*Public procurement contracts secured by SMEs last year was more than double the QR300m posted in 2016

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Qatar secured QR700mn in public procurement contracts, out of a total of QR2.5bn in 2017, according to Oxford Business Group.
This is more than double the QR300mn posted in 2016, OBG said Sunday.

SMEs, OBG noted, could be set for a much more prominent role in Qatar, with the government stepping up efforts to collaborate with local companies as part of broader diversification plans. 
Local SMEs were presented with a series of potential business opportunities at the third annual Government Procurement and Contracting Conference & Exhibition (Moushtarayat), which was held in Doha in April.
Co-ordinated by the Public Works Authority, Ministry of Finance and Qatar Development Bank (QDB), the event brought together small companies, large firms and government agencies, allowing the public and private sectors to interact, while also providing a platform for state entities to showcase projects open for tender or direct assignment. 
Moushtarayat 2018 saw more than 2,000 business opportunities with a combined value of around QR6.5bn presented to SMEs, while some 57 different state agencies were represented, covering most areas of public sector activity.
Among the state agencies taking part was the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), the authority tasked with delivering infrastructure requirements for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
In an effort to boost involvement of domestic SMEs in the World Cup, the SC announced it was making available QR700mn worth of opportunities for local companies to provide services in preparing the main stadiums and training facilities for the event.
While only a fraction of the estimated QR60bn total value of projects showcased at the event was dedicated to SMEs, with most being directed to large entities, the SME-focused component represents a significant increase in terms of value when compared to previous years, OBG said. 
The increased focus on SMEs highlights the important role they play in the national economy.
Of the 25,000 private sector businesses currently registered, more than 96% are classified as SMEs, Abdulaziz bin Nasser al-Khalifa, QDB CEO had said earlier.
In light of this, expanding the segment and providing greater opportunities for smaller firms to take part in state-backed projects is seen as a significant source of employment and growth for local businesses.
According to Ministry of Finance forecasts, local firms could provide up to 90% of supplies for state projects in the coming years, with the authorities looking to improve the capacity and diversification of services offered by SMEs. 
Increased activity for local businesses and efforts to develop SMEs align with a broader national strategy aimed at boosting the private sector’s contribution to the economy.
The country’s second National Development Strategy (NDS2) 2018-22, launched in March, sets the agenda for economic, social and human development for the next five years, building on the first NDS, while also dovetailing into the broader goals of the Qatar National Vision 2030, the blueprint for broader growth unveiled in 2008. 
While there is a strong emphasis on building the state’s capacity to deliver services and achieve financial sustainability, much of the economic focus of NDS2 is on growing the private sector by developing the tools needed to broaden its base and contribution to GDP, according to HE the Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani.
“The increased focus on the private sector comes amid national plans to diversify the economy away from a reliance on hydrocarbons earnings. 
“The economic blockade imposed on Qatar in June last year by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt has also led to a renewed pivot towards local industry,” OBG said.
Key to achieving private sector growth will be collaboration with the state, HE the Minister of Development Planning and Statistics Saleh Mohammed Salem al-Nabit said upon the release of the NDS2. 
“The interaction and partnership between the public and private sector needs to be increased, and the role of civil society organisations in the implementation of this strategy needs to be expanded,” he said.
To encourage private sector development, the government has sought to improve the regulatory environment by outlining proposed new legislation governing public-private partnerships (PPPs). 
Government officials have told local media that new legislation, currently in the draft stage, will outline the terms and conditions for those taking part in PPPs, with regulatory certainty expected to encourage both local and foreign companies to take part in major projects, OBG said.

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