Free zones move ahead

31 March 2006

Plans for the state's two newest economic free zones are taking shape with the promulgation in February of the free zone law and the selection of two locations close to the capital. A masterplanner has also been appointed, and initial construction work is scheduled to start later in the year.

Speaking at the MEED Major Non-Energy Project Opportunities in Qatar conference in Doha on 26 March, Mohammed Farghaly, adviser to the economy & commerce minister, outlined the government's vision for the two free zones. 'We want to broaden Qatar's economic base by attracting and diversifying foreign and local investment in the manufacturing and supporting industries,' he said. 'We are adopting a dualistic approach by providing a competitive and comparative advantage to firms which set up base in the free zones.'

The first free zone will be located directly south of New Doha International Airport (NDIA). The second will be situated about 10 kilometres southwest of the capital. Singapore-based Jurong International has been appointed consultant on the two projects.

Under the proposed development schedule, the masterplan and urban design will take six months, with detailed engineering taking 15 months. Basic infrastructure work is expected to start later in the year and take 20 months to complete.

Management of the free zones will be the responsibility of the autonomous Qatar Free Zone Authority. Free zone companies can be 100 per cent foreign owned, and will not be bound by local laws regarding taxation and commercial trading. Firms will also be exempted from payment of customs duties for goods imported or exported to the free zones. Repatriation of revenue is permitted with no pricing regulations or limitations.

'We believe there are several key success factors,' said Farghaly. 'The free zones will receive comprehensive support from all government agencies and the government will provide a comprehensive package of hard and soft financial and non-financial incentives, as well as a well designed, state-of-the-art physical infrastructure.'

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