Qatar 2013: A Year in Review

    View Authors 23 January 2014

    Qatar Laws and Headlines

    • The top headline from 2013 was the resignation of His Highness, the Father Emir, and the appointment of His Highness, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, as the new Emir of the State of Qatar.
    • One of the most significant laws passed this year was the new Medical Insurance Law, which mandates coverage for all nationals and visitors of Qatar. Under the law, the government pays the premiums for all Qatari nationals, while employers must ensure their employees and their families are covered. Visitors must pay their own premiums.
    • The Qatar Financial Markets Authority (QFMA) adopted new regulations covering the following items: liquidity providers’ activities; guaranteed entry to the market; the lending and borrowing of securities; and the listing of units of investment funds.
    • Qatar ratified the Arab Charter on Human Rights, which protects all individuals in Qatar. Some of the rights protected by the Charter include: the right to life (Article 5), the right to be free from physical or mental torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 8), the right to a fair trial (Article 13), the presumption of innocence (Article 16) and the right to privacy (Article 21).
    • In December, Qatar became the world’s largest helium exporter, as H.E. Dr. Mohamed bin Saleh Al-Sada, Minister of Energy and Industry, inaugurated the Helium 2 plant. The new plant has the largest refining capacity and will produce 1.3 billion standard cubic feet of helium per year.
    • Also, in December, Qatar launched a strategic plan for the future of financial sector regulation in the country. The plan establishes a framework for financial regulation, setting out a road map of strategic priorities for the next three years. The plan is the result of collaboration between the Qatar Central Bank, Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Authority and the QFMA. The goals of the plan are to enhance regulation by developing a consistent risk-based micro-prudential framework; expanding macro-prudential oversight; strengthening financial market infrastructure; enhancing consumer and investor protection; promoting regulatory cooperation; and building human capital.
    • Qatar has been in the headlines over the alleged abuse of migrant workers in the build-up to the 2022 World Cup, with much attention given to reports by The Guardian newspaper and Amnesty International. In response to the growing concern over abuses, Qatar has refocused its efforts to ensure the best conditions for all workers, including the release and implementation of the Qatar Foundation Mandatory Standards of Migrant Workers’ Welfare. These standards mandate minimum requirements with respect to the recruitment, living and working conditions, as well as the general welfare of workers engaged in construction and other projects. Moreover, Qatar’s human rights watchdog, the National Human Rights Committee, announced that the government is currently reviewing the sponsorship and exit permit laws and considering ways in which to develop better alternatives.
    • The U.S. publication, Forbes, cited Qatar’s strong economic fundamentals, such as a well-capitalized banking sector, low inflation, high per capita GDP, huge proven reserves of hydrocarbons and high public sector spending, as key driving factors for the strong growth of the country. In Forbes’ 2013 list of “Best Countries for Business,” Qatar ranked at 40th. Forbes determined what the best countries for business were by grading 145 nations on 11 factors, including property rights, innovation, taxes, technology, corruption, freedom, red tape, investor protection and stock market performance. Among other countries in the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC), the UAE was placed higher than Qatar at 31st, while Saudi Arabia placed 56th, Bahrain 59th and Kuwait 76th.

    CORRUPTION PERCEPTION INDEX 2013

    According to the Corruption Perception Index 2013, Qatar has retained its position as one of the least corrupt countries in the MENA region. Qatar ranked 28 in the Index, which is issued yearly by Berlin-based Transparency International. The report ranks states based on how corrupt their public sectors are perceived to be. The Index scores 177 countries and territories on a scale from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). No country has a perfect score and two-thirds of countries score below 50.

    LOOKING FORWARD TO 2014

    • MEED recently reported details on the latest draft of the Commercial Companies Law, which includes plans to lower the minimum capital requirement to set up a company, from the current QR200,000 to a mere QR100. The draft also reduces the amount needed for companies to join the small to medium-sized enterprises (SME) stock market index, from QR10 million to QR2 million. Additionally, the draft law sets stricter standards for corporate governance and financial reporting, as well as simplifies the process of incorporating a business.
    • In addition to a new Commercial Companies Law, 2014 may also be the year that drafts of the Arbitration Law and Tender Law are approved.

    Patton Boggs in 2013

    Celebrating 10 Years

    On October 7, 2013, Patton Boggs marked its 10th anniversary in Doha, Qatar with a reception that welcomed its alumni, former interns and partners in the education industry. The firm is privileged to continue its legacy of being the first U.S. law firm licensed to practice in Qatar, upon the invitation of H.H. the Father Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. Patton Boggs remains the only international law firm with legal professionals admitted to the Qatar Bar and licensed to advise clients in all aspects of Qatar law.

    Energy Resources and Carbon Management Workshops

    In September 2013 Patton Boggs undertook Energy Resources and Carbon Management workshops with, and hosted by, the Gulf Organisation for Research and Development (GORD) in Qatar. The workshops were presented under the title “Creating a Global Advantage in Energy, Resources, and Carbon Management” and developed concepts around reducing costs and creating business opportunities and new revenue streams for Qatar. The workshops explored the latest in technologies to assist in the areas of sustainable practice and Qatar’s drive to reduce its carbon footprint. Adjunct Professor and Patton Boggs Of Counsel Simon Harrison and Partner Sonia Barber co-presented with GORD’s Dr. Esam Elsarrag and also Dr. Craig Froome from Australia’s world renowned International Energy Centre (IEC).

