By Udayan Nag
In an exclusive interview with Qatar Today, Manateq CEO Fahad Al Kaabi talks about the company’s Special Economic Zones – Ras Bufontas, Um Alhoul and Al Karaana.
Manateq recently signed back-to-back deals for its Ras Bufontas Economic Zone. A deal with Ismail Bin Ali Group for building labour accommodation which will house more than 8,700 workers was followed by a signing ceremony for the development of two hotels and three hotel apartment complexes. It was seen as another milestone in Manateq’s drive to secure private sector investment in Qatar. So, how are these private sector investment initiatives going to benefit Qatar in the years to come?
“Both deals were landmark agreements as they emphasize the strong bond between the public and private sectors in the development of Qatar,” says Fahad Al Kaabi, CEO, Manateq.
“Our economic zones play a crucial role in transforming Qatar into a global industrial and logistics hub, and the initiatives we have in place offer huge incentives to local and foreign investors.”
“Going forward, initiatives such as these demonstrate the opportunities available to other private sector organisations to make a major contribution to the economy as the country continues to drive towards Qatar Vision 2030 as a more diverse economy. Our economic zones play a crucial role in transforming Qatar into a global industrial and logistics hub, and the initiatives we have in place offer huge incentives to local and foreign investors,” Al Kaabi added.
One of the steps taken by Manateq was to offer 100% ownership in the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in an effort to attract more foreign direct investment (FDI). On whether there have been further developments regarding FDIs in the Special Economic Zones, Al Kaabi says that the implementation of 100% ownership in the SEZs came about because of Manateq being aware of the complexities faced by foreign entities in trying to set up business in Qatar.
He further says: “In addition to the 100% ownership, we also provide investors with a dedicated personal point of contact to facilitate registration and licensing, which allows them to focus on getting down to business. This unique, dedicated approach makes investing much easier and more attractive to FDIs.”
“The strategic location of Al Karaana will serve as an overland gateway to investors for moving goods across the country with ease.”
Among Manateq’s Special Economic Zones, Ras Bufontas is scheduled for completion in the fourth quarter of 2018, while Um Alhoul phase 1 is set to open in the second quarter of 2018. Al Kaabi confirms that the work is going according to plan. “Manateq is committed to securing private investment in Qatar; we’ve already had great success in this area, and Ras Bufontas, Um Alhoul and Al Karaana SEZs will strengthen our ability to appeal to foreign investors across a host of different sectors.” The location of the Al Karaana Economic Zone is very strategic because it’s on the border of Saudi Arabia. Once complete it will add to Manateq’s portfolio of specialized zones catering to foreign companies looking to start operations in Qatar and local investors looking to expand operations across the country.
“The strategic location of Al Karaana will serve as an overland gateway to investors for moving goods across the country with ease, and the blockade will not affect the zone’s development. With access to over 100 million customers, Al Karaana will provide all the required infrastructure for successfully servicing the global markets,” said Al Kaabi.
Recently, SMEET Ready Mix opened its new plant in Ras Bufontas, which Al Kaabi describes as a major milestone. The move is expected to play a significant role in the development of Ras Bufontas’ infrastructure sector. “The opening of SMEET Ready Mix plant demonstrates our vision to attract private sector entities. SMEET Ready Mix has earned the reputation as a trusted source for its quality product throughout the region and will be a key player in the development of Rus Bufontas’ infrastructure as we develop an efficient, sustainable business hub,” he said.
“In addition to the 100% ownership, we also provide investors with a dedicated personal point of contact to facilitate registration and licensing.”
Manateq has been in the news recently mainly for the Ras Bufontas Special Economic Zone (SEZ), but what about the Um Alhoul SEZ, which has a water front like Ras Bufontas. What are the common features it shares with the other two economic zones (Ras Bufontas and Al Karaana), and how is it different from them?
“Work is pressing ahead in the Um Alhoul SEZ. It has similar features to our other SEZs in terms of 100% ownership and the various benefits of a personal point of contact to help with registration and licensing,” says Al Kaabi. “The location of Um Alhoul gives us the advantage of diversifying and further appealing to various sectors. Um Alhoul SEZ is perfect for those specialising in marine industries, the automotive sector, building materials, and food processing.”
Zukhrof Trading and Contracting was part of the deal that Manateq recently signed for the development of two hotels and three hotel apartment complexes in its Ras Bufontas SEZ. Jaafar Ali Jaafar Al Sarraf, board member of Zukhrof Trading and Contracting, had said that “increased development in the country’s 4-star hotel segment will help sustain Qatar’s hospitality sector because it caters to both the business sector and leisure tourism.” Does Manateq share Al Sarraf’s views on four-star hotels? What are Manateq’s plans regarding 4-star hotels?
“The agreement to develop the hotel and hotel apartment complexes in Ras Bufontas will bring private sector investment worth QR338.5 million.”
“We strive to create a world-class business environment,” says Al Kaabi. “The agreement to develop the hotel and hotel apartment complexes in Ras Bufontas will bring private sector investment worth QR338.5 million. It is a clear indication of the commitment of our team to meet our mandate to establish a wider range of business sectors for the growth of the economy, and provide world-class services and infrastructure for investors across ambitious projects. Furthermore, going forward, with changing market dynamics and consumer trends, it is becoming increasingly important to be able to offer accommodation that covers the full spectrum of customer preferences,” he added.