options.“We are currently working with a partner on the store’s format and we are in the early stages of this project. Despite not having a history or legacy in this area, we are actively working on this project and progress is being made,” he added.Althaf revealed that LuLu Group also plans to establish multiple AI labs within the organisation: “These labs will have their own individual agendas but will also collaborate with each other. This initiative is part of our broader strategy to integrate AI into various aspects of LuLu’s operations and sustainability efforts,” he said.
The pressing issue of climate change “poses the greatest threat to food security today,” according to Dr Mohamed Althaf, director of LuLu Group International.Speaking to reporters recently, Althaf emphasised that food security challenges extend beyond financial constraints, citing the Covid-19 pandemic as an example. However, he lamented that climate change is causing significant disruptions in food supply.Weather changes caused a shortage of olives in Europe, while in Pakistan, heavy rains resulted in a significant loss of rice crops, forcing the South Asian country to shift from being an exporter to an importer of rice. The sudden decrease in global supply also affected neighbouring countries like India, Althaf noted.“If rice becomes scarce, people may turn to wheat, which is already under pressure due to climate change. This is just one incident in a medium-sized country like Pakistan and imagine the impact if larger countries like the US, Brazil, Australia, or India face similar problems,” Althaf warned, adding that many countries in Asia could also face agricultural problems due to climate change.He said, “LuLu’s primary focus is raising awareness about climate change, which is the most significant threat to food security worldwide. Increasing temperature by just two degrees could wreak havoc, hence the urgency of addressing this issue.“This is a key message that LuLu Group intends to highlight at the ‘Expo 2023 Doha Qatar’. LuLu is focused on aligning its goal of promoting sustainable food practices by consistently advocating this cause, in collaboration with our partners like the embassies of Italy, the UK, and Ecuador, among others.”Althaf also highlighted LuLu’s global partnerships with the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC): “We are the only members of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation from Qatar. LuLu’s membership in these three organisations is among the key aspects of the group’s sustainability strategy.”On LuLu’s initiatives towards achieving net zero targets, Althaf said the group is working on an ‘emission three’ initiative, which is committed to aligning with the Qatar National Vision 2030.“Our goal is to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030, a target which we set five years ago but surprisingly is approaching so soon. In terms of ‘emission one’, which refers to LuLu’s own generation, we are well within our target and expect to achieve it even earlier than planned.“We have made significant strides in energy efficiency as our Al Meshaf store has become the first carbon-neutral hypermarket in the GCC, and we have also made progress in reducing water wastage and recycling plastic,” he explained.Althaf revealed that LuLu Group is now focusing on decarbonising its supply chain, both locally and internationally: “We are in advanced negotiations with shipping companies to overcome challenges and potentially use green fuel. Our supply chain institutions in Birmingham have already achieved net neutrality.“In the UK, we already have surplus power. In the US, we are close to meeting our targets for plastic and pallet recycling, using electric vehicles, and implementing digital automation.”Althaf also highlighted that LuLu is focused on enhancing resiliency in its supply chain, especially in light of recent global events like the war in Ukraine and the conflict between Hamas and Israel.He said LuLu has expanded into Central Europe, including Finland, parts of Germany, and the Baltic region, by setting up a facility in Poland, in collaboration with the Polish Trade Agency.Aside from LuLu’s facility in Milan, Italy, the group is planning to open another one in Australia, said Althaf, who added that LuLu is also exploring potential facilities in Canada, Ecuador, and Mexico.“Self-reliance and self-sufficiency are important, especially in the face of potential climate challenges, so we are diversifying our sources to ensure resilience. Our efforts align with Qatar’s global vision, and we aim to ensure that our businesses follow suit.“LuLu is particularly focused on reducing emissions and making food accessible, affordable, nutritious, and sustainable. We are working towards ensuring that everything we serve is healthy and sustainably sourced,” he stressed.
Qatar has an emerging agricultural sector, which demonstrates significant promise for extensive production in the region, the Investment Promotion Agency Qatar (IPA Qatar) has said.In its newsletter for Q3 2023, IPA Qatar stated that accessibility to capital, government initiatives, resilient transport and logistics, growing demand, and support systems have played a key role in the development of this sector.The IPA Qatar newsletter stated that Qatar Development Bank’s (QDB) 16 industrial facilities for the food and beverage (F&B) sector under its ‘Jahiz 2’ initiative was essential in providing access to capital.Other factors that contributed to the development of the agricultural sector in Qatar include low tariffs for productive farms, including electricity tariffs of 0.07/kWh and water tariffs of 5.2/m³; more than 50 establishments and partnerships with leading technology companies and research and development (R&D) centres through Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP); and the capacity to increase production as 51,354 hectares of cultivatable land remains uncultivated.Government initiatives like the Qatar National Food Security Strategy aims to increase vegetable production to reach 70% self-sufficiency in greenhouse vegetables by 2023, the newsletter also reported.Other initiatives also include the joint Food Security Project between the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) and Ministry of Municipality and Environments (MME) for the development of sustainable food systems in Qatar, as well as the partnerships between Qatar Free Zones Authority (QFZ) and the MME for the creation of investment opportunities in the field of agritech.In terms of resilient transport and logistics, the newsletter underscored the importance of Qatar’s global connectivity through Hamad International Airport (HIA) and Hamad Port with one of the world’s largest air cargo carriers.It also stated that Qatar is among the top 30 globally on the logistics performance index for international shipments, infrastructure, and timeliness. The country has geographically diversified trade partners for critical commodities and offers exemptions from customs duties on imported raw materials and machinery.According to IPA Qatar, Qatar’s increasing population is creating momentum for the country’s food security programme. “A growing percentage of shoppers are insisting on organic or clean food...organic packaged food and beverages consumption in Qatar grew from $17.2mn in 2021 to $20mn this year,” the newsletter stated.IPA Qatar also stated that the Qatar International Agriculture Exhibition (AgriteQ 2022) provided an opportunity for investors to collaborate on the latest agricultural technologies.Other support systems include the following: IPA Qatar’s memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Wadi Water will enable the company to invest in innovative technologies in the agriculture industry; Mahaseel, owned by Hassad Food, supports local agricultural production and private sector investments in agritech innovation; and the MME’s investment portal ‘Foras’ is promoting public-private partnership.Similarly, a recent Qatar News Agency (QNA) report lauded the visionary leadership of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, which helped achieve significant accomplishments in the development of the country’s agricultural sector.His Highness the Amir has prioritised the development of natural resources, particularly agriculture, as a national priority, aiming for self-sufficiency and food security. This includes the adoption of policies, strategies, and innovative techniques to serve both agricultural and environmental sustainability, QNA further reported.
