Qatar sets aside $2bn in bid to rival Dubai financial hub

Qatar has allocated $2bn to attract multi-national companies to its financial centre in its latest effort to rival Dubai.

Companies that set up a hub in Doha will be provided free offices and tax incentives as well as seed capital to cover five years of operating expenses in return for a commitment of at least a decade, Yousuf Al Jaida, chief executive officer of the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) Authority, told Bloomberg.

Qatar’s financial hub is targeting to launch the incentive plan in the first quarter once all the governance structures have been put in place.

“It’s there, ready to be tapped, sitting in a bank account under government supervision,” he said. “We expect every single QFC company to have full access to government tenders and have unlimited access to the local market be it corporate and retail.”

The plan comes after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut economic and diplomatic ties with Qatar in June last year, accusing the country of financing terrorist groups and having close ties with Iran, charges Qatar rejects. The rift forced Qatar to shift import routes to Kuwait and Oman, and buy goods from Iran and Turkey.

Doha is working toward taking on rivals in the Gulf Cooperation Council by trying to attract overseas investment and growing into a bigger financial hub.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are using the same tactics, including plans to relax company ownership rules and grant foreigners permanent residencies. QFC is aiming to attract companies from Kuwait, Oman and Iraq as well as firms looking to participate in the reconstruction of Syria and some South East Asian countries.

Qatar to launch free zones

Qatar’s first Special Economic Zone (SEZ) will be ready to receive investors in the first quarter of 2019. Um Al Houl Free Zone, one of the two Free Zones under development, will start receiving both local and foreign investors from early next year.

The second free zone, Ras Bu Fontas, which is near Hamad International Airport, will facilitate cargo operations and similar businesses. Ras Bu Fontas, the minister said, will be launched next year and will feature advanced technologies.

Pedro Gonçalves
Pedro Gonçalves is Financial Correspondent at International Investment.

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