Qatar is the second biggest economy in the Middle East region after Saudi Arabia. It doesn’t have much oil, but it does have the world’s third largest gas reserves, worth $24 trillion at today’s oil prices.
Transportation used to be the problem for gas, because of the need to have enormous pipelines. That all changed when scientists worked out a way of cooling the gas and transporting it in liquid form in sea carriers.
The country is so rich that, in theory, few Qataris (comprising about 15% of the two million population) would have to actually work, they could retire after school and live off the fruits from those resources.
That doesn’t make for a sustainable, knowledge-based society, so thinking ahead, Qatar is trying to put the money to good use. It is looking to develop its financial services businesses, including asset management, reinsurance and captive insurance. This means spending money on education, funding technology, research and development and science parks.
In the field of logistics, it owns a huge fleet of LNG tankers.
Qatar’s capital markets need to develop regulatory structures and its financial services sector is still in early stages, and there are just a few asset managers there. Among the leading banks, ICBC is in Qatar, as is Bank of Mitsubishi Sumitomo, ICICI and Nomura.
“We don’t rely on separate ‘Free Zones’ for foreign companies, Qatar is quite open to incoming investors,” says Shashank Srivastava, acting CEO and chief strategic development officer of the Qatar Financial Centre Authority.
“In Qatar asset management companies can be 100% foreign owned. Foreign investors can do business in the local currency and, unlike some Middle East asset management jurisdictions, they can do local retail business such as retail brokerage.”
NYSE/Euronext owns 20% of the local exchange so they are introducing new technology. Plans have been floated to raise foreign ownership limits, and new listing rules on the exchange have been introduced. Exchange traded funds are coming soon.
Also coming to Qatar is the football world cup in 2022. There are plans to spend $200 billion on infrastructure such as metro systems, roads and desalination plants, $65 billion of which is earmarked for the world cup.
Qatar is looking at public-private partnerships to develop the infrastructure, not because it needs the money, but because it wants to secure private involvement, and not just be a nanny state owning everything.
Stadiums will be modular and bits will ultimately be dismantled and donated to other football-mad nations in the region.