The Qatar Government’s special package of QR75bn for the private sector has been a “very proactive” initiative, points out Dr Mohamed Althaf, director, LuLu Hypermarkets, Qatar.
“This is before any sign of cash flow constraints appeared in the economy. This announcement has boosted the confidence of the private sector,” Althaf told Gulf Times on Monday.
“The package also is precisely targeted to help companies to survive through this crisis in short and medium-terms, including salary payments,” noted Althaf, a member of the Qatari Businessmen Association (QBA).
“Like every global major economy, Qatar’s private sector would also require help and assistance to navigate through the new realities,” Althaf said when asked whether the Qatari private sector needs a special package in the post Covid-19 phase.
He said, “Unlike many other countries, Qatar’s economy was very robust when it entered the Covid-19 crisis. So, the fundamentals remain very strong. But at the same time private sector will require a very creative forward-looking special deal to prepare for post-pandemic recovery. That may not necessarily include financial package only but also further improving ease of doing business.”
On the significance of the private sector to Qatari economy, Althaf said, “The private sector is vital for Qatar’s ambitious plan: The Qatar National Vision 2030. Qatar’s plan to increase non-carbon revenue can only be achieved with the active participation of the private sector. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the growth engine of the economy and requires efficient SMEs to support this vision.”
On the need for the Qatari private sector to equip itself to face such major challenges in future, Althaf said, “The Qatari private sector will have to foresee major challenges. It will mainly depend on the pace of recovery in other countries that were first affected by the Covid-19.
“Some of the emergency measure taken during the crisis like social distancing might stay longer than we anticipated and might fundamentally change some of the ways in which businesses operate. The private sector will also need to embrace digital transformation strategies with a sense of urgency.”
Speaking about his experiences as a major retailer in Qatar’s fast-growing consumer sector, Althaf said, “The coronavirus or Covid-19 has been a very challenging time for the retailers globally, and our supply chains were under pressure. Like healthcare workers, retail staff were also in the forefront of helping the community with abundant supply of essential food, consumer goods and hygiene products like masks and sanitisers.
“We had the twin challenge of keeping our staff and customers safe. We were the pioneers in implementing the social distancing and hygiene protocol, universal masking policy and transparent protective shields at checkout to protect our staff and customers.
“I am proud to say that compared to supermarkets in the developed world, Qatar’s supermarkets including LuLu stores were able to manage the initial surging demand effectively. There were no shortages or increasing the prices. Our online business has also worked very hard to keep with the increased customer preferences.
“Looking back, I feel that the most challenging period for food retail is over. Customers have realised that food supply chain in Qatar is very well developed, dependable and highly scalable, and is capable of meeting any challenges.”
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