Qatar is the world’s second-largest exporter of natural gas, and its rich natural resource wealth has helped it achieve the world’s highest GDP per capita (PPP). It has invested its wealth to diversify its economy, expanding into transportation, finance, tourism, and manufacturing. Its economy will also likely receive a boost from the 2022 World Cup, which Qatar is preparing to host.
That said, Qatar’s economy has struggled with a pair of recent challenges. First, its highly oil and gas-dependent economy was negatively impacted by the fall of oil and gas prices in 2014, highlighting the importance of diversification. Second, a blockade by its neighbors starting in 2017 has forced Qatar to become more economically self-sufficient.
Manateq, Qatar’s SEZ development company, is a crucial part of the country’s strategy to address these challenges. Established in 2011 and later aided by Locus Economica, it seeks to achieve a more diversified economy, promote homegrown innovation and industry, and foster an entrepreneurial culture. Since Locus Economica’s critical foundational work on its SEZ program, Manateq has invested $459 million in the development of Ras Bu Fontas SEZ, with Phase I completed in 2018 and Phase II due to be completed during 2019. A further $151 million was invested in worker housing, with a $110 million office building also built, and 24 pre-built sheds expected to open in 2019. 9 companies have so far committed to invest in the zone. In Um Alhoul SEZ, a marine facility was opened in March 2019, with 14 pre-built industrial sheds expected to open in 2020.