By Satish Kanady
DOHA: Pressure is mounting on Qatar Chamber (QC) ahead of its elections to the Board of Directors on May 12, for adequate representation of non-Qatari business leaders in the Chamber.
A week after a Qatari businesswoman demanded the representation of expatriates in the QC, a top Qatari business leader yesterday called for a total restructuring of QC and demanded mandatory representation of non-Qataris in the Chamber. “Over 50 percent of Qatar’s trade and businesses are controlled by foreigners. The Chamber needs to reach out to them. The exclusion of this major segment from the Chamber’s activities is neither in the interests of Qatar’s business community nor the local economy,” Abdul Rahman Al Najjar, Deputy CEO of SAK Holding told The Peninsula.
Al Najjar, who is caught up in a triangular fight in the director board elections to the service sector, said ‘total restructuring of the Chamber’ and ‘expatriate representation’ are the major highlights of his campaign. Al Najjar is pitted against the existing director board member and a female contestant Suhaila Al Hareb.
“I am in the fray to change the dynamics of the QC’s internal policy. We need to make sure that non-Qatari business leaders are playing an essential role in policy decisions. I wonder how can Qatar Chamber exclude expatriate business leaders, while the government itself has given approval for 100 percent stake in the private companies and listed companies, and given tax exemption to foreign investors,” he asked. “I know my election to the Board will not be a cake-walk. But I want to send out my message to the 33,000-odd members of the Chamber”.
Al Najjar who made an attack on the functioning of the Chamber, wanted the body to move ahead according to the changing times. The existing members have been controlling the activities for the past eight years. “Their re-election this time means they are going to be at the helm for 12-long years in a row. This status-quo has to be changed for the betterment of the country’s business community. My candidature is to challenge this status-quo,” he said.
Of all the sectors, only the service sector is facing an election. The sitting members who have filed their nominations to all the remaining sectors will be re- elected unopposed. “There should be competition. Competition will bring new blood to the Chamber.”
He also said the representation of Qatar’s emerging sectors such as health, education and sports are missing in the QC. “QC’s programmes and policies are not matching the dynamics of the local economy. This is mainly because the Chamber is totally disconnected from the non-Qatari business leaders, who control more than 50 percent of the country’s businesses.”
“I do not understand why the Chamber is keeping expatriate business leaders away from its activities. The neighbouring countries have got adequate foreign representation,” Al Najjar said.