Natural gas consumption is projected to increase by 36% even as its contribution to the global energy mix will go up from the current 23% to 26% by 2050, Doha-headquartered GECF said in its updated Global Gas Outlook.The outlook foresees a sustained increase in primary energy consumption over the next three decades. This growth is underpinned by a rising global population and a doubling of the global economy's size by 2050.Natural gas’ leadership position establishes it as the dominant energy source, surpassing coal, oil, and even renewables, despite the latter being the fastest-growing energy sector during this period.Following the 25th GECF Ministerial Meeting in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, the Gas Exporting Countries Forum, examined recent short-term gas market developments and immediate prospects.The meeting noted with satisfaction the continued growth in natural gas demand, and number of LNG importing countries, and despite a mild winter season, expanded renewable and nuclear energy output, and policy-driven demand reduction measures in some countries.It also recognised the resilience of global gas supply, as well as the sustainable gas output of GECF member countries, which contributes to strengthening global energy security.While prices have markedly softened in comparison of last year’s summer levels, and volatility has declined, gas markets will nevertheless continue to be tight should the upcoming winter be colder than normal in the Northern Hemisphere.The ministers also noted that in the medium term, market tightness will begin to ease after 2025 when the majority of new LNG projects are set to be commissioned, with GECF member countries spearheading this expansion.The meeting welcomed the efforts of GECF member countries in reducing gas flaring, methane emissions, and the carbon footprint of natural gas operations.It also underscored the crucial role of technology in making natural gas even cleaner, such as carbon capture, utilisation, and storage, as well as low-carbon hydrogen and ammonia.It resoundingly affirmed its unwavering support for African nations in their resolute pursuit of eradicating energy poverty, recognising the profound urgency of this mission in the face of grim statistics. It is a stark reality that over 600mn individuals in Africa still lack access to electricity, while more than 970mn do not have access to clean cooking.Moreover, the Meeting underscored the pressing role of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and the imperative of implementing them in a comprehensive and harmonious manner, considering their economic, social, and environmental dimensions.This holistic approach resonates with the concerns highlighted in the recent UN SDG progress report, which regrettably reveals that nearly half of the targets are behind schedule.GECF asserted the essential role of investment and the necessity of fostering an environment that encourages unrestricted investment and promotes financial cooperation across continents.It also emphasised the importance of ensuring equitable access to all technologies. These actions are instrumental in safeguarding the stability of both energy demand and supply, taking into account national circumstances, capabilities, and priorities.In this context, the meeting cautioned against misguided calls to halt natural gas investment. Such actions could lead to supply shortages, inflated prices, and a potential return to coal, as seen in 2022, undermining emission reduction objectives.Furthermore, it reiterated the crucial significance of safeguarding critical gas infrastructure, both on a national and international scale, to facilitate the seamless flow of natural gas. It underscored the imperative of protecting these facilities from natural disasters, technological mishaps, man-made threats, and deliberate attacks.
A prestigious group of entrepreneurs, startups, and corporate firms were honoured during an awards ceremony, which was among the highlights of the two-day ‘Arab Fintech Forum’, which was held recently in Doha.This second edition of the forum provided a deep dive into the future of financial technology (fintech) in the region. The final day of the event not only offered a comprehensive overview of fintech’s flourishing landscape in the Middle East but featured workshops, the ‘Pitch Pit’, and the Arab Fintech Forum Awards Ceremony.The awards ceremony celebrated the best in fintech innovation and honoured the following: Mastercard, which was awarded ‘Best Innovation in Payments’; Hyperpay for the ‘BTB Fintech Solutions Provider of the Year’ award; Karty – ‘Upcoming Wallet of the Year’; Thuraya Nasser al-Mulla – ‘Female Fintech Entrepreneur of the Year’; Spendwisor – ‘Best Use of Fintech for Shopping Experience’; and Dr Ahmet Faruk Aysan – ‘Fintech Researcher of the Year’.The second day’s agenda also featured expert-led workshops, introducing attendees to Artificial Intelligence’s expanding role in fintech, the burgeoning significance of digital currencies, and the craft of refining user experience on digital financial platforms.Another highlight of the forum’s conclusion was the eagerly anticipated Pitch Pit segment. Making its debut in Qatar, this initiative offered a platform for fintech startups Mume, Peqal, Spendwisor, Bawales, and S-Treasury to showcase their pioneering concepts to an illustrious panel of investors, including Sheikh Mansoor bin Khalifa al-Thani (MBK Holding), Sara Daniel (Doha Tech Angels), Misfer al-Hajri (Ajyal), Zainab al-Sharif (Plus VC), and Marcel Dridje (eban).Malik Shishtawi, president of the Arab Fintech Forum, said: “The passion and commitment exhibited over these two days underscore the region’s readiness and ambition in the fintech realm. Together, we are forging a future rich in innovation.”The 2nd Arab Fintech Forum gathered industry pioneers, emergent startups, and visionary investors during the event, enriching the narrative of the Middle East’s fintech trajectory.Speaking at the opening ceremony of the forum, Mohamed Abdulsalam al-Emadi, senior manager of Investments at Qatar Development Bank (QDB), said Qatar is considered a “blue ocean” and less saturated than other regional markets, and “a great launching pad” for businesses penetrating the rest of the Mena region.Al-Emadi noted that by 2030, it’s anticipated that the global fintech sector will generate annual revenues of nearly “$1.5tn,” which accounts for nearly “25%” of all global banking valuations.In terms of financial innovation, al-Emadi said fintech has played “a significant instructive role” in transforming market segments, particularly in payments and transaction banking.“Fintech has attracted more than $500bn in funding worldwide over the past decades, even though there was a decline in the last year due to varying factors, including behavioural conflict, supply chain issues, rising inflation, decreasing valuation, and the recovery from the global pandemic. Data indicates that fintech is revolutionising the access to financial resources, breaking down barriers and empowering underserved communities,” he stressed.According to al-Emadi, the growing market demand for a convenient and secure financial transaction system and a more attractive economic and financial ecosystem is anticipated to grow faster in the Mena region than the majority of other financial ecosystems in the region.The inaugural day of the forum also showcased 20 local, regional, and international speakers who delivered five sessions on topics like the evolution of digital banking, cybersecurity challenges, and the transformative potential of blockchain technology.The forum’s attendees engaged in networking sessions in the exhibition area, which featured 10 local and international companies showcasing their services and expertise.Shishtawi added: “With its curtain fall, the Arab Fintech Forum solidifies its position as a must-attend in the Middle East's fintech calendar, promising even greater things in its next edition.”
