Qatar, which has the world’s second largest natural gas, is going all out for investment in the natural gas sector to meet its ambition to become the world’s largest exporter of liquid natural gas.

Doha’s international reputation is growing: Qatar will host the Asian Games in 2006, by which time the country aims to attract one million holidaymakers a year. The government has introduced a package of incentives for local and foreign companies to help the country to achieve its development goals. Generous investment incentives include technical and feasibility services, financing packages including loans, and export and corporate tax exemption for five to 10 years.

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Like Dubai, Qatar has launched a massive investment plan, most of which is taking place in the capital city Doha. Beside providing for various infrastructure projects, the plan earmarks $60bn for the energy sector, $20bn for tourism. Significant projects include: Doha’s new $5bn international airport, a $2.2bn Olympic Village for 2006 Asian games and the $2bn development of West Bay Island tourist village.

Runner-up Dubai won the judges’ vote for the best foreign investment incentives. These include 50-year tax holidays, the full repatriation of capital and profits and low customs tariffs. Dubai also came out top for incentives and infrastructure projects.

The judges were also impressed with Manama, Muscat and Cairo, all of which have straightforward and competitive incentive programmes. A growing number of Middle Eastern cities, such as Amman in Jordan, have free zones offering 100% foreign ownership, customs exemption and competitive tax regimes. When it came to successful FDI deals, the judges acknowledged the recent track records of Beirut, Cairo, Tunis, Doha and Jubail. Manama also deserves a mention for its significant investment in infrastructure, while Manama and Muscat both convinced the judges with their focused investment promotion strategies.