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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The end of sponsorship...?

"Qatar to ease business rules: sponsorship-free regime likely," announced the Gulf Times today, in an article which unfortunately does not appear to be available on its website. (Since this post was published the article has now appeared!)

Could this be the end of Qatar’s ridiculous sponsorship rules?

Just in case there are any non-residents reading, your sponsor is like your owner. Without your sponsor’s permission, you can’t leave the country, take a driving test, open a bank account or purchase alcohol in one of the country’s two off-licences. Obviously, such a transgression of liberty is very off-putting to many of the professionals who Qatar needs to progress its ambitious development plans.

The beginning of the end (we hope) came with the setting up of the Qatar Financial Centre. This was the first Qatari Institution which could recruit expatriates without the need for sponsorship.

Today it appears that the Government is keen to relax rules further. ' "We are trying to create a business environment of international level," ' said Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al-Thani, first deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, before admitting that 'local business was used to certain style of doing business'.

What is not clear is whether this relaxing of sponsorship will apply to all areas of work, or just business, and to all races and nationalities (political correctness has yet to reach Qatar) or just Gulf Arabs and Westerners.

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