Qatar recently introduced regulation that allows foreigners to own real estate and get residency permits in the country. How significant an impact do you expect this change to have on the real estate market in the medium term?
SHOLY: Recent reports show that the growth in population that Qatar has witnessed has been at an average of about 14% per annum, from 2004 to 2010. So the real estate market has seen a significant improvement in the past years. I think that allowing real estate owners to have residency will further enhance the real estate business for a number of reasons. One of the reasons is that it will give investors an opportunity to be part of this robust economy and to be part of the potential growth. I think this will encourage people to invest here and will enhance the real estate market quite a bit.
What opportunities still exist for foreign investors and companies to participate in the projects associated with the 2022 World Cup and with meeting the goals outlined in Qatar’s National Vision 2030?
SHOLY: Qatar has been and continues to witness an industrial boom. The 2022 bid will open other opportunities in infrastructure, real estate, hospitality, retail, media and many other service oriented businesses.
In what areas is UDC in particular looking to form new partnerships and joint-ventures?
SHOLY: At UDC we’ve always focused on creating partnerships and innovative ideas, to create opportunities if you like. Over the past 10 years, we have established, between partnerships and subsidiaries, over 18 companies. What we want to do right now is to establish synergies between our companies and reinforce our investments in opportunities that will come about.
With so many project underway and in the pipeline, how well equipped is the country’s construction sector, in terms of adequate supply of materials and labour, to handle such a large amount of work?
SHOLY: In any situation, or for any project, and I would say definitely when you are preparing for the 2022 World Cup or for the Olympics, the most challenging thing will be logistics and coordination. Qatar has experienced the Asian Olympics in the past and went through the challenges. I would presume that adequate attention has been given to these issues and I would hope that logistics and coordination will be at the level that is required. I’m sure from the experience that has been gained in the past, they would be up to it and they would be able to really provide the logistics in a manner that would not cause any difficulties in sourcing material or in finding contractors to do the job at the right time.
Do you foresee increased demand for construction inputs significantly driving up construction/building costs?
SHOLY: Coordination between the different packages or contracts is going to be a challenge. We’re definitely going to see contractors coming to Doha from all over the world and that will benefit the international construction industry as well as the local industry. So will there be an increase in the prices of the contractors? I presume that everyone is going to get busy and prices would go up. So if you want to build a villa, or a house, or a building, you better do it right now, before the boom comes, because I think the prices will definitely go up. It’s normal for the prices to escalate when you have a big demand on construction.
Recent reports show that the growth in population that Qatar has witnessed has been at an average of about 14% per annum, from 2004 to 2010. So the real estate market has seen a significant improvement in the past years. I think that allowing real estate owners to have residency will further enhance the real estate business for a number of reasons.
Have Qatari SMEs benefited as much from the country’s growth as larger companies and conglomerates?
SHOLY: I believe there is a big opportunity for SMEs in situations like this because it gives them an opportunity to start. When you have a boom in any economy, there are lots of areas that big companies will be involved in and they will neglect the smaller part of the business, which is really the most essential for any development or economic growth. I think this will provide a big potential for young entrepreneurs and for start-up companies. They will start in the right time because we are going to witness at least two decades of potential opportunities for growth and I think this provides the opportunity for small businesses. Over the past years we have seen a tremendous enhancement; there has been a big improvement in the socio-economic fabric in the country. Now, it’s much easier to establish a business. With the process currently in place, you can set up a company within 2 weeks and start a business. It’s easier now for foreign investors to come and establish a business here.