Strong macroeconomic fundamentals and the expectations of improving profitability at non-energy private sector are prompting investors across the world to increasingly look at Doha with confidence, even amidst the current situation, said Yousuf Mohamed al-Jaida, chief executive of the Qatar Financial Center (QFC).
"Despite challenges, Qatar’s economy continues to prove resilient in the face of this crisis, with our GDP (gross domestic product) expected to grow to $231bn by 2024 from $193bn in 2020," he told Gulf Times in an exclusive interview.
In April and May respectively, Moody’s affirmed Qatar’s ‘Aa3’ rating with a “stable” outlook, and Standard & Poor's affirmed its ‘AA-/A-1+’ rating with a “stable” outlook, citing strong financial buffers. Fitch affirmed Qatar's 'AA-' ratings citing the continued fiscal and external surpluses, a strong sovereign net foreign asset position, and one of the world's highest ratios of GDP per capita.
Finding these as testament to the resilience of Qatar’s economy, al-Jaida said, "This is all to say that existing and potential investors turn to Qatar with confidence, even in light of the current situation."
Although it is challenging to predict how the situation will play out at this time, Qatar, remains in a strong position to tackle these ongoing challenges and will be the only Gulf country to still register a fiscal surplus, he said, quoting the International Monetary Fund.
"Qatar’s resourceful nature and proven adaptability, as demonstrated with crises in the past, will continue to be the key in tackling the impacts of this ongoing situation," he said, adding the present business sentiments also point out optimism.
While March-dated PMI (purchasing managers' index) suggested slowing activity and declining output, there were also several promising factors signalled for Qatar’s private sector.
"The latest data on prices suggested improving profitability at non-energy private sector companies, as overall input prices fell slightly while prices charged for goods and services rose at the fastest rate since January 2018," he said, adding the average labour costs fell for the fourth month running as well.
Qatari entities and the business community at large quickly mobilised on the back of the government’s stimulus package to support the economy, he said.
In line with this, the QFC – a business community with combined total assets under management of over $20bn – saw it imperative to complement the national measures to support its ecosystem in particular and the entire economy in general.
"While we are still monitoring ongoing Covid-19 developments and implications to evaluate next steps, if any, the response to our support measures have been overwhelmingly positive as firms are now relieved of tax filing and other filing deadlines," according to him.
Highlighting that a crucial aspect to the business journey with the QFC is client support, he said now more than ever its firms are approaching it with several enquiries as they seek advice due to the current situation.
"Recently upgrading our call centre to be 24/7 – and also multi-lingual – continues to be of great value to our firms, particularly during this situation," al-Jaida said.
The QFC is committed to continuing to explore new avenues for its firms, and ways in which it can support existing and potential clients, by evaluating the current and potential relief measures as the situation continues to evolve, according to him.
"The QFC is the business platform of choice for firms looking to expand overseas due to a host of competitive benefits," he said referring to 100% foreign ownership, 100% repatriation of profits and 10% corporate tax on locally-sourced profits.
The benefits also include trade in any currency, legal environment based on English common law, attractive tax and business environment, a streamlined and transparent company registration and licensing process, a unique Administrative Employment Dispute Resolution Centre accredited by the International Labour Organisation, quick and easy set-up (five working days from the day the company passes its strategic fit and has presented all its necessary documents to the QFC), and access to Qatar’s business community.
"We are continuously thinking of new ways to support our growing number of clients and ensure ease and continuity of doing business both in light of this crisis and otherwise," he said.