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Free Zones essential for GCC Economic Growth

Doha • Economists and local businessmen have stressed the importance of setting up free zones in the country to boost exports and attract Arab and foreign investments.

However, laws on imports need to be reassessed and updated to enhance foreign investors' confidence, especially in view of increased interest in free zones worldwide that currently total over 5000 with some $400 bn worth of trade volume.

The experts and businessmen noted that free zones today represent an important catalyst for increasing exports and gross domestic product, in addition to creating new job opportunities.

They pointed out that free zones enjoy several advantages such as free flow of manufactured goods with no restrictions attached to the origin of the capital in addition to exemption of custom taxes.

Dr Khalid Shams Abdel Qader, Head of the Financial and Economic Department at Qatar University noted that free zones provide a suitable environment for diversifying national resources and speeding up economic development.

Another advantage of free zones is their capacity to attract foreign investments and for transfer of technology, according to Dr Nasser Al Shafi, a well known Qatari economist.

He said that such free zones would help create a strong basis for the country's exports and also create new jobs as well as providing an opportunity for local small and medium size industries to benefit from the expertise of international firms. Free zones reflect the extent to which a country complies with the open economy policies and giving confidence to the foreign investor by implementing those policies on the ground, said Al Shafi.

He stressed the need to reassess all the Qatari laws related to imports which help in opening up the markets to foreign goods and also evaluate whether they suit free zones.

He said that it is important for these laws to be updated to enhance foreign investors' confidence, pointing out that free zones are primarily intended to attract foreign investments and diversify sources of income. The trend is prominently being witnessed in Dubai and United Arab Emirates as well as in Saudi.

Mohammed Nour, a businessman noted that the idea of creating free zones in Qatar was initiated in the 70s but that has yet to materialise, expressing hope to see such zones established in the country since, he said, they indicate the vitality of a country's economy (via Menafn)

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