Qatari private sector companies need to adapt to new changes, post Covid-19: Saad al-Kuwari
May 12 2020 09:47 PM
Saad al-Kuwari
Saad al-Kuwari

Qatari private sector companies need to adapt to new changes, such as market trends, habits and sale methods, post Covid-19, prominent oil strategist and columnist Saad al-Kuwari has said.

“The work practices adopted and implemented in the past would change… and would not be the same again. For example, customers may be more inclined towards buying groceries online, instead of going to supermarkets. This will bring in new delivery methods,” al-Kuwari told Gulf Times on Tuesday.

On the other hand, he said, this would bring down operational costs and reduce manpower. This, in turn, will provide an opportunity for price competitiveness and quality enhancement, al-Kuwari noted.

On the QR75bn package the Government of Qatar announced for the private sector, al-Kuwari said, “It is a step forward and a very good move by the Government. Most of the private companies, especially small-scale, are struggling with their daily business and sales due to restrictions imposed and implications of Covid-19.

“This incentive package will support those companies at least for a short period – over the next few months, to cope with this unpredictable situation and handle their monthly operational expenses such as rents, salaries and variable costs.”

Al-Kuwari said the Supreme Committee for Crisis Management, led by His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, had announced that all kinds of food and medical products and other goods will be exempt from customs duties for a period of six months, provided that these are reflected in the selling price to the consumer. This would support the medical sector among others during this period.

Also, several sectors would be exempt from electricity and water charges for a period of six months. They include, hospitality and tourism; retail; small and medium industries; commercial complexes (in exchange for providing services and exemptions to tenants) as well as logistics areas.

Asked whether the Qatari private sector needs a special package to deal with the realities of the time in the post Covid-19 phase, al-Kuwari said, “It’s difficult to predict how long it takes to get over this pandemic. If my intuitions are right, I expect this will continue for a couple of months or more before we get back gradually to normalcy.

“I think the private sector might need an incremental package to ensure business continuity (only for retail business) if this situation continues. As for the medium and big scale businesses, I think special package won’t be required, because their cash flow will help them cope with this situation.

“The overall long-term supply chain of liquefied natural gas ensures recurring revenues, which would provide stability to Qatar’s economy.”

Al-Kuwari insisted that small and medium enterprises play an important role in the national economy. “I wouldn’t, however, say SMEs are the backbone of the domestic economy.”

He noted that Enterprise Qatar, an early initiative linked to QNV 2030, will provide a focal point for stimulating services for small and medium-sized enterprises and support diversification. Enterprise Qatar will also share risks with the private sector through participation in equity and business support services. Enterprise Qatar will also strengthen the SME business environment; making it more viable for SMEs to take a prominent role in Qatar’s economy.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are one of the fastest-growing sectors in Qatar as they constitute about 15% of the economy, with most firms focused on the domestic economy, al-Kuwari said highlighting the SMEs' trends and role in the national economy.

“Qatar lays emphasis on SMEs that try and utilise raw materials and finished products in the country and those which rely on oil and gas,” added al-Kuwari, an energy industry veteran with decades of experience in key positions in the country’s hydrocarbon industry.

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