Qatar is considered a “blue ocean” and less saturated than other regional markets, and “a great launching pad” for businesses penetrating the rest of the Mena region, an executive of Qatar Development Bank (QDB) has said, citing the observations of founders of Doha-based fintech companies.Mohamed Abdulsalam al-Emadi, senior manager of Investments at QDB, made the statement Tuesday during the opening of the two-day Arab Fintech Forum 2023, which highlights financial innovation and inclusion in the Middle East.“I believe that through the effort of organisations, such as Qatar Development Bank and other partners in the ecosystem, we will be able to develop financial innovation programmes that address the gap in financial inclusion,” al-Emadi stressed.In a speech, al-Emadi noted that by 2030, it’s anticipated that the global fintech sector will generate annual revenues of nearly “$1.5tn,” which accounts for nearly “25%” of all global banking valuations.In terms of financial innovation, al-Emadi said fintech has played “a significant instructive role” in transforming market segments, particularly in payments and transaction banking.“Fintech has attracted more than $500bn in funding worldwide over the past decades, even though there was a decline in the last year due to varying factors, including behavioural conflict, supply chain issues, rising inflation, decreasing valuation, and the recovery from the global pandemic. Data indicates that fintech is revolutionising the access to financial resources, breaking down barriers and empowering underserved communities,” he stressed.According to al-Emadi, the growing market demand for a convenient and secure financial transaction system and a more attractive economic and financial ecosystem is anticipated to grow faster in the MENA region than the majority of other financial ecosystems in the region.He said the rapid adoption of the digital payment system in Qatar has prompted fintech companies to develop innovative payment solutions, such as mobile wallets, one-to-one payment apps, contactless payments, and other digital solutions.Al-Emadi said QDB is an example of how the banking industry can play a critical role in the successful implementation of this vision. He noted that QDB is supporting Qatar’s goals to increase diversification and innovation in financial services through leading institutes like Qatar FinTech Hub (QFTH) and other programmes.He also said QDB is actively identifying opportunities in the financial, government, and administrative domains, where it can offer comprehensive solutions. “This empowers entrepreneurs to stay focused on their core business and continue pushing the boundaries,” al-Emadi said.Malik Shishtawi, founder and CEO, Mangusteen, said the Arab Fintech Forum attracted delegations from more than 20 countries and features speakers from more than 10 countries.The event, which concludes Wednesday, also features an exhibition area and hands-on workshops for startups and other enterprises, Shishtawi explained.“We’re launching a new initiative to help fintech startups meet face-to-face with the investors to be able to ask for funding on the spot in front of the audience. We are also introducing the fintech awards to recognise key players from our industry,” he also said.Shishtawi added: "Today's discussions epitomise our forum's commitment to positioning the MENA region at the forefront of fintech evolution."
There has been a “dramatic increase” in the participation of entrepreneurs, investors, and chief executive officers (CEOs) from traditional businesses in the Middle East in Web Summit, “the largest technology conference in the world,” according to its founder and CEO, Paddy Cosgrave.“And the time feels right to do our first event in the Middle East,” Cosgrave told journalists during a media roundtable held Sunday to announce the staging of Web Summit Qatar, which is slated in February 2024.Cosgrave said, “Web Summit brings together more technology entrepreneurs, more technology investors, and business journalists than any other event in the world...but our ambition is not to create a regional technology conference. It’s to create the most important global technology gathering in the Middle East.“And in that sense, Qatar for us is the perfect gateway, not just to the region but to the world. Our ambition is not just to hold an event in Qatar, but to expand its horizons to all over the world, to create the largest technology gathering in the region and to have a global impact,” Cosgrave pointed out.According to Cosgrave, Web Summit Qatar is expected to host more than 100 countries in February next year and is seen as a platform for companies from the region to showcase the technologies that they’re building to the participants of the event.“There are already 70 startup CEOs coming to Web Summit in Lisbon in November, largely a consequence of the event in February in Doha. For Web Summit Qatar, we already have technology CEOs from more than 60 countries. We’ve already 64 countries represented and that number will only increase over the next four months,” Cosgrave explained.He said Web Summit Qatar will discuss some of the most pressing global issues, including artificial intelligence (AI) and “the rise of the rest” – the speed at which companies are emerging from countries outside of traditional areas.“The world was focused around the Western world. That’s changing before our eyes with the rise of the rest, especially India, China, the Middle East, and Africa. The world is changing and the timing of Web Summit in Doha, I think, is quite perfect in that regard,” Cosgrave further explained.
