Yousef Hussain Kamal, Qatar’s Minister of Finance and Economy, details insurance plans

The potential for further growth in non-life insurance in the Gulf region is “enormous” said Yousef Hussain Kamal, Qatar’s Minister of Finance and Economy, in a speech at the MultaQa Qatar conference in Doha on 15 March. “In our region, non-life premiums, on average, account for just one percent of GDP. This compares with 3% for the UK and 5% for the US,” he said. “I am convinced that we will successfully narrow this gap as our economic diversification strategy progresses and public awareness of insurance improves.”

He outlined three main initiatives in the insurance sector: Qatar Insurance Services, a technology-based insurance system delivering integrated processing between insurance and reinsurance trading partners; the Qatar Finance and Business Academy; and improvements in the regulatory and supervisory infrastructure.

The Minister was speaking at the opening of the MultaQa Qatar 2009 conference, held at the Sharq Village & Spa in Doha, Qatar. “We are proud to have successfully established MultaQa as a regional platform of international relevance, a forum for domestic and foreign executives to discuss and explore opportunities offered by the Qatari market and insurance markets in the wider region,” he said.

In the whole of 2008, the Qatar Financial Centre Authority had more than 500 meetings with companies. Despite the world recession, in the first two months of 2009 it had “double” the meetings of the same period last year, according to Stuart Pearce, chief executive officer of the QFCA, also speaking at the conference.

There have been criticisms that Qatar may be in danger of developing two parallel economies: one of international companies based in the Qatar Financial Centre, and the other of domestic Qatari companies. But Pearce pointed out that 20% of the licences granted so far are to companies owned by Qatari interests.

Dennis L. Mahoney, chairman of Aon Global, also speaking at the conference, said that insurance in the Gulf region should not rely on global insurance companies but should develop new “indigenous capital”. This should include financial capital, intellectual capital, and development of the legal and regulatory regime, he said.