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Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar’s only alcohol store is urging customers to take advantage of lower prices while they can, before a new “selective” tax takes effect across the country.

The government is planning to implement a new “sin tax” on goods that are “harmful to human health and the environment,” as well as specific luxury items, officials previously said.

This includes fast food, soda, tobacco and alcohol.

Sebastian Wilke/Flickr

QDC

This week, employees at the Qatar Distribution Co. (QDC) in Abu Hamour have been warning customers that import taxes on spirits are set to double soon.

This will likely increase the cost of alcohol for customers, though it remains unclear by how much.

Many people have been expressing concerns about the impending tax, as prices at QDC for alcohol are already fairly steep.

Increased quotas

Only residents with alcohol licenses are allowed to shop at QDC, which is also the sole distributor of pork products in Qatar.

Each customer has a monthly allowance that is calculated as a percentage of their incomes.

Isabell Schulz/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

This week, QDC said in an unusual move that residents will be able to purchase three times their normal quota from April 1.

The alcohol quota usually only goes up before Ramadan, when QDC closes for the month. It also was doubled at the end of 2016 when the warehouse closed during the run-up to Eid Al Adha.

This year, the fasting month doesn’t begin until the end of May.

Meanwhile, hotels are also likely to be affected by increased taxes on alcohol.

However, none of the ones contacted by Doha News have responded to requests for comment yet.

New taxes

Qatar’s Cabinet approved a draft law governing new “selective” taxes last month.

Officials did not say when the law would be implemented.

Dave Dugdale / Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

But the taxes are in accordance with a unified GCC agreement. And a Saudi finance minister previously said this could be introduced across the Gulf as early as April.

The GCC is also on track to introduce a separate, value-added tax in 2018.

That consumption tax will most likely affect businesses. It is expected to exempt certain food items, as well as the cost of education, healthcare and social services.

Thoughts?

Reem Saad / Doha News

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A UN agency has granted Qatar even more time to address allegations of “forced labor” before deciding whether the country should be sanctioned.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) decided yesterday to continue monitoring Qatar for human rights violations until November of this year.

When it convenes in eight months time, it will revisit whether to open a Commission of Inquiry, its highest investigative mechanism.

ILO/Facebook

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According to those who attended this week’s meeting, about 18 governments weighed in on the decision.

Some of them, including the UAE and Sudan, two Qatar allies, urged the complaint to be dropped altogether, but were unsuccessful.

Pressure is on

The ILO has been investigating allegations by unions against Qatar since last year, and visited the nation to inspect working conditions for expats.

Last March, the UN agency decided to give Qatar a year to work on the issues at hand, as the country was in the middle of changing its laws.

Shabina S. Khatri / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Authorities did implement some labor reforms in December. But they did not completely do away with the exit permit system or no objection certificate requirement to change jobs.

This has drawn the ire of many rights groups, including Amnesty International.

Speaking to Doha News yesterday, James Lynch, deputy director of Amnesty’s Global Issues Program, hailed the ILO’s decision. He said it would keep the pressure on Qatar, as “half-hearted reforms” are not enough.

He continued:

“Since the complaint was first brought in 2014, the government has done little to change the power imbalance between employers and migrant workers.

Between now and November, Qatar needs to tackle the fundamentals. It should start by genuinely abolishing the exit permit system so that employers have no right to interfere in a migrant worker’s ability to leave the country.”

Strides made

For its part, Qatar has not publicly commented on the ILO proceedings.

However, in a document it sent to the UN agency last month, officials outlined various pieces of legislation aimed at safeguarding workers.

Peter Kovessy / Doha News

Residents line up at a bank to open accounts ahead of the start of WPS in 2015.

This includes the new labor reforms, the Wage Protection System (WPS) and a draft law protecting house help.

It also pledged to increase the number of inspectors on construction sites, establish a complaint hotline for abused expats and conduct a study to gain insight into the conditions and sentiments of blue-collar workers in Qatar.

Thoughts?

Lulu

Frozen chicken from Brazil

All shipments of meat and chicken from Brazil are being checked at Qatar’s ports to ensure their quality before they are cleared for sale, the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) has announced.

The move comes after evidence was found that meat-packers in Brazil had been selling rotten products for years.

Some 30 people were arrested last week, three packing plants were closed down and 21 are under investigation, according to the BBC.

Shabina S. Khatri / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Brazilian officials have stressed that these plants account for only a fraction of the industry, but many nations that import Brazilian meat and poultry products have suspended imports nonetheless.

That includes China, South Korea and the European Union.

Lab samples taken

Frozen halal chicken from Brazil is very popular in Qatar. And shoppers are sure to notice its lack of availability in the coming days and weeks.

According to an official from Qatar Foods, 90 percent of the nation’s poultry comes from the South American country.

The Peninsula reports business consultant Iqbal Vadakara as saying:

“Restriction of products from Brazil could lead to an acute shortage of poultry and meat products in the market. Almost all the major fast moving frozen chicken brands in the market are imported from Brazil.”

Once lab samples are analyzed and products are found fit for human consumption, the meat and poultry will be released, MOPH said.

Thoughts?

Note: The lead image in this article has been changed, as Sadia chicken says it was not affected by the curbs.