Vodafone Qatar is investing heavily in the expansion of 5G and its capabilities across the country, as well as in enabling the digital transformation of key players in the country’s public and private sectors, an official has said.Ramy Boctor, Vodafone Qatar’s chief technology officer, made the statement during a recently held media briefing at the company’s offices in Lusail city.“We have our aspirations to play an active role in enabling digital transformation primarily for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) or even for large organisations by capitalising on the deep technical know-how or technological know-how that we have in Vodafone Qatar.“We also have access to a big ecosystem of technology partners who can work with us and offer a joint project, whether an SME or a large organisation or government entity. End to end, yes, we are paying a lot of attention; we are investing into digital transformation,” Boctor told Gulf Times.Boctor also lauded the support and facilities being provided by the State to entrepreneurs in the country, particularly those specialising in technology-based startups.Asked to give a brief outlook on the future and potential of Qatar’s tech startup ecosystem and the role that Vodafone could play in its growth and development, Boctor described the country as a “world-class environment for entrepreneurs.”Citing the strong appetite and investment in Qatar’s tech startups, Boctor noted that Vodafone is “willing to invest” in initiatives that would promote the growth and development of the sector, which has a “high potential” and has been “successful, so far.”Boctor emphasised that Vodafone Qatar is expanding in terms of 5G according to the needs of the market.“We are also focusing on artificial intelligence (AI) applications and Internet of Things (IoT) because these are the two applications that will be used on top of 5G technology, which comes as an enabler for those technologies,” he explained.Boctor also lauded Qatar for its “very advanced and modern infrastructure.” He stressed that Qatar is at the forefront of infrastructure readiness for applications like 5G, AI, and IoT compared to other markets.“There is no legacy of old buildings in Qatar; most of the buildings are built with the latest and new standards, so it’s enabled and ready for those technologies,” Boctor noted, adding that parking lots in Qatar have enough infrastructure for 5G coverage and that penetration is high in terms of optical fibre footprint.He added: “As an enabler, we expect lots of entrepreneurial activities to happen, enabling services like this. Some of them we anticipate, like autonomous driving, smart cities, and smart buildings. Some of it will come from very creative entrepreneurs. And Qatar is promoting this; encouraging entrepreneurs to come and build something new.”
On the back of “great maritime co-operation” with Qatar in the energy sector, HD Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) also plans to expand its presence in the naval and specialised vessels sectors, an official has said.Gabriel Kim, Senior Sales Manager/Sales – International Defence Programme Naval & Special Ship Business Unit, spoke to Gulf Times on the current state of maritime co-operation between Qatar and HHI, particularly in the naval and specialised boat sectors, in an exclusive interview at the headquarters of Korean Culture and Information Service (KOCIS) in Seoul.Asked about the future role of HHI in supporting Qatar’s maritime and naval objectives, including potential technology transfer and knowledge sharing, Kim said: “As a Korean naval shipbuilder, we are interested in supporting Qatar’s naval force development. As for potential technology transfer and knowledge sharing, we are open to discussion with Qatar’s Amiri Naval Forces.”Kim’s statement came in the wake of QatarEnergy’s QR14.2bn deal with HHI for the construction of 17 ultra-modern LNG carriers, which was signed recently in Seoul by HE the Minister of State for Energy Affairs, Saad bin Sherida al-Kaabi, also the President and CEO of QatarEnergy, and Ka Sam-hyun, vice-chairman and CEO of HD Korea Shipbuilding & Offshore Engineering (KSOE).Speaking on the impact of maritime collaborations on Qatar’s defence and naval capabilities, as well as the economic ties between the two nations, Kim said the South Korean shipbuilding firm is hoping that through co-operation between the Amiri Naval Forces and HHI, the company can serve to strengthen the defence capabilities of Qatar’s navy and also enforce robust bilateral trade relations.Asked if plans are in the pipeline for HHI to expand its presence or engage in new projects, Kim said: “We are open to discussions with the local industry to engage in new projects that align with Qatar’s development in maritime technology and infrastructure development.Earlier, a QatarEnergy statement announced that its recently signed deal with HHI “marks the start of the second phase of QatarEnergy’s LNG ship acquisition programme, which will support its expanding LNG production capacity from the North Field LNG expansion and Golden Pass LNG export projects, as well as its long-term fleet replacement requirements.”Commenting on this occasion, al-Kaabi said: “This is another milestone in our long-term relationship with HD Hyundai Heavy Industries and the Korean shipbuilding industry in general, which is built on the strong and strategic partnership between the State of Qatar and the Republic of Korea.“These 17 LNG carriers will be built by HD Hyundai Heavy Industries to the highest technical and environmental standards and specifications. Further, the vessels are designed to achieve optimal fuel efficiency and a significant reduction in carbon emissions. This emphasises our continued commitment as a leader in sustainability, innovation, and growth within the LNG industry.”