    A Presentation on U.S. Foreign Policy

    Frank Wisner, Patton Boggs Foreign Affairs Advisor and former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, led a discussion on U.S. foreign policy in Egypt, Iran and Syria during an event hosted by the Department of International Affairs at Qatar University’s College of Arts and Sciences. A panel of international policy experts provided commentary on Ambassador Wisner’s remarks, including Dr. Husam Mohammad from Qatar University, Dr. Mehran Kamrava of Georgetown University and Dr. Ibrahim Sharqieh of The Brookings Institute.

    Supporting Qatar University

    The Managing Partner of Patton Boggs’ Doha office, Susan Bastress, was appointed to the advisory board of the Qatar University College of Law in November 2013. Aimed at guiding and molding the college’s strategic plan and its academic and research activities, the board is comprised of high-level legal professionals, including H.E. Dr. Hassan Lahdan Saqr Al-Mohannadi, the Minister of Justice, Thaqil Alshemmari, the Deputy to the President of Qatar Supreme Court, and Professor David Meyer, the Dean at Tulane Law School. The board held its first meeting on November 25, 2013 to discuss the college’s academic and research strategies in relation to the fulfillment of the Qatar National Vision 2030.

    Global Entrepreneurship Week

    Patton Boggs Doha was the exclusive partner of the Qatar Chamber of Commerce for the 2013 Global Entrepreneurship Week, held November 20, 2013. Patton Boggs’ Charbel Maakaron led a workshop for a group of entrepreneurs and investors where he provided insights on setting up new business entities in Qatar.

    Patton Boggs Foundation Awards Public Policy Fellowship to First International Law Student

    The Patton Boggs Foundation, which supports law students doing pro bono public policy work, was pleased to award one of its 2013 Public Policy Fellowships to Aisha Al Emadi, a law student selected by the Qatar University College of Law. This is the first year that a Fellowship has been awarded to a student studying at a law school outside of the United States. Ms. Al Emadi’s Fellowship included a human rights project sponsored by Vital Voices Global Partnership. Ms. Al Emadi also spent time in the Washington DC office of Patton Boggs.

    A new Office in Dubai

    In April, Patton Boggs significantly strengthened its presence in the region with the addition of a team in Dubai led by Thomas P. Wilson, head of Patton Boggs’ Construction and Arbitration practice in the Middle East. Patton Boggs now serves clients from the key financial centers of Doha, Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. The firm’s Dubai team has a distinct understanding of the construction and infrastructure sector in the region, with a particular focus on public and private capital improvement projects, dispute resolution, contract negotiations and related transactions, contract compliance issues, and project risk management and mitigation.

    Mr. Wilson will be spending a substantial amount of his time in the Doha office, further strengthening Patton Boggs’ construction practice there. Lauded in Legal 500 as “experienced, capable and practical,” Mr. Wilson has represented a range of construction and engineering clients in the resolution of a diverse range of construction disputes. He is regularly involved in DIAC, ICC and LCIA arbitrations as advocate, and occasionally accepts appointments to sit as arbitrator. The opening of the Dubai office is the latest in series of highly strategic moves demonstrating the firm’s commitment to the region.

    Partner Robert Hager continues as chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar

    Patton Boggs partner Robert Hager is the founding chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Doha, Qatar (AmCham Qatar). AmCham Qatar, launched in February 2010, is the first legally established foreign Chamber of Commerce in Qatar. Robert Hager, who will continue as chairman of AmCham Qatar in 2014, represents clients in a wide range of infrastructure and technology matters, including telecommunication ventures, transportation infrastructure development, real estate development, privatizations and public-private partnerships in the Middle East, West Africa, Europe, the Pacific Islands and the United States.

    Partner Promotion: Charbel Maakaron

    Charbel Maakaron was elected to the firm’s partnership in December. Mr. Maakaron’s practice focuses on capital markets and acquisitions. He also draws from his commercial and business law experience to advise clients on commercial transactions, corporate structuring, real estate and commercial litigation. He has a diverse legal practice with a broad mix of prominent clients in Qatar and internationally. As one of Qatar’s leading corporate attorneys, Mr. Maakaron regularly represents strategic clients on all aspects of their corporate legal matters, including ongoing regulatory requirements. He joined Patton Boggs in 2007, is a graduate of the University of Bristol and holds an LLM in International Commercial Law.

    The Addition of Litigator Kristen Johnson in Doha

    This fall, Patton Boggs bolstered its ever-growing dispute resolution practice in Doha by welcoming Kristen M. Jarvis Johnson to the office. Ms. Johnson is an experienced litigator from the firm’s head office in Washington, D.C. She has an active international disputes practice that assists corporations, sovereign governments and individuals in complex civil litigation and arbitration matters throughout the world. Patton Boggs’ Doha branch works closely with its other MENA offices to form one of the strongest commercial litigation groups in the region.