With years of significant budget surpluses, a stable macroeconomic environment, low government debt, political stability and a sizeable sovereign wealth fund, Qatar has continued to rank highly in the leading global indices.
In the 2015-16 “Global Competitiveness Report” published by the World Economic Forum (WEF), Qatar ranked 14th out of 140 countries worldwide behind major global economies such as the US, Germany and the UK. Most notably, the state ranked first in the entire MENA region, with the closest competition coming from neighbouring GCC countries such as the UAE (17th), Saudi Arabia (25th), Kuwait (34th) and Bahrain (39th). Qatar moved up two positions from the previous year, with the WEF citing numerous strengths, including the ease of accessing capital, internet connectivity, a high level of physical security, access to finance and a highly efficient goods and services market, to name a few. The report noted that the Qatari government had played an important role in promoting and fostering innovation, with Qatar ranking first in the world for government procurement of advanced technology products.
Ease Of Doing Business
In the World Bank’s “Doing Business 2016” report, Qatar ranked 68th out of 189 countries for ease of doing business. The state ranked third in the MENA region following the UAE (31st) and Bahrain (65th). Oman, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, meanwhile, ranked 70th, 82nd and 101st, respectively. The report ranks countries in 10 different categories, giving an in-depth look into business culture and regulations. The report noted that Qatar had improved in the trading across borders category by reducing the time required for port handling and importing goods, ahead of the UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Globally, Qatar ranks first in the ease of paying taxes category, along with the UAE. This is due to reforms that have been made in the last five years, leading to the elimination of certain requirements associated with corporate income tax returns. Qatar also scored highly in the dealing with construction permits category, ranking eighth overall, ahead of Bahrain (9th), Saudi Arabia (17th), Oman (46th) and Kuwait (133rd).
Qatar ranked 32nd out of 188 countries in the 2015 UN Human Development Index, maintaining its top rank in the MENA region. The other Gulf states ranked as follows: Saudi Arabia (39th), the UAE (41st), Bahrain (45th), Kuwait (48th) and Oman (52nd). The ranking puts Qatar in the very high human development category. The report also noted that over the past 35 years life expectancy at birth in Qatar has increased by 5.6 years to 78.2 years, while mean years of schooling has increased by 4.7 years to 9.1 years and expected years of schooling has also risen by 1.9 years to 13.8 years.
Published in March 2016, Doha came 35th in the Global Financial Centres Index, which ranks the most significant financial centres worldwide, with London, New York and Singapore taking the top three positions. Doha placed third in the GCC region following Dubai (13th) and Abu Dhabi (26th). Bahrain and Riyadh were the only other two Gulf cities that made the list, coming in at 69th and 70th, respectively. The 35th-place ranking helped Doha to secure its position as one of the five most important financial hubs in the entire MENA region.
Qatar’s capital markets, and more specifically the Qatar Stock Exchange, have all recently enjoyed a number of upgrades. Both Qatar and the UAE attracted significant attention when