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MENAFN - The Peninsula - 21/04/2011

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(MENAFN - The Peninsula) The private sector has reacted sharply to reports about Qatar preparing to enforce a law that would allow businesses in other GCC states to set up operations here.

The State Cabinet yesterday approved the draft of the law, in effect paving the way for its implementation sooner rather than later.

The move follows a decision taken by the GCC leaders at their last summit to open up the regional market to GCC companies.

But the private sector is apprehensive and feels that while businesses from other GCC states would come here and operate at the expense of local companies, Qatari businesses are unlikely to get a fair deal in other GCC countries.

The law is both good and bad, said Nasser Al Khaledi, cryptically. It is good because Qatar is opening up, and bad because companies from the region would come here, do business and remit large funds back to their countries of origin. "Our companies have never been treated equally in other GCC states," said Al Khaledi, CEO of Qatar-Oman Investment Company, a listed entity.

"Can you tell me if Qatari steel is used in government projects in neighbouring Saudi ArabiaThe answer is no," he said.

The same is true of Abu Dhabi and other GCC destinations. Qatari companies are never invited to take part in government tenders. They are not treated equally in other GCC states.

"So why invite companies from the region here and create unhealthy competition for local trade and industry," he said.

When told that other GCC states were also likely to enact similar laws, Al Khaledi quipped: "I doubt such laws would see the light of day and even if they do, Qatari companies would not be treated fairly."

A source from the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry (QCCI), representative body of the private sector, expressing similar apprehensions said that it should be made compulsory for companies from other GCC states to have Qatari partners if they wish to set shop here.

"Or, our companies would suffer since the competition would be stiff," said the source.

But prominent businessman and industrialist, Abdul Hadi Al Shahwani, told The Peninsula that he hailed the proposed law as it would allow Qatari businesses to expand in the region. "While it is true that Qatari companies would face fierce competition from their GCC rivals, those companies that are weaker would be wiped out not being able to compete," said Al Shahwani.


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