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LEGAL SYSTEM OVERVIEW

The Qatari legal system is a civil law system with Sharia influences, the latter particularly relating to personal and family matters. The constitution is the supreme law and also confirms the status of religious law, stating that ‘Islamic law is the main source of… [Qatar’s] legislations.’[1] Although the Advisory Council forms the legislative branch, their power is limited by the power of the executive. The emir has the power to send laws back to the Advisory Council and no law may be passed without being ratified by the emir. Moreover, the Council’s members are appointed by the emir and may be removed by him. The emir can also issue laws by decree and order the suspension of draft laws if he deems it in the country’s interests.[2]

The judicial system is overseen by the Supreme Judiciary Council and includes courts of appeal and cassation, as well as Sharia courts which rule on matters of personal status. The constitution also affirms the judiciary’s independence in Articles 129-131.[3] Nevertheless, the judiciary is not wholly separate. Judges are appointed by the emir, upon the recommendation of the Supreme Judiciary Council, for repeatable terms and in 2015 around 55% of judges were foreign nationals, dependent on residency permits. Thus, judges are completely reliant on the emir’s favour to stay in office.[4] Furthermore, although petty corruption is almost non-existent in all sectors, and anti-corruption measures are generally effective, patronage networks and clientelism are institutionalised across the government, business sector and judiciary. Royals, high-ranking officials and well-connected persons are rarely prosecuted for corrupt practices; these patronage networks mean impunity is widespread in the Qatari elite. The judiciary is also reported to discriminate against foreigners in favour of Qatari nationals.[5]

The Qatari Civil Code, Law 22/2004, is based upon that of Egypt. The Code is the primary contract law of Qatar and also governs a range of other items, such as obligations, consent and possession.[6] Commercial life is governed by the Trading Regulation Law, Law 27/2006, which regulates commercial premises, transport, brokerage, securities and bankruptcy as well as other aspects of commercial life.[7] The primary anti-corruption legislation is the Penal Code, Law 11/204. This also includes a range of crimes, such as rape or murder, which carry corporal and capital punishment, although the latter is rare.[8] Meanwhile, the Foreign Investment Law, 13/2000, defines the provisions to which foreign direct investment must abide. In from late 2016-2017 Qatar also reformed its labour laws to end the kafala system and to introduce a minimum wage of US$200 for all workers for the first time. This was following accusations of forced labour being utilised on World Cup projects and the threat of an International Labour Organisation investigation.

Qatar is a signatory to a number of international treaties and conventions including the Geneva Conventions, the 1958 New York Convention, the Terrorist Financing Convention and the Framework Convention on Climate Change as well as its Kyoto Protocol.

Qatar is also a member of the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council, albeit a currently ostracised member, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Gas Exporting Countries Forum and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. Article 68 of the constitution confirms that international treaties and agreements have the force of domestic law once ratified and published.[9]

BUSINESS OVERVIEW

Despite the heavy Qatari reliance on hydrocarbon exports, the economy weathered the 2014/2015 fall in hydrocarbon prices, largely owing to low production costs and the progress made in economic diversification towards a knowledge and service-based economy. Real GDP growth is forecast to remain stable, driven by the services and construction sectors.[10] Nevertheless, Qatar is expecting to continue to run a budget deficit owing to high levels of government spending in pursuit of its 2030 National Vision and the 2022 FIFA World Cup. [11] Qatar is ranked 83 of 190 in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index and 89 of 190 in the World Bank’s Starting a Business Index. Although Qatar encourages foreign investment, foreign ownership of local business is capped at 49% of the business’ capital, although with government approval it may be raised to 100% in key national sectors. Further challenges include the regional geopolitical climate, high levels of bureaucracy and a lack of transparency in the economy, particularly in relation to government procurement. [12]

Businesses with a long-term strategy, however, may greatly benefit from the Qatari market. Outside of the hydrocarbon sector, particularly liquefied natural gas, there are a number of industries that can be seen as best prospect markets for investment or doing business in. Qatar is expected to spend around US$200 billion to 2020 in the implementation of the 2030 National Vision, providing particular opportunity in infrastructure, healthcare, education, health and tourism. Indeed, in 2017 the government was predicted to have signed contracts worth in excess of US$12.8 billion.[13] Furthermore construction machinery, project management, vehicles, precision medical equipment and commodities, such as food, all form key importing industries for Qatar and represent continuous opportunity.[14] The aerospace-defence sector also contains numerous opportunities, as the Qatari government has recently signed major contracts in this sector with Western businesses and seeks to create a large network of military training facilities and programmes.[15]

