TOGY talks to
Qatar’s new economic resilienceOctober 30, 2018
Jon Truby, director of the Centre for Law and Development (CLD), talks to TOGY about developing industrial self-reliance in Qatar, potential in energy diversification and recommendations for adopting blockchain technology. The CLD supports the law-related objectives of the pillars of the Qatar National Vision 2030 by offering training to industry, ministries and academics.
• On SMEs: “We need to encourage SMEs to start up here so we can develop home-grown talent. For a long time, it has been easy to start up a major company or franchise in Qatar, but it is vital to encourage organic and local growth. If we can encourage SMEs, they can then grow into large companies. That will require support and some regulatory reforms that are in the process of being developed.”
• On investment by locals: “Encouraging investment through not just FDI, but also from residents would be a strong way to help the economy. They are in the process of rolling out a permanent residency permit, with lower requirements over time. If people have permanent residency, they have an incentive to invest. It creates trust and safety for those starting a business.”
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In which industrial areas should Qatar become more self reliant?
We need to encourage SMEs to start up here so we can develop home-grown talent. For a long time, it has been easy to start up a major company or franchise in Qatar, but it is vital to encourage organic and local growth. If we can encourage SMEs, they can then grow into large companies. That will require support and some regulatory reforms that are in the process of being developed.
Besides that, food security is a huge issue on which a lot of work is being done. Some reforms have been made to tourism, which has untapped potential. The industry started off with conference tourism and now Qatar could actually increase the number of holidaymakers and cultural tourists if it is marketed correctly and provided for legally. Qatar is a country of beaches and warmth, and there is a lot of unused land giving the potential for tourism development. They have also made changes to ease the visa requirements and enabled [citizens of] 80 countries to arrive visa-free.
Encouraging investment through not just FDI, but also from residents would be a strong way to help the economy. They are in the process of rolling out a permanent residency permit, with lower requirements over time. If people have permanent residency, they have an incentive to invest. It creates trust and safety for those starting a business.
To make starting a business easier, certain barriers have been removed. Previously, you had to be a national to start many types of businesses and buy certain land, but creating the option for all residents to do that would be a boost to the economy. Legislation has been proposed to permit non-nationals to own 100% in firms in all sectors.
How do you perceive the position of energy companies in Qatar’s economic sphere?
Energy companies play a huge role in Qatar’s economic development. They can continue to do so even if Qatar switches to more sustainable methods, such as solar and other non-hydrocarbons energy sources.
The energy and oil and gas companies can be included in diversification towards sustainability. Qatar could become a main supplier of clean electricity to the region and also help develop infrastructure such as solar-powered electric charging stations. Oil companies are also investing in this.
Qatar could also try to become a world leader in solar production and panels, which everyone needs now, and start at home. If there are solar panels on every house in the country, local demand for hydrocarbon fuels can be reduced and that fuel can then be sold abroad.
How does the blockade affect the goals in the 2030 vision? Is it a blessing or a curse for Qatar?
It was initially a curse and it has turned into a blessing. It has fast-tracked the economic diversification plans and food security plans and given huge emphasis to the reforms and institutionalisation processes that needed to happen in Qatar. So the blockade has in fact helped the economy, making it more self-sufficient, independent and able to produce goods and be aware of sources. It has given the momentum to rapidly take action to implement the strategic plans developed for the achievement of the economic diversification pillar of the National Vision 2030.
As part of the 2030 vision, Qatar wants to address environmental issues by acquiring more advanced technology. What is the role of technology in your centre?
We are trying to develop this niche area in blockchain and similar technologies for the centre, as there has been a huge emphasis from industry and from scholars on blockchain. Blockchain has vast potential benefits and it is already proving to be successful. It can help us to promote economic diversification and environmental development.
I recently did research on this, and we do have to be careful. I strongly recommended that the developers of future codes do not use the bitcoin model, which requires a lot of this energy-consuming machinery. The whole bitcoin network is using as much electricity as Austria. For the thousands of digital currencies being developed, following the bitcoin model is not sustainable but there are positive alternatives available.
At the same time, I proposed regulatory and fiscal measures to encourage the new tech developers to switch to a more sustainable method. Many of the banks here are interested in blockchain, especially as it is connected with cyber security, and some of the government bodies are as well. There is potential for oil companies to use it too, not only for cyber security but also for accounting, reporting and contracts. That being said, there is still great work to be done.
What are the short-term goals for the centre?
We want to continue organising frequent roundtables with scholars from all around the world, create more exposure and publish the results and recommendations. Furthermore, we want to pursue our continuing legal education programmes, so we will be doing professional development and community education. This will not just be for the university, but also for local lawyers and people who work in the ministries and other bodies to do a certified course.
Our focus lays also on research and the visiting scholars programme. We even created a visiting scholars programme at Qatar University based on strong links with Hong Kong University and Chinese University of Hong Kong. On top of that, we have to build the centre’s own economic sustainability. We started out as an energy and sustainability law centre and then we evolved into law and development, which includes energy. It has also broadened our goals.
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