Qatar’s National Solarized Fintech Strategy Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Picture Credit score: Selva Ozelli

The nation of Qatar is a World Financial institution “high-income financial system,” backed by the world’s third-largest pure gasoline and oil reserves. It has the third-highest GDP per capita on the earth (by buying energy parity), with very excessive human growth. Much like different Gulf Cooperation Council states — which additionally embrace the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain — Qatar has needed to cope with the decline in international oil and gasoline costs after they first collapsed in 2014, and the scenario has been made much more tough by a Saudi-led embargo of the nation that began in 2017.

As a result of Qatar has a small inhabitants, substantial monetary reserves and favorable enterprise circumstances for funding, it’s in a greater place than most to face up to the strain. It has been working towards reducing its reliance on the export of oil and gasoline in favor of financial diversification. On Dec. 3, 2018, the nation moved one step nearer towards that objective by asserting its withdrawal from the Group of Petroleum Exporting International locations as a way to focus extra on its pure gasoline export sector.

With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, Qatar has additionally dedicated to a nationwide monetary expertise technique to diversify an financial system that might be powered by the world’s second-cheapest photo voltaic vitality as a way to meet its objective of rising the proportion of renewable vitality in its whole electrical energy technology to 20% by 2030.

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Yousuf Al-Jaida, CEO of the Qatar Monetary Heart, defined:

“[COVID-19 related challenges] not solely spotlight the significance of tech and fintech, but additionally accelerates adoption and growth. We’ll proceed in our efforts to complement and develop the tech and fintech infrastructure in Qatar as an enabling platform and sit up for seeing extra worldwide FinTechs, together with these from the US, simply combine into Qatar’s thriving ecosystem by way of QFC’s FinTech license and big selection of advantages.”

The QFC has reported it grew by 35% in 2019, and in response to its web site, it now has over 900 purchasers from varied sectors, each monetary and non-financial.

Nationwide fintech technique

Qatar is a number one monetary hub within the Center East. It has been weaving Shariah-compliant blockchain expertise into its present monetary and authorized infrastructure by the sector’s emphasis on digital funds with Qpay, Qatar’s largest fintech firm, in addition to cash administration and lending, amongst others, to emerge as a regional fintech hub.

The fintech sector noticed international funding develop from $50 billion in 2017 to $111.eight billion by the top of 2018, in accordance to Massive 4 audit agency KPMG. In 2019, to draw international fintech funding and encourage massive firms to launch subsidiaries within the nation, Qatar established the Funding Promotion Company, which launched “free zone” incentive applications. Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund has additionally frequently elevated its investments in tech and fintech firms and in expertise funding funds.

The continuing coronavirus pandemic has introduced dramatic modifications to the world, forcing governments throughout the globe to make bringing blockchain tech to their monetary companies a precedence. This contains Qatar, which has developed a nationwide fintech technique set forth by the Qatar Central Financial institution, or QCB, which goals to help the fintech sector in partnership with a number of key native stakeholders together with the QFC and Qatar Growth Financial institution, or QDB, because the Qatari public sector goals to be the most important spender on blockchain expertise by 2021.

As a part of its fintech technique, the QCB is weighing issuing a central financial institution digital forex, as COVID-19 has led to an elevated curiosity in digital currencies all over the world. “The QCB significantly welcomes the secure use of technological developments that promote monetary stability and inclusion in Qatar,” mentioned a consultant from the QCB’s fintech part. “Issuing a CBDC actually has its advantages in innovation and enabling customers to considerably change the way in which they make funds.” The consultant added:

“There’s presently no definitive plan to difficulty CBDC, nevertheless, the QCB is assessing the alternatives that this expertise presents for Qatar and can proceed to analysis the matter earlier than making a remaining determination.”

Associated: Not Like Earlier than: Digital Currencies Debut Amid COVID-19

In March, the QCB launched its nationwide QR-code-based “Qatar Cellular Cost System,” a mission designed to extend monetary inclusion and scale back the usage of banknotes within the nation. Its objective is to allow residents to make use of an digital pockets on their cellphones, full peer-to-peer transactions, and pay for items and companies. It additionally permits for instantaneous withdrawals and money deposits.

“Qatar has demonstrated an unbelievable synergy amongst entities within the pursuit of turning into a worldwide chief in FinTech,” mentioned Mohammed Barakat, managing director of the U.S.–Qatar Enterprise Council. He additionally added:

“Contemplating Qatar’s already present massive fee processing and remittance market and its technique to turn out to be a regional gateway for an enormous surrounding market, I foresee speedy development in Qatar’s FinTech sector.”

With Qatar’s border reopened to choose flights from low-risk international locations on Aug. 1, the QDB lately launched a fintech incubator (for early-stage start-ups) and an accelerator program (for mature firms) that can cater to native and international entrepreneurs. In an try to assist the fintech neighborhood community and collaborate, the QFC is providing “FinTech Circle,” a coworking area the place qualifying fintech firms can work without cost for 12 months. The QFC — which claims to have over 900 corporations as purchasers and $20 billion in mixed whole property underneath administration — operates its personal authorized, regulatory and tax infrastructure.

