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MENAFN - The Peninsula - 02/06/2011

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(MENAFN - The Peninsula) Qatar has drawn up an ambitious industrial map to encourage manufacturing activities which are the key to its crucial economic diversification drive, and hopes to spend a whopping QR30bn on the historic initiative.

This was disclosed by the Minister of Energy and Industry, H E Dr Mohamed Saleh Al Sada, here on Tuesday. He was answering questions at the Prime Minister's interface with businessmen.

"Only last week we have launched an industrial map and plan to spend QR30bn on the initiative," said Al Sada, urging the private sector's cooperation in making the plan a success.

Raw materials like gas and electricity are cheaper here, so manufacturing activities can be quite viable. "We are also offering lucrative tax exemptions for industries," said the Minister.

Replying to questions, the Minister of Finance and Economy, H E Yousuf Hussein Kamal said all the industrial areas underway in the country will be ready in two-and-a-half years.

Land will then be allocated to businessmen, he said, adding that he hoped that the Mesaieed port will be ready by 2015 and the upcoming New Doha Port will be commissioned by 2012-13.

Announcing sops for the private sector which he earlier blamed for the price rise, the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister H E Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani (pictured), said at least 30 percent of public projects to be launched over the next five years will be awarded to the private sector. But he asked businessmen to be ready to face foreign competition since Qatar is opening up its economy.

Being a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Qatar is committed to implementing GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) and set up a free market economy, the government made it clear on Tuesday.

"We would be awarding at least 30 percent of the contracts for public projects over the next five years to you, but be ready to face foreign competition," the Prime Minister told businessmen.

Replying to questions, the PM said in the context of private-public partnership (PPP) that some services at the upcoming New Doha International Airport would be privatised.

The private sector was welcome to invest in the ambitious railway projects as well, the PM said, but hinted that he was not quite optimistic about the project.

Food security is presently the top priority of the government and the private sector can play an active role in making projects related to food security a success.

"We used to import roses from Holland, for instance, but now (state-backed) Hassad Food Company is growing roses," the Premier said asking businessmen to launch such projects.

The PM denied that the state was backing public sector companies like Qatari Diar, Barwa Real Estate Company and Karwa (Mowasalat) and said that since Karwa was providing key public transport services it was suffering losses.

And as for Barwa, it was set up in 2007 amid the world financial crisis and its primary objective was to help reduce skyrocketing rents.

It was only after Barwa came on the scene that villa rents that were ruling at QR25,000 at the time, came crashing down to QR15,000, for instance, said the Premier.

Qatari Diar is making investments overseas so there is no question of state entities competing with the private sector. The state entities are providing key public services, said the PM.

The Minister of Business and Trade, H E Sheikh Jassim bin Abdulaziz, in response to a question from the audience, said work on the three proposed free economic zones had begun and rules will soon be announced.


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