Browsing 'Business' News

Bradley Weber/Flickr

The Manhattan skyline

Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund is now among the top property owners in New York, a new report has found.

The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), which also owns a great deal of real estate in Europe’s London and Paris, now holds some 10.69 million square feet of real estate in New York.

That’s up 145 percent from March of last year, according to commercial real estate intelligence group CoStar.

Michael Muraz/Flickr

Empire State Building in New York

This now makes the QIA the ninth largest property holder in the state.

Crain’s New York reports that this in large part due to the QIA’s $622 million investment in the company that owns the Empire State Building.

The August purchase gained the QIA a 9.9 percent stake in the Empire State Realty Trust, which manages what used to be the world’s tallest skyscraper.

The firm also has more than a dozen other office and retail properties, mostly in Manhattan.

Shifting strategy

The QIA has increased oversight on spending in recent years, and has been looking to buy more assets in the US and Asia after traditionally focusing on European markets.

Wealth fund officials have previously said they would invest $35 billion in the US by 2020.

And analysts take this to mean New York property will continue to attract the fund’s attention.

Pixabay

Photo of London for illustrative purposes only.

Speaking to Crain’s, Michael Maduell, president of the Las Vegas-based research group the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute, said:

“Internationally, New York real estate is a safe place to park assets. And wealth funds are sometimes willing to pay more for assets than real estate fund managers. They’re buying assets for the long term—like 20 to 30 years.”

That said, Qatari officials have recently pledged to invest £5 billion on the UK’s economy as it prepares to leave the European Union.

The investment will take place over the next three to five years, and be directed at real estate and infrastructure, among other things.

Qatar already owns the Shard, the Olympic Village and Canary Wharf, among other properties.

Thoughts?

Omar Chatriwala / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar’s Cabinet has approved draft legislation to implement two new taxes in the country.

They include a new selective tax on fast food, luxury goods and other items; and a 5 percent value-added tax (VAT) aimed at businesses.

Both taxes are part of GCC-wide agreements that hope to boost revenues for countries across the Gulf amid lower global oil prices.

Omar Chatriwala / Doha News

Cabinet sessions are held at the Emiri Diwan

The executive regulations had already cleared the Cabinet once. But they got a second sign-off yesterday during its weekly meeting, and after it was revised by the Advisory Council.

And according to Arab News, GCC finance ministers will meet in Bahrain today to discuss the further rollout of the taxes.

Sin taxes

Officials previously said that selective taxes would be “imposed on goods harmful to human health and the environment,” as well as specific luxury items.

This includes alcohol, tobacco, energy drinks and soda, among other things.

Pixabay

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

No exact date has been given for their implementation.

However, the IMF has previously said they would be rolled out this year, and Saudi officials have floated an April deadline. However, this has since passed.

According to QNA, the draft legislation on selective taxes includes provisions on “tax entitlement, the declaration of the loss or damage of selective goods, inspection of damaged goods, registration, tax declaration, rules of payment of tax in the case of local production, maintaining of accounting systems, the language of accounting records, and control and inspection ruler.”

VAT tax

Meanwhile, the VAT is expected to take effect sometime in 2018.

It is a consumption tax, but will exempt certain food items, as well as the cost of education, healthcare and social services.

Dave Dugdale / Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Over the past several months, local businesses have been urged to prepare for the rollout of VAT.

Speaking to Doha News last fall, one expert said the tax may slow down growth in the small to medium-sized companies sector.

This is because they will need to budget for lots of compliance costs.

“These firms will need to change their IT, HR, procurement, finance and marketing processes, and they will need to have auditors check and approve their books,” said Alexis Antoniades, an associate professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar.

Officials should also continue to keep the private sector informed about what’s coming, he recommended.

Cost of living

Though news of the taxes has not sparked much discontent within Qatar, the fees are likely to cause the cost of living to rise soon.

According to the International Monetary Fund, inflation will more than double from 2.6 percent currently to 5.7 percent by 2018.

Jamie Dobson/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

One example of higher costs can be seen at the Qatar Distribution Co. (QDC) in Abu Hamour.

