Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani, recently announced the government's plan to invest more than $130bn in the country over the next five years. The goal is to upgrade a wide range of the Qatar's infrastructure.
Although the energy sector continues to be the main driver of economic growth, contributing almost 80% of Qatar's GDP, almost half of the $130bn is earmarked for projects outside the energy industry.
Sheikh Hamad told the local media that the government's plan is to invest in a myriad of projects including healthcare, free zones, communications, transportation, road networks, a water network, an electric power grid and the development of oil and gas fields.
The scale of the projects underpins Qatar's vision of being a diverse and modern economy. One such project is the development of 100 sq km of reclaimed land as the home for Qatar's new investment free zones to focus on logistics, transport, manufacturing, speciality chemicals and metals.
The government is also planning to spend $8bn on the Qatari healthcare system, including financing the construction of a digital hospital. The deployment of technology on this scale is a tremendous logistical challenge and is expected to cost around $900m.
Another $5.5bn is planned to go toward building the New Doha International Airport (NDIA), which is expected to be a major regional and international hub for Qatar Airways. "Our new airport will set the benchmark for all future airports. It will be an international signature for the vision of Qatar," said Akbar al-Baker, CEO of Doha International Airport and Qatar Airways.
The airport will be able to accommodate up to six A380-800 Super Jumbos and an estimated capacity of 12m passengers every year when fully developed. The complex will also include three hotels.
Qatar is also expected to invest heavily in its roads network through its urban planning and development authority. There is a need for the country's infrastructure to be brought up to speed with the pace of development. One of the most ambitious projects is a proposed bridge, called the 'Friendship Bridge' which is anticipated to link Qatar and Bahrain via a 45-km causeway, the world's longest fixed link.
The government's key principles for economic development are diversity and sustainability. Speaking at a recent conference, Yousaf Hussain, the minister of finance said, "It is Qatar's various non-energy related industries that truly represent the vast potential for growth that is now being fully exploited."
Abdulla al-Abdulla, the general manager of Qatar Industrial Manufacturing Company (QIMCO) told OBG, "Non-energy related companies here are able to double their profits and their capacity because the conditions are right."
However, issues such as inflation, soaring land and cement prices could take a toll. With this in mind, the government has continued its policy of developing the energy sector.
Qatar's abundance of natural resources, in which the government has encouraged foreign investment over recent years, remains the backbone of the country's economy.
The Dolphin Gas project is one of the largest trans-border energy projects ever undertaken in the Middle East. For the first time, it brings together three Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries - the UAE, Qatar and Oman - into an integrated regional energy network. The project is expected to transport natural gas from Qatar's North Field via a gas treatment facility at Ras Laffan and via a subsea pipeline toward Abu Dhabi, to meet the growing energy needs of the UAE. According to a top official, Qatar's new pipeline system will start pumping 2bn cubic feet of natural gas per day by July.
Diversification of the economy, with investment in non-energy sector projects, should protect Qatar against fluctuating energy prices, while the continued development of the energy infrastructure is expected to ensure a sound economic future. Hassan al-Rashid, general manager of Qatar Plastic Products told OBG, "There is a need for a balance of investment between non-energy and energy related projects, and within the energy projects there needs to be closer work between downstream and upstream industries in the future."