Qatar prepares for another growth spurt
Qatar’s economy will be over and above $60 billion by 2011 as the state enjoys one of the fastest expansions of any country in the world, according to its Finance Minister Yousef Hussain Kamal in an exclusive interview in this week’s issue of MEED (Middle East Economic Digest, out February 26 in the GCC).
In the last five years, the Qatari gross domestic product (GDP) doubled from $17.5 billion to over $35 billion, achieving a per capita income of more than $40,000. For the first time in decades, the government forecast is for a budgeted surplus.
This additional wealth, helped by oil production passing 1 million barrels a day for the first time, and liquid natural gas (LNG) output tripling, has been poured into its infrastructure.
“There will be no project related to infrastructure that will be postponed [due to lack of funds],” said Kamal. “We will cater for any project that we deem necessary and that will increase the capacity to cope with the rate of growth.”
While the spiralling oil price has had a positive impact, Kamal points out that the government is realistic in its predictions. “We don’t take the $60 a barrel price as our basis. We are conservative and recognise that we need to channel our expenditure into investment to support the economic growth.”
The government has invested abroad, and one of the main channels has been through the oil stabilisation fund, set up in 1999 to invest overseas in the event of any future oil price crash.
“We should be ready for any oil price below $20 a barrel. By 2015, the government should be able to survive largely – and without, if necessary – oil and gas. This is why we are diversifying here in Qatar and abroad. “The long-term aim is that the private sector will take over many of the services now being provided by the government, allowing it to become a regulator.”
Qatar’s economic boom comes after a time of slashed budgets and cutbacks in the stagnant 1990s economy - an unpopular short-term fiscal regime implemented by Kamal for long-term gain. As a result, the economy has delivered more than 20 per cent growth every year for the past three years.