Last month, the alcohol warehouse warned customers to stock up before import taxes on spirits double.

Additionally, eating out could also become more costly. Speaking to the Peninsula this week about the potential effects of the VAT, one restaurant owner forecasted higher prices for the meals they serve.

Are you concerned about the impact on your wallet? Thoughts?

Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Employers in Qatar must understand that ensuring their workers’ safety and health is a win-win situation for everyone, an international organization has said.

This not only leads to a satisfied workforce, but also a productive one – and provides a reputation boost for the companies involved, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) added.

During its annual Middle Eastern conference in Doha this week, IOSH released a five-year strategy to boost worker wellness across the world.

J. Zach Hollo

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The plan is particularly pertinent in Qatar, where construction firms have come under intense scrutiny since the country was awarded the 2022 World Cup.

Many high-profile projects in Qatar enforce strict health and safety standards.

But Amnesty International and other organizations have long documented the comparatively dismal safety record of projects that are not in the spotlight.

Biggest challenges

According to Ala’a Sukhni, the vice-chair of IOSH’s Qatar branch, the biggest challenges health and safety professionals face in the country are falls from a height, and illnesses caused by the heat and dust.

Sukhni said that there are a variety of products and solutions that can help reduce this risk, and that IOSH encourages Qatar-based companies to invest in them.

Shabina S. Khatri

Lower criminal court in Doha

Several Qatar firms were convicted of manslaughter and fined last year after workers were killed on the job.

Four of the deaths were deemed to have been caused by falls due to poor signage and lighting, poor supervision and a lack of safety equipment.

Summer is near

As the weather heats up, Sukhni also offered several tips on how companies can best protect their workers from the heat and dust.

They include:

  • Setting up an air-conditioned room where workers can spend their breaks and eat their meals;
  • Making sure employees avoid working in direct sun wherever possible;
  • Supplying adequate quantities of cooled water for drinking, particularly on hot days;
  • Mandating a 15-minute break each hour during the hottest months of the year. That break must be taken in an air-conditioned environment, and workers must be encouraged to drink and eat during this break;
  • Spraying water on dusty areas to reduce swirling dust; and
  • Providing loose clothing and visors to protect workers against dust.

Richard Messenger/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

“Our officials are working hard to provide guidance on this,” Sukhni told Doha News. “It’s important that there is more awareness of the importance of these measures.”

New government guidelines

IOSH is not the only entity calling for improvements in Qatar’s approach to health and safety on construction sites.

The country’s own Ministry of Municipality and Environment (MME) has also recently released new guidelines designed to make workplaces safer.

The guide includes advice on things like proper fencing and signs, working hours, traffic management, the transportation of construction material, scaffolding, lights and noise levels.

It also urges developers to consider the environmental aspects of their sites, keeping in mind their footprint on nearby plants, local wildlife and public spaces.

Reputations at stake

One way to persuade more firms to take better care of their workers is to emphasize the importance of a good public image and reputation.

According to a recent IOSH survey, executives of local construction firms are aware that they are being judged by their health and safety record.

Mohamad Alodaima/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Ninety-one percent of 250 MENA business leaders surveyed told IOSH that they believed investing in the health and safety of their workforce was essential to ensuring their business had a good reputation.

Eighty-five percent also said that their employees’ health and safety was a top priority at board level.

Promoting best practice

According to Sukhni, one of the ways best ways to tackle Qatar’s health and safety challenges is to emphasize international best practice and explain why this benefits everyone.

“We have 455 IOSH members in Qatar, and we work across all industries.” Sukhni told Doha News. “The country is ambitious about growth, so it’s important to improve health and safety at the same time. Our members play a vital role in this.”

To help them spread the word, Sukhni’s Qatar branch organizes regular site visits so that its members can see how their competitors are working to ensure the safety of their staff.

Reem Saad / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

It also focuses on the importance of training and the provision of proper equipment.

Most importantly, according to Sukhni, the aim is to prevent safety issues in the first place.

“We always try to avoid the hazard completely. But where it’s not possible, we need to reduce exposure or provide personal protective equipment as a last resort,” he said.

Thoughts?