“From Fintech’s early emergence as a challenger to a traditional monetary companies sector to its position at the moment as a change catalyst and enabler, it’s secure to say that our trade has come a great distance,” defined Abdulaziz bin Nasser al-Khalifa, CEO of the QDB. ”Blockchain is following go well with, with 10% of world GDP anticipated to be saved on blockchain by 2027.” He additionally added:

“In Qatar, blockchain and different rising applied sciences can play a significant position in Qatar’s general financial transformation, particularly within the digitisation of varied sectors, the place they are often utilized in 4 key areas: authorities to citizen, enterprise to client, authorities to enterprise, and enterprise to enterprise.”

Combating cryptocurrency cash laundering and terrorist financing

Qatar has joined plenty of international locations throughout the globe which are implementing stricter legal guidelines to fight the illicit use of cryptocurrencies in terrorist financing and cash laundering.

Associated: COVID-19 Pandemic Spurs Crypto Regulation Updates in J5 International locations

In December 2019, the QCB adopted new rules in type of Circulars 19, 21, 23 and 46 of 2019, which prohibit digital asset suppliers companies, or VASPs, from working in Qatar as a way to fight cash laundering and terrorist financing, bringing its laws in keeping with Monetary Motion Process Drive suggestions, which embrace adopting a risk-based method to Anti-Cash Laundering and Combatting the Financing of Terrorism and to hold out threat assessments. The laws established penalties for violating the legislation within the type of monetary sanctions and doable imprisonment, and it requires complete cooperation from worldwide companions similar to the USA, China, India, Australia, Bangladesh, Malta, Pakistan and extra.

Following Qatar’s AML regulatory updates, the Qatar Monetary Markets Authority, or QFMA, and the Qatar Monetary Heart Regulatory Authority, or QFCRA, additionally issued related notices in December 2019 requiring all companies involving cryptocurrencies to be banned all through the QFC till additional discover as a reminder that VASPs should not included inside the scope of the QFCRA and QFMA licenses, and that any agency appearing as a VASP is working outdoors the scope of its license.

For the needs of the QCB circulars and the QFMA and QFCRA notices, the QFCRA defines digital asset companies broadly because the alternate between digital property and fiat currencies; alternate between a number of types of digital property; switch of digital property; safekeeping and/or administration of digital property or devices enabling management over digital property; and participation in and provision of economic companies associated to an issuer’s supply and/or sale of a digital asset. Nonetheless, safety tokens or different digital monetary or financial devices which are regulated by the QFCRA, the QCB or the QFMA should not included within the ban.

For instance, in response to the QCB consultant, cryptocurrency debit playing cards can’t be issued by monetary companies suppliers in Qatar. A cryptocurrency debit card operates in a largely related solution to another standard pay as you go debit card, however as an alternative of topping up the cardboard up from an peculiar checking account, funds are transferred from a cryptocurrency pockets. The cardboard supplier then mechanically converts the cryptocurrency to the fiat forex of selection.

Wirecard, the main European fintech cryptocurrency debit card supplier — which on the finish of June imploded into the area’s greatest company accounting scandal by declaring chapter because of accounting manipulations and worldwide cash laundering allegations — has been offering fee processing companies to Qatar Airways since 2013. Such preparations of transferring cryptocurrency from a pockets and conversion to fiat forex are now not permitted in Qatar underneath the brand new cryptocurrency rules.

Associated: ‘The Enron of Europe’ — What We Know So Far In regards to the Wirecard Scandal

Cryptocurrency taxation

Because the consultant from QCB’s fintech part acknowledged:

“Qatar is presently assessing the advantages and dangers related to digital property and issues such because the taxation of digital property will kind a part of that evaluation.”

Fahad Al Dosari, Qatar’s business attache to the U.S., added that “Qatar is likely one of the most steady economies on the earth, and we provide sturdy monetary incentives for US-based firms, like our 20-year tax holidays for firms working in Free Zones.” He additionally added:

“Underneath the management of His Highness the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, all of Qatar’s authorities companies are dedicated to supporting US funding within the area and making Qatar a fintech hub for the Center East.”

It must be famous that the U.S. and Qatar do not need a double taxation settlement, however each international locations signed an settlement to enhance worldwide tax compliance and to implement the International Account Tax Compliance Act.

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Moreover, the U.S. is an in depth protection and safety ally of Qatar, and in 2018, the 2 nations signed a memorandum of understanding relating to the struggle in opposition to terrorism and its financing and relating to combating cybercrime.

“Terrorist networks have tailored to expertise, conducting advanced monetary transactions within the digital world, together with by cryptocurrencies. IRS-CI particular brokers within the DC cybercrimes unit work diligently to unravel these monetary networks,” identified U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin after the Division of Justice introduced the most important ever seizure of cryptocurrency property utilized by terrorist organizations, following a multiagency investigation performed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Safety Investigations division, and the IRS’ Felony Investigation division. The investigation utilized Chainalysis’ crypto investigative instruments.

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U.S. taxpayers and their associated firms which have “operations” in Qatar should file IRS tax Kind 5713 with their revenue tax returns as a way to keep away from punitive penalties.

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