Zumra Group recently hosted a panel discussion titled ‘Zeyara with Zumra: Advancing Strongly in Qatar Post-World Cup; Mastering the Art of Economic Resilience’ at the Workinton Qatar.The discussion featured industry experts Saleh al-Raisi, co-founder and CEO of Flare Business Centre; Nayef al-Ibrahim, co-founder and CEO of Ibtechar; Rasha al-Sulaiti, general manager of Innovation Consultancy; Reem al-Suwaidi, founder and owner of Saikl Bike; Ali Khadjavi, CEO of Feedback; and Karim Mergan, general manager of Workinton Qatar.Zumra Group founder Nasser bin Ahmad al-Naama said, “This initiative aligns with the deep history and legacy of my family, who have been pivotal in shaping Qatar’s economic landscape.”He added: “The entrepreneurial acumen, resilience, and foresight of my ancestors are instilled in me. Their significant contributions to Qatar’s economic fabric have inspired and informed my efforts to carry forward and amplify their legacy.“Entrepreneurship is often misunderstood and undervalued. The event’s panel is a testament to the relentless spirit and grit required to navigate and overcome these obstacles.”During the discussion, al-Ibrahim, emphasised that Qatar has proven its resilience during the June 2017 blockade and the Covid-19 pandemic using the 2022 FIFA World Cup as a platform.“Qatar has achieved high security, stability, and development, making it an attractive destination for talent, investment, and global attention,” he emphasised.According to al-Ibrahim, big consultancies “are investing heavily in Qatar, but local businesses are struggling.” He suggests two areas for improvement: regulation at different levels, particularly in real estate, to make Qatar more affordable; and regulations to attract and retain talent.“I think running a business in Qatar shouldn’t be a social status. It should be considered as a professional business. I think most of local businesses are being managed for social status and not as a professional business,” he lamented.Al-Ibrahim noted that Qatar has the potential to become a state of “new technology piloting.” The country can test new ideas and learn tasks locally before expanding globally, he said, adding that Qatar has multiple opportunities to become a medical hub and should build on its current achievements.He stressed that the economic slowdown after major events, such as 2022 FIFA World Cup “is normal.” To maximise value, Qatar needs a bigger strategic plan with different events across the year, he also noted.Al-Ibrahim added that while free zones in Qatar can foster economic growth by attracting international companies, the country “started late compared to Jebel Ali in Dubai.” He also pointed out the challenge of competing with Saudi Arabia, which is luring global companies to relocate their regional headquarters. Al-Ibrahim suggested that “Qatar should find its niche and convince companies to come in.”For her part, al-Sulaiti noted that the 2022 FIFA World Cup has brought about changes that cannot be undone. “We need to learn from these changes and adapt to the new reality,” she stressed.“A healthy economy is indicated by several factors, including promotion of culture and heritage, tourism, public-private partnership, international trade, infrastructure utilisation, and investment opportunities. Although these factors could have been implemented in Qatar, they were not.On the other hand, al-Raisi discussed the importance of a support cycle for startups in Qatar. The first part of this cycle is a healthy birthrate of startups, which has been accelerating since the World Cup, he said.“The success of this support system depends on how well it enables companies to start, sustain, and expand. If this cycle works perfectly, input in the support system and regulation should result in the output of successful ventures,” he said.Al-Raisi also discussed the regulations that support retaining in-country talent in Qatar. These regulations are still yet to be activated, he noted adding that communities like Flare can help sustain the community after a World Cup.Meanwhile, al-Suwaidi emphasised the importance of having an exit strategy before starting a business. “Many entrepreneurs started a business just for the FIFA World Cup without an exit strategy, which is a big risk. Therefore, having an exit strategy is crucial before starting a business,” she said.She also said the government sector has provided a lot of funding for entrepreneurs, adding that there are many incubation centres, as well as people helping startups in Qatar.
Energy transition and Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) for decarbonisation are critical areas that would help foster great collaboration and economic growth between Qatar and South Korea, a research fellow at the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP) has said.As one of the world’s major producers of natural gas, Qatar “has comparative advantage” to produce hydrogen, which is an emerging sector for energy transition, Kang Munsu, head, Africa & Middle East Team at KIEP, told Gulf Times in an exclusive interview at the headquarters of Korean Culture and Information Service (KOCIS) in Seoul.At the same time, Kang said the South Korean government tried to develop the utilisation of hydrogen for cars and industries, citing pilot projects on combining agriculture and hydrogen applications. There are still many areas to study and develop for hydrogen production, he noted.“Under these policies, energy efficiency is one of the most important areas for decarbonisation. For example, energy efficiency for buildings, manufacturing, and power generation can reduce carbon emissions. In particular, the Qatari government is interested in petrochemical plants to produce ethylene, polyethylene, and ammonia. There are potential areas to improve efficiency for the petrochemical sector,” Kang explained.According to Kang, Carbon Capture, Utilisation, and Storage (CCUS) are emerging technologies in terms of achieving NDCs.“Besides, renewable energy, such as solar power, is also emerging since the Qatari government is trying to diversify its power sources from fossil fuel to renewable energy,” he stressed.Kang said a recent KIEP report underscored that South Korea and Qatar are key trade partners in terms of natural gas. Previously, South Korea-Qatar high-level conversations concluded to diversify the economic relationship between both countries. It includes energy, infrastructure, and trade, the report also stated.“It also includes science and technology, ICT, food and agriculture, health, education, and public administration. However, trade and investment of South Korean companies are still focused on natural gas, petrochemical infrastructure, and construction, such as plant construction,” Kang pointed out.He said: “As the Qatari government announced its 2030 national vision, we suggested cooperating on renewable energy, digital technology, food and water security, education, and health."These areas are what the Qatari government is interested in, as well as in other GCC countries. In my opinion, these areas are also what the South Korean private sector has the competitiveness to enter the Qatari market and neighbouring countries.”Kang emphasised that the economic diversification strategies of the Qatari government could increase South Korea’s presence in Qatar.“This is expected to deepen the relationship between the two countries in the future. For example, Qatar National Vision 2030 has four pillars: human development, social development, economic diversification, and environment and climate change responses. The private sector in South Korea could enter the Qatari market focusing on those pillars.“A report by KIEP was published just last year right before the FIFA World Cup. For this reason, there are some responses from the South Korean government to understand what is going on in Qatar recently,” he said.Kang explained that one of the main roles of KIEP is to cooperate with Qatari institutes to understand each other in terms of economic demands and policies. He said KIEP is trying to cooperate with researchers in the GCC, including Qatar.KIEP also advises South Korea-Qatar economic cooperation areas and strategies for the South Korean government. For the South Korean government, Kang said the GCC, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, is an important economic partner.For this reason, the South Korean government is interested in working with these countries. Under this background, KIEP is expected to communicate with research institutes either face-to-face or online, he also said.Kang said: “As a public research institute, the main role of KIEP is to study the economies of partner countries. Last year, KIEP published a research paper on Qatar titled ‘Sustainable Growth Strategy of Qatar and Implications for Cooperation’. KIEP also contributes to spreading our research results to stakeholders, such as researchers in Qatar, government officials in South Korea, and the public.“Last year, I visited Qatar to present our research results on South Korea-Qatar cooperation at a seminar hosted by the South Korean embassy and the GCC Institute of Qatar University. This year, we plan to visit Qatar to discuss further cooperation on energy and business relations between South Korea and Qatar.”
