Members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) have a “wide range of opportunities” to participate in private sector projects under Qatar’s National Development Strategy 2017 – 2022, a Commercial Bank senior official has said.
In a keynote address at the ‘Qatar and Asean – Trade and Investment Opportunities’ seminar held recently, Commercial Bank Group CEO Joseph Abraham said the strategy involves government-led incentives and billions of dollars earmarked for projects in education, health, logistics, industry, sports, food and tourism, as well as construction.
Abraham underlined the existing “strong links” between Qatar and Asean nations. With Asean being one of Qatar’s largest trading partners, Abraham said Qatari exports reached over $8.2bn in 2016.
Ambassadors of Asean member countries in Qatar.
He said Asean has a sizeable expatriate population in Qatar, numerous Qatari investments in the region such as the Nebras gas-fired power plant in Indonesia, and “excellent connectivity” with Asean through Hamad International Airport and Hamad Port.
Abraham said for every dollar of Qatari exports to Asean, Qatar only imports 23 cents of goods and this trade ratio of almost 1:4 represented “an untapped opportunity” for Asean nations.
“The economic blockade has boosted the growth potential for key Asean exports to Qatar, including halal food, agricultural, paper and construction products, together with electrical goods,” he said.
However, he stressed that Asean also has highly-developed service sectors that can offer a lot to Qatar.
“Singapore and Malaysia have top-ranking universities, providing an alternative to Qataris travelling to Europe or the US for further study. Malaysia and Thailand are among Qatar’s favourite tourism destinations, and Singapore’s healthcare is recognised as one of the best in the world in catering for health tourists. Singapore is also home to three of the world’s 100 largest architecture firms,” Abraham said.
Abraham stated that the potential increase in Asean exports to Qatar “could be realised through raising awareness,” even as he encouraged “active engagement” between the Qatari and Asean business communities though targeted communications, mutual trade delegations, and communications highlighting existing opportunities.
The Asean seminar was organised to provide a window to the economic and investment potentials of the seven member countries and enhance business relations with Qatar, and was held as part of celebrations to mark Asean’s 50th anniversary.
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