Interview: Sheikh Jassim bin Abdulaziz Al Thani
What can accelerate the transition from public sector-lead development to a market-driven economy?
SHEIKH JASSIM BIN ABDULAZIZ AL THANI: We are currently working on a public-private partnership (PPP) law that will permit the private sector to participate in key infrastructure projects more readily. Qatar already has a successful track record of partnerships between the private and public sectors; for example, over two-thirds of Qatar’s power generating capacity was installed through PPPs. The government now aims to repeat this success elsewhere. The private sector plays an increasingly important role in the development of the economy. The government recognises that the future of the economy hinges upon the growth of the private sector, and thus it endeavours to create real opportunities for entrepreneurship and innovation between the public and private sectors. To speed up the transition, the government needs to recognise that Qataris in the large public sector workforce are trying to engage in private sector enterprise. There needs to be a discussion about how these activities can be mutually supportive and appropriately targeted training developed to help this transition.
How do you respond to those who assert that the recently announced price control measures will result in additional regulation of the market?
SHEIKH JASSIM: Qatar is striving to achieve a balance between credit growth and inflation. When the equilibrium is lost, inflation hurts consumers and makes the market less competitive, slowing the growth rate of the overall economy. To begin a discussion of price controls, one has to acknowledge that there are other factors affecting the prices of products than simply market supply or demand and consumer income. As part of our efforts to control the prices of products and services, the consumer protection department prepares a monthly report in which it examines the prices of products and services to track their stability. To increase transparency, the department statistically analyses the market and reports on the effects that its supervision efforts are having on the market. One objective of the department is to protect the lifestyles of consumers, insulating them from dramatic price fluctuations. Price control measures are thus vital to both the public interest and the nation’s macroeconomic stability, and such measures may require yet further regulation. However, they are necessary to the maintenance of healthy growth.
What will enable intra-regional trade to reach its full potential? How can GCC trade agreements be more effectively implemented?
SHEIKH JASSIM: The GCC was established in May 1981, and since its establishment there has been a continuous increase in trade volumes between member nations. During the GCC Doha summit, which took place in December 2007, the Common Market between the states was approved and established as part of a GCC effort to achieve greater economic integration. This step increased the freedom with which goods and services could be moved between GCC members, and allowed for citizens and legal entities of GCC countries to enjoy their rights in other member nations.
The second step taken by the GCC to advance economic integration was the development of the Customs Union. However, most of the organisations that facilitate intra-regional trade are still in the process of being established. The future roles of bodies like the GCC Monetary Union are already being discussed, and while reforming internal legislation to suit the agreements made at GCC summits may take some time, the process is going forward at a promising pace. As soon as these policy matters and operational plans are settled, everything will be operating at full capacity. There is still much work to be done on GCC agreements to achieve our ultimate goal, but through coordination between member countries, much can be achieved. One important safeguard to ensuring successful implementation is continuous consultation between GCC members and reduction of ad hoc actions by individual countries.
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