From infrastructure projects to transport, major Italian companies such as Impregilo, Danieli and Salini, are in the game with unprecedented stakes. In the area of technological exchange, Italian research centers find intersecting interests with the Qatar Financial Centre and Qatar Science and Technology Park. Cultural and technological exchange is the position that is encouraged by this interview with Rohani, conducted by Guido Solari.
In which sectors Italian companies may berequired/needed in Qatar before the 2022?
At the phenomenal pace Qatar is growing, Italian companies can contribute by bringing in the professional values and expertise that makes them unique in the global marketplaces in many different sectors of the economy. Some Italian companies are already here sharing best industry practices in their respective niche segments with us, like for example Salini Impregilo, which is leading a consortium to build the Red Line North of the Doha Metro, the first of the four planned Doha metro lines. The operation is one of the major projects carried out under the Qatar Rail Development Program, which aims to develop transport infrastructure in Qatar in the run-upto the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
What are the sectors where you see the better chances of development after 2022 and what Qatar needs to do in order to keep the foreign companies after the 2022?
Qatar is overall an open economy with very few impediments to trade or investment. In 2000, the Government began to ease restrictions on direct foreign investment and although majority Qatari ownership is required in some sectors, 100% foreign ownership is permitted in a growing list of sectors including industry, agriculture, health, tourism, education, and service sectors. In addition, 100% foreign ownership is permitted in the special economic zones of the Qatar Financial Centre and Qatar Science and Technology Park. Some state-owned companies have also successfully implemented public-private partnership (PPP) initiatives in the power and water sector.
Is Italy an interesting target for Qatari investors apart from the leisure/hotel sector?
Although most of Qatar’s investments in Europe are mainly concentrated in the UK and France, Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund is also heavily investing in Italy. In November 2012, Qatar Investment Authority signed a deal with Italy’s strategic investment fund to support tourism and leisure, but also business sectors such as food, luxury goods, furniture and design. Also last year Qatar Holding invested in Milan’s newly built Porta Nuova business district, increasing Qatar’s participation in the Italian real estate market. Fashion has also been part of the Qatar’s investment plan in Italy with Mayhoola for Investments, a Qatari investment group, buying Italian luxury brand Valentino. In the light of these facts, I would say that doors for mutual co-operation are therefore widely open in different sectors.
How do you evaluate the impact of the GCC/Qatar transport plan toward the interchange with Europe/Italy?
It’s not a novelty the strategic role the Gulf Area plays for Italy and in general for Europe. The integrated railway network project has been proposed to connect the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states in order to boost transport services across the region as well as to fulfill the increasing demand related to passenger and freight transport in Qatar and from other GCC countries. Undoubtedly a regional rail network can support diversification and growthmaking easier also the interchange with other countries. However in order to be able to make business across borders, it’s crucial the adoption of unified practices, including customs and immigration policies and other issues.
From one side there are universities with a high degree of specialization, consolidated industrial know how and modern technologies, from the other side huge financial resources and the intention togrow also outside the commodities sector. Do you see other complementarinesses between Italy and Qatar?
With Qatar embarking on an unprecedented decade of development, the Italian interes tin Qatar can assist with the expertise required by us to successfully take on a multitude of challenges. However, our relationship should not be based solely on trade and business. It can feature social experiences ranging from cross-cultural exchanges to people-to-people interaction.
This will, in the long-run, pave the way towards a new level of economic and social bond which is beneficial and rewarding to both Qatar and Italy.
What are the sectors of major importance forthe development of the Italian middle sized companies in Qatar. Is there a role for Italy as a supplier of industrial know how in Qatar?
As Qatar diversifies its economy away from oil and gas, and focuses onto a thriving SME sector of its own, we can appreciate the sharing of experiences by Italian companies. In that context, Qatar Chamber is in a unique position to serve as a bridge between growing Qatari demands in various developments and the ever-increasing interest by Italian companies.
Will Qatar introduce a system where any person can freely access to corporate information (corporate structure and audit financial statements) of companies, including the WLL, to allow any third interested party to access to such details?
Increasing economic complexity calls inevitably for flexible and responsive institutions. Qatar’s public sector is undertaking a comprehensive reform program aimed at improving the quality of public services.
Do you think that a free trade zone like Jebel Ali will help to boost the foreign investments in the industrial sector in Qatar?
The industrial sector in Qatar is one of the most important strategic pillars of sustainable development. Oil is still the main contributor to the GDP, however our Government is striving hard to realize economic diversification encouraging foreign investors to take advantage of investment opportunities in different sectors, such as petrochemical industries, financial, real estate and industrial sector. As briefly mentioned above, in Qatar we have an open market policy which for sure will help investor achieve better profits. As far as concerns free zones, Qatar offers a good number of friendly investment centers, including Qatar Financial Center, Qatar Exchange and Qatar Science and Technology Park where investors enjoy many additional benefit including freedom of movement’s fund.
From the prospective of the Qatar Chamber, what is the outcome of the exchanges between Qatar and Italy in the last 5 years?
In its effort to follow a path of diversification not only from an economic stand-point, but also in the field of international relations, Qatar has developed a strong relation with Italy in the last few years. Several high-level meetings between the two Governments led to a series of bilateral agreements ranging from the trade and economy sector, to the legal, to the political. From a chamber of commerce point of view, we are certainly satisfied with the outcomes of our meetings with Italian trade delegations visiting Qatar. This year Italy had a very strong presence with around 100 companies at Project Qatar, one of our most successful annual exhibition. However I do believe that Italian companies are still not benefitting in full of the potentialities our market has to offer. Their approach is sometimes a bit too conservative; they seem reluctant to invest. However to be able to grab opportunities, it’s crucial to establish a local legal presence in order to react quickly, make connections, and learn how we do business in this part of the world.