Qatar’s economic diversification strategy offers “great opportunities” for South Korean companies to contribute to the development of a wide range of sectors in the country, according to a top Qatari diplomat.“The economic relations between the two countries are strong and solid and their future prospects are promising. We have made great strides to diversify areas of co-operation, including technology, smart farms, solar energy, smart grids, and joint investments in third countries.“These areas are considered promising and the two countries, based on their development experience and great potential, could build a successful partnership to benefit from the opportunities available in both countries,” ambassador Khalid bin Ebrahim al-Hamar told Gulf Times during an interview at the Qatari embassy in Seoul.Al-Hamar stressed that Qatar’s “tireless efforts” to diversify its economy “constitute great opportunities” for South Korean companies to increase their contribution to the development of the Qatari economy in the infrastructure and construction sectors, as well as in healthcare, education, training, research, smart agriculture, fisheries, renewable energy, climate, and in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), “which South Korea is considered a pioneer in these fields.”The ambassador noted that mutual visits between the two countries at the leadership level constitute an important opportunity to strengthen relations and raise them to a higher level. During these visits, a number of agreements and memorandums of understanding were signed in various fields and new partnerships were created, he said.“Among the most important is the visit made by His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani to South Korea in 2019, during which a number of agreements were signed in various fields, such as vocational training, skills development, smart networks, transport, and smart farms and fisheries,” al-Hamar stressed.The ambassador emphasised that the embassy plays a major role in strengthening relations in various fields, especially the political, economic, and cultural aspects.“Regarding the economic aspect, the embassy facilitates communication between the ministries concerned with economic affairs between the two countries, assists the work of the private sector, promotes investment, and explores investment and trade opportunities between the two countries.”
The relationship between Qatar and South Korea has become more diversified in recent years as part of both countries’ efforts to enhance co-operation and transform them into comprehensive strategic ties.Speaking to Gulf Times at the Qatari embassy in Seoul, ambassador Khalid bin Ebrahim al-Hamar expressed confidence in the “further development” of both countries’ diplomatic relations, which were established in 1974.Asked about the current state of economic and trade relations between South Korea and Qatar, al-Hamar said ties between both nations “are built on mutual interests and have witnessed great development” since the 1970s and when Qatar opened its embassy in the Republic of Korea in 1992.“With regard to economic and trade, the Joint Supreme Committee for Strategic Co-operation between Qatar and South Korea is the body responsible for enhancing co-operation and includes officials from various ministries from the two countries.“This committee works to enhance joint co-operation in various fields of co-operation, which include economy, trade and investment, agriculture, science and technology, ICT, education, and health and medical services,” the ambassador explained.On June 15, al-Hamar said South Korea hosted the sixth session of the Joint Supreme Committee for Strategic Co-operation. He noted that trade volume between the two countries increased to about $14bn in 2022 compared to about $11bn in 2021.In terms of exports according to the main destination countries, he said South Korea ranked second with about 11.9% of the total value of Qatari exports, and liquefied natural gas (LNG) is considered the most important of these products. Qatar is also considered one of the most important importers of ships and LNG tankers manufactured by South Korean companies.“The economic and trade aspect constituted the backbone of Qatari-Korean relations in the beginning, but in recent years they have begun to move toward a relationship that includes all fields, including culture, media, sports, healthcare, education, and smart farms.“In the economic field itself, relations were almost limited to the field of energy, especially LNG, given that Qatar is one of the largest countries producing LNG and the biggest supplier of this substance to South Korea,” al-Hamar stressed.Qatar-South Korea ties span about five decades and during this period both countries have achieved “great progress,” especially in the field of energy, al-Hamar pointed out, adding that Qatar exports more than 10mn tonnes of liquefied gas to South Korea, equivalent to 31% of the country’s need for natural gas.According to al-Hamar, both countries signed the first agreement to sell LNG in 1995, and four years later the first shipment was delivered to South Korea. Since then, QatarEnergy has increased its shipments to South Korea to more than 9mn tonnes of LNG per year.“As for Korean companies, they contributed greatly to construction work during the first oil boom in Qatar. In the field of shipbuilding, QatarEnergy signed, on June 1, 2020, an agreement with South Korean companies to build gas tankers, to expand its fleet of tankers in line with the increase in production in the North Field, and the value of the deal is about $19bn.“It is worth noting that Qatar requested the construction of 73 gas tankers from 2001 to 2012, and Korean companies won all orders, which indicates the extent of Qatari confidence in Korean companies,” al-Hamar emphasised.He added: “These and other agreements indicate the closeness of the relationship between the two countries, and also clarify Korea’s position as a strategic partner for Qatar, and open broader horizons in relations between the two countries.”
