Qatar Opens Struggling Property Market to Foreign Ownership

(Bloomberg) -- Qatar will allow foreigners to own property, the latest in a series of measures aimed to stimulate the gas-rich country’s economy more than a year into its boycott by Gulf neighbors.

Under a new law issued Tuesday by Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Bin Al Thani, foreigners will be able to own property in areas designated by Qatar’s cabinet, according to the official Qatar News Agency.

Qatar, the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas, has used its wealth to blunt the effects of an embargoed imposed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt in June 2017. Its economy is growing, the stock index recouped losses, and its $200 billion infrastructure upgrade to prepare for the 2022 World Cup hasn’t been interrupted.

The rebound hasn’t trickled down to the property and tourism industries. While real estate prices increased 4 percent in the third quarter after sliding to a four-year low in the second, they’re still down 20 percent since 2016.

Qatar Opens Struggling Property Market to Foreign Ownership

In addition to opening up the property market, Qatar has allowed 100 percent foreign ownership of companies, relaxed entry visa requirements and introduced permanent residency for expatriates. Other countries in the region that rely on oil and gas have introduced similar measures to wean their economies off energy exports.

Real estate prices are down across the Persian Gulf since oil prices declined nearly four years ago. The U.A.E. reduced fees on businesses, loosened visa rules and proposed incentives to jolt the economy this year. While the measures have boosted the confidence of real estate developers, prices are still sliding.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.