Legal fraternity in Qatar has thrown its weight behind the government as they advocate increased Pro Bono hours to keep the businesses, notably small and medium enterprises (SMEs), stay afloat during the Covid-19 crisis.
Moreover, post Covid-19, the corporate field in Qatar could become a fertile ground for mergers and acquisitions (M&A), according to Rashid al-Saad, senior partner at Al Sharq Law Firm, one of the first legal entities to offer Pro Bono service.
"We think that during this pandemic, law firms in Qatar should increase Pro Bono hours and help the owners of the businesses by guiding them and providing them with Pro Bono legal advises in order to keep these businesses afloat," he told Gulf Times in an exclusive interview.
Pro Bono service enables eligible individuals to receive legal advice, assistance and representation free of charge. Recently, Qatar International Court and Dispute Resolution Center offered Pro Bono services to spearhead the delivery of swift, fair, and efficient judgments as part of an innovative legal model for commercial and civil dispute resolution.
Sharq Law Firm can help all the business owners who would like to apply and benefit from the government and other packages by co-ordinating with the relevant bodies in the State, in addition to the banks, to ease the procedure and tailor all the legal documents as required before submitting the applications, al-Saad said.
Qatar government has offered QR75bn in stimulus package to the private sector, and the Qatar Central Bank (QCB) has been directed to put in place mechanism to encourage banks to postpone loan payments and private sector obligations for six months.
"This package can help the small businesses struggling to pay their contractual obligations towards service providers and employees," al-Saad said.
In addition, Qatar Development Bank (QDB) has started implementing the financial benefits to be extended to SMEs as part of the government’s safeguard programme for such companies that are affected due to the outbreak of Covid-19 in Qatar.
Post Covid-19, many businesses are set to face a wave of lawsuits due to the impact of the novel coronavirus which has “upended markets and disrupted supply chains”, he said, adding each business that failed to take adequate steps to face the challenges of pandemic may face claims in the courts.
"As the spread of coronavirus is on the rise and the world has started to witness scenarios in which travel restrictions and quarantine instances are taking place, it is yet to be studied and referenced by the Court of Cassation if coronavirus could be seen as a force majeure instance," al-Saad said.
Highlighting that the pandemic has legal and financial repercussions on businesses in Qatar; he said from a legal perspective, the impact of this pandemic may lead to an overburdening of the debtor to fulfill his/her commitment under “exceptional circumstances” or “hardship”.
"A pandemic may also lead to the impossibility of the debtor to fulfil his/her obligations, leading to a case of force majeure," he said.
However, the pandemic should be regarded, in most of the cases, as “exceptional and unforeseen” rather than one of force majeure since the situation that the world is witnessing does not make it impossible for the parties to realise their contractual obligations, but rather it results in certain implications.
On the outlook for M&As, he said though Covid-19 has disrupted deal making, once this situation settles, it anticipates a wave of M&As as the big businesses but would depend on share prices and private equities with significant funds at their disposal and seeking new and creative opportunities.
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