Significant developments in the Philippines’ Islamic banking and finance sector have “set the stage” to welcome new players, including banks in Qatar, an official of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has said.During a panel discussion held recently on the sidelines of the ‘PH Dialogue: Economic Outlook and Opportunities’ in Doha, BSP Assistant Governor Arifa A Ala told Gulf Times that the Islamic Banking Law or ‘Republic Act (RA) 11439’ has liberalised the ownership of banks in the Philippines and provided greater flexibility.“One mode of operating in the Philippines is that a foreign bank, such as a bank from Qatar, can own up to 100% of an existing bank in the Philippines. It can also be through a branch. It can establish a branch in the Philippines or it can be through the creation of a subsidiary, fully owned by the foreign bank,” Ala explained.“It can be a full-fledged Islamic bank or it can also be an Islamic Banking Unit, so the law has provided the government with full flexibility in terms of the structure of the Islamic banking operations,” she continued.Ala further stressed that the Philippine government has also established the Shariah Supervisory Board through the joint efforts of the Department of Finance, the BSP, the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, and the Bangsamoro Government.“The primary responsibility of the Shariah Supervisory Board is to issue opinions on Shariah compliance of Islamic banking products, so we have set the stage; we have established the key and necessary infrastructure that will make the operation of an Islamic bank in the Philippines viable,” Ara pointed out.The ‘PH Dialogue’ gathered Qatari private sector officials and representatives from Qatar’s business community, who witnessed a keynote address from the Philippines’ finance secretary, Benjamin E Diokno.Diokno led a high-level economic delegation to Qatar, including BSP Deputy Governor Francisco G Dakila Jr, Department of Budget and Management Secretary Amenah F Pangandaman, and National Economic and Development Authority Secretary Arsenio M Balisacan.During the panel discussion, Balisacan also told Gulf Times that the Philippines is welcoming foreign direct investments (FDI) to aid the country’s energy sector as it transitions to renewable and cleaner sources of energy.“We have a plan for energy transition and that is to increasingly move our energy consumption from traditional ones to cleaner technologies, including renewable energy. That’s what we are looking at and so, we welcome investment in those areas.“We are in a hurry to move in that direction because we have this opportunity to move the sourcing of energy as we are transforming the economy, and we need a lot of energy to get the economy moving rapidly,” Balisacan stressed.Balisacan’s presentation during the dialogue revealed that FDI in the Philippines’ energy sector “will be pivotal to the country’s socio-economic transformation.”“By 2030, the Philippines will require a 35% renewable energy (RE) share in its power generation mix and 50% by 2040 under the Clean Energy Scenario of the Philippine Energy Plan 2020-2040. This requires a total investment amount of about P5.8tn or $103.6bn in RE power projects by 2040,” Balisacan said.In 2021, Qatar announced the North Field Expansion project, which comprises North Field South and North Field East that will increase the country’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) production to 126 mtpy by 2026 or 2027.Department of Energy Secretary Raphael P M Lotilla, in his message in the Natural Gas Development Plan (NGDP), stated that “the Philippines is facing a significant challenge with respect to the natural gas supply.”The NGDP was completed by the Department of Energy and the Philippines Statistical Centre Research Foundation, Inc in September 2022. The plan aims to attract investments in the country’s downstream natural gas industry.Lotilla’s message in the NGDP further stated: “Part of our efforts to address this challenge is to look for alternative sources of natural gas. It also aligns with our goal of transitioning to cleaner energy and a low-carbon future.“We acknowledge, however, that looking for alternative sources of natural gas and transitioning to cleaner energy sources, such as liquefied natural gas, would require corresponding infrastructures in place. And this would also require an investor’s substantial capital investment.”
The past decade witnessed the rapid development of bilateral relations between Qatar and China, said Chen Yue, chargé d’affaires ad interim at the Chinese embassy in Doha.“Practical co-operation between the two countries has developed with the volume of trade exchange increasing to around $25bn; China has become Qatar’s largest trading partner, the largest source of imports, and a destination for exports, Chen said in a speech during the ‘China (Guangdong)-Qatar (Doha) Economic & Trade Co-operation Forum’ held in Doha on Monday.Chen said: “Over the past 10 years, bilateral relations witnessed a golden phase of significant development, thanks to the strategic leadership of Qatar and China.” He also underscored the deepening of mutual political trust between both countries, citing the four meetings between His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Chinese President Xi Jinping, which “laid the foundations for Qatari-Chinese relations in the new era.”Chen noted that Arab-Chinese strategic partnership relations have achieved “continuous progress” as cooperation in the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative has risen to new levels, making China “the most important” among the trading partners of Arab countries.During the event, which was organised by QBA, Ma Hua, Director of Commerce in Guangdong Province, spoke about the “constantly improving” business environment, citing more than 300,000 foreign-invested companies.He said Guangdong Province’s total foreign trade value reached “8.31tn yuan” ($1.2tn) in 2022, accounting for “19.8%” of China’s total, placing the country on the top rank for 37 consecutive years.It also represents a major part of China’s foreign trade and is considered an industrial centre that accounts for about “1/10th” of the country’s GDP and is the largest among all Chinese provinces. The province’s gross domestic product last year was “12.9tn yuan” ($1.9tn).He said the number of industrial clusters in the province rose to 8tn yuan ($147bn) last year with 67,000 industrial enterprises and 69,000 high-tech enterprises, ranking first in China.Chen Jiansha, Director at the Guangzhou Municipal Commerce Bureau, said the Guangzhou Industrial City forged a link between international trade and investment alike. With the establishment of more than 1,700 foreign investment institutions, the US, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea are among the top five sources of foreign investment, which constitutes about 90% of the total foreign capital.Chen invited the QBA and local companies to visit the Canton Fair in Guangzhou this November. The fair is considered one of the largest trade fairs in the world, she said. It has been held in Guangzhou for more than 60 years, presenting many Chinese products.
