Qatar: Country and Foreign Investment
As with most oil states in the Middle East, Qatar is looking to reform and liberalize its economy to avoid an over-reliance on oil and gas, most particularly in light of falling oil prices as a result of the credit crunch. Investment rules for non-Qataris are increasingly becoming more relaxed in order to enhance economic growth. The state initiated a privatization program in 1998, and trading on the Qatar stock exchange was extended to foreign investors in 2005.
On June 16, 2009, Standard & Poor’s awarded Qatar an ‘AA-/A-1+’ rating, affirmed on resilience amid global turmoil, and declared the economic outlook for the state as stable.
Qatar has been a member of the WTO since January 1996, and has signed a number of trade and double taxation treaties.
There are 15 banks operating in Qatar, including seven national banks, two of which operate in accordance with Islamic principles. The Qatar Industrial Development Bank specializes in providing finance to small and medium-sized enterprises.
The country benefits from excellent telecommunications. All local landline calls are free; international calls are expensive, and are charged at 15-second intervals. The mobile network is widespread and is considered to be of good quality.
Businesses are subject to tax on income arising from activities in Qatar. There is no personal taxation as such, although foreign individuals carrying on a trade are liable to tax where that income arises from activities carried out in Qatar.
Foreign trading organizations are not permitted to operate on their own behalf – they must sell their goods to Qatari concerns that will then market them locally. Individual importers must have Qatari nationality; most businesses that import goods must be wholly owned by Qataris.
There are import duties on most goods brought into Qatar for onward sale. Importers must be registered with and approved by the Qatar Chamber of Commerce.
Non-Qataris are not permitted to participate in banking, insurance, commercial agency, or real estate trading activities, although they are free to invest in real estate.