COUNTRY OVERVIEW

The State of Qatar is a peninsula in the Middle East, bordering Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf. Qatar is the 143rd most populous state in the world with 2.31 million inhabitants, of which only 11.6% are Qatari. The majority of the population is clustered around the capital, Doha, on the eastern coast of the peninsula. Arabic is the only official language, although English is also widely spoken as a second language.

Whilst Qatar is a Sunni Islam state and it is the majority religion, the other Abrahamic religions are also recognised and able to be freely practised.[16]

In terms of political and economic outlook Qatar is seen as having acceptable levels of risk, whilst the business environment is viewed as being good, with low levels of risk.[17] Qatar is politically stable and has a relatively low risk of terrorism. Nevertheless, Qatar does face geopolitical issues with its Arab neighbours. Corruption levels in Qatar are relatively low, perceived as one of the lowest in the Middle East-North Africa region. Anti-corruption laws are generally effectively implemented, which is reflected in Transparency International’s 2017 Corruption Index; Qatar is ranked 29 of 180 nations.[18]

Qatar is largely a rentier state, with the export economy heavily based upon mineral products. Nevertheless, Qatar is the wealthiest state per capita in the world and has a GDP of US$183.81 billion. Real GDP growth is forecast to remain steady at around the 2-3% mark through 2022.[19] The official currency is the Qatari Riyal. Qatar is an absolute monarchy, despite the Constitution stating that ‘its system is democratic’.[20] The current chief of state is Emir Tamim al-Thani, who wields executive power and appoints the prime minister, currently Abdallah al Thani, alongside the Council of Ministers. The legislative branch is formed by the Advisory Council, or Majlis al-Shura, which currently has 35 members appointed by the Emir. The 2003 Constitution calls for a 45-member council, with 15 members to be appointed by the monarch until resignation or discharge and 30 members to be directly elected by popular vote for four-year re-electable term. These elections were scheduled for 2007, but have been postponed a number of times; the latest postponement moved the elections to June 2019 at the earliest. Nevertheless, the royal family remain popular with the public and there is no opposition to their rule.[21]

Report Footnotes

[1] https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Qatar_2003.pdf?lang=en.

[2] http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/Qatar1.html#QatarLegalsystem.

[3] https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Qatar_2003.pdf?lang=en.

[4] https://www.bti-project.org/fileadmin/files/BTI/Downloads/Reports/2016/pdf/BTI_2016_Qatar.pdf.

[5] http://www.business-anti-corruption.com/country-profiles/qatar.

[6] http://www.almeezan.qa/LawView.aspx?opt&LawID=2559&language=en.

[7] http://www.almeezan.qa/LawPage.aspx?id=2572&language=en.

[8] http://www.almeezan.qa/LawPage.aspx?id=26&language=en.

[9] https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Qatar_2003.pdf?lang=en.

[10] https://www.mdps.gov.qa/en/knowledge/Doc/QEO/Qatar_Economic_Outlook_2016_2018_EN.pdf.

[11] https://www.state.gov/e/eb/rls/othr/ics/investmentclimatestatements/index.htm?dlid=269996&year=2017#wrapper.

[12] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/exporting-to-qatar.

[13] https://www.export.gov/article?id=Qatar-Market-Opportunities.

[14] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/exporting-to-qatar.

[15] https://www.export.gov/article?id=Qatar-Aviation–Defense.

[16] https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/qa.html.

[17] https://globaledge.msu.edu/countries/qatar/risk.

[18] https://www.transparency.org/news/feature/corruption_perceptions_index_2017.

[19] http://www.imf.org/external/datamapper/NGDPD@WEO/QAT; http://www.imf.org/external/datamapper/NGDP_RPCH@WEO/QAT.

[20] https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Qatar_2003.pdf?lang=en.

[21] https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/qa.html.

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