China is seeking to infuse Qatari investments in major projects slated in Guangdong Province, which is building a new development pattern and prioritising high-quality projects, an official announced at the ‘China (Guangdong)-Qatar (Doha) Economic & Trade Co-operation Forum’ held in Doha on Monday.Speaking at the event, which was organised by the Qatari Businessmen Association (QBA), Lin Keqing, chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) Guangdong Committee, said the Qatari business community are welcome to “actively participate” in four development initiatives.The forum gathered more than 60 Chinese companies from the Guangdong Industrial Province, representing various sectors and more than 70 local companies, in addition to several QBA members.According to Lin, the first project is the construction of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area, which is a major national strategy “personally planned, deployed, and promoted by President Xi Jinping.”After five years of development, the economic aggregate of the Greater Bay Area has reached nearly $2tn, surpassing Tokyo Bay Area and the New York Bay Area,” Lin emphasised.“It has created nearly 11% of China’s economic aggregate with less than 1% of the national land area, making it one of the most economically vibrant, open and internationally advanced regions in China. We sincerely welcome industry associations and businesses from Qatar to come to Guangdong and share the dividends of Guangdong’s reform and development,” Lin stressed.The second initiative focuses on co-operation in energy and chemical industries, Lin pointed out, adding that Guangdong has developed a complete green petrochemical industry system with a number of energy giants, which are accelerating their presence in Guangdong. At the same time, Guangdong is accelerating the construction of high-quality projects in refining and petrochemicals, he noted.Lin said the third initiative is the strengthening of mutual co-operation in emerging industries.“We understand that Qatar, in addition to focusing on traditional industries, such as oil and gas resources and finance, is increasingly paying attention to emerging industries, such as digital economy, electronic information, intelligence manufacturing and new energy. We look forward to exploring cooperation opportunities in high-end manufacturing, digital economy and other emerging industries,” he said.He added: “The fourth is deepening co-operation in the financial sector. Guangdong has developed a financial market and both large say-owned holding-found companies. Guangdong has more than 700 Asia-limited companies.“We welcome Qatar to carry out financial investment co-operation in Guangdong, including investment in our security market, private equity, venture capital, and corporate equity and debt.”Speaking at the event, QBA Chairman HE Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim al-Thani said the forum represents an opportunity to discuss joint investment and trade in both countries, noting that China is considered “one of the most important trading partners” of Qatar “due to the will and desire of the leadership of the two countries.”Sheikh Faisal said Qatar-China trade volume stood at about QR97bn Qatari riyals in 2022. Qatar’s exports to China amounted to QR75bn, while imports were valued at QR22bn or 16% of Qatar’s trade volume abroad. This confirms the growth of bilateral relations and the doubling of the trade volume during the last decade, he said.He said Qatar and Guangdong Province share many goals to attract investments and develop trade. Sheikh Faisal called on Chinese companies to maximise “the great opportunities” that Qatar offers to foreign investors by providing ready-made economic zones and tax concessions “that are among the best in the world,” in addition to storage areas for re-export near Hamad Port, especially with the large market currently available in the region.Sheikh Faisal said, “As a business community, we welcome all potential partnerships with Chinese businessmen and Chinese companies in the different sectors. The role of the Qatari Businessmen Association is to find effective trade partners and investors in both countries.”
The Philippines’ finance secretary, Benjamin E Diokno, has invited Qatari investors to explore investment opportunities in 197 Infrastructure Flagship Projects (IFPs) that were approved by President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr last month.The IFPs, with a total investment requirement of about $155bn, focus on unlocking greater economic productivity through physical connectivity, digital connectivity, health, power and energy, agriculture, flood management, water supply, and irrigation, Diokno announced during the ‘PH Dialogue: Economic Outlook and Opportunities’ held in Doha yesterday.Diokno delivered the event’s keynote address in the presence of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Deputy Governor Francisco G Dakila Jr, Department of Budget and Management Secretary Amenah F Pangandaman, National Economic and Development Authority Secretary Arsenio M Balisacan, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Assistant Governor Arifa A Ala, and Philippine ambassador to the State of Qatar Lillibeth Pono.According to Diokno, of the 197 IFPs, 39 will be undertaken through public-private partnerships (PPPs), citing approved PPP projects, such as the Cavite-Laguna Expressway Project, the Metro Manila Subway Project, and the New Manila International Airport Project (under physical connectivity); the UP-PGH Diliman Project (health); and the Wawa Bulk Water Supply Project (water resources).“Since the beginning of the president’s term, we have already approved four big ticket projects with a total cost of P212.8bn or around $3.8bn. The solicited proposal for the rehabilitation of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport as our major airport in the Philippines was evaluated and approved in just six weeks.“Meanwhile, the unsolicited proposal for the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway, or what we call TPLEx extension project was evaluated and approved within just 11 weeks,” Diokno explained.The finance secretary emphasised that smart, resilient, and interconnected infrastructure “is critical to facilitating the entry of new investments.” This, he said, boosts productivity, effectively links value chains throughout the archipelago, establishes liveable communities, and drives equitable growth in both the rural areas and urban sectors.“It is clear that the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr has put infrastructure development at the forefront of the Philippines’ development strategy.This requires innovative financing solutions and strategic partnerships with the private sector,” he stressed.Diokno also said the Philippine government has opened up the renewable energy sector to full foreign ownership to complement the Philippines’ move to transition away from coal and into cleaner energy sources. This includes the exploration, development, and utilisation of solar, wind, hydro, and ocean or tidal energy resources, he noted.He also explained the recently enacted Maharlika Investment Fund Act, which establishes the Philippines’ first-ever sovereign investment fund.Diokno said, “The Maharlika Investment Fund will serve as an additional source and mode of financing priority projects of the Philippine government, including the infrastructure of large-scale projects, which offer high rates of return and significant socio-economic impact.”“The fund also aims to attract the participation of local and foreign capital, large global funds, global international institutions, multilateral partners, and other sovereign wealth funds to make direct equity investments in Philippine ventures and projects.“The Maharlika Investment Fund can also be used for green and blue projects, countryside development, and emerging mega-trends, such as digitalisation, ESG, and healthcare,” he stressed.Diokno also noted that the Philippines is “one of the fastest growing economies” in emerging investment opportunities in the Asia and Pacific region. He said the Philippine economy registered its highest full-year growth of “7.6%” in 2022 – the highest in 46 years.“This growth performance exceeded our previous pandemic outlook. Despite the gloomy outlook in the global economy, the Philippine economy grew by 5.3% in the first half of this year...in the first semester of 2023, the Philippines outpaced our neighbours in Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Singapore.“Major international organisations have put their confidence in the Philippines.The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank both upgraded their growth outlook on the Philippines to 6.2% and 6%, respectively, despite the slower growth in advanced economies,” Diokno added.