Interview: Saleh bin Mohamed Al Nabit

What recommendations should be considered in regards to policy development for the National Development Strategy (NDS) 2017-22?

SALEH BIN  MOHAMED AL NABIT: There are a number of important issues that will be considered in the process of creating the next NDS, for 2017-22. With oil prices now at lower levels than previously anticipated, there will need to be a focus on how to better manage our financial resources and plan state spending. We will also use the NDS to take stock of how well Qatar is doing in confronting challenges that were set out in Qatar National Vision 2030. Specifically, questions about the growth and composition of Qatar’s population, labour productivity and how to better manage our environmental resources will come under scrutiny.

How will economic diversification targets change or be further improved upon in the next NDS?

AL NABIT: The next NDS will have to build on the lessons learnt from the first one, and will need to recognise the changing economic context the state is now operating in. There is a tendency to speak about diversification only in terms of the composition of economic activity. In fact, the NDS makes it clear that diversification is much more than the balance of activity in the hydrocarbons and non-hydrocarbons sectors. One of the biggest challenges is creating conditions in which private sector activity can play a more active role in economic development, and this is a topic which will receive renewed attention in the second NDS. Some limited progress has been made to date, and there are in fact more citizens employed in the private sector than before, but much more needs to be done to rebalance the economy.

In what way are budgetary constraints likely to impact the state’s targets going forward?

AL NABIT: The first NDS set out parameters for a fiscal reform programme that is now being implemented by the Ministry of Finance. As part of this wider reform effort, it will be vital for the next NDS to identify the aggregate resource envelope within which national development efforts will have to proceed through to 2022, and the strategic considerations that ought to influence the allocation of those resources.

The NDS is also likely to lay much greater stress on the need for government ministries and agencies to plan within hard budgetary constraints. However, the NDS is unlikely to come up with a physical investment programme that will require financing. Scrutiny of physical project proposals and decisions about their financing will remain under the oversight of the Ministry of Finance, as the NDS moves forward.

To what extent is the ministry updating its statistical reporting and internal systems to better assist investors and enhance foreign direct investment?

AL NABIT: The economic statistics department in the ministry has been continuously engaged in strengthening the process of data collection, compilation, analysis and dissemination. During the last three years, some of the major initiatives on statistical reporting included a monthly statistical bulletin, a monthly consumer price index, a monthly producer price index for the industrial sector, monthly foreign merchandised trade data and monthly updates on building permits, in addition to quarterly reports and publications covering GDP, accounts and expenditures, economic statistics, and so on.

In order to update relevant data points, a mini-census of establishments and the general population was undertaken in early 2015, with the results published in October 2015. We also launched a new, user-friendly website to disseminate all statistical publications, which are released at various frequencies throughout the year. In cooperation with the Qatar Central Bank, the ministry has also launched a foreign investment survey to inform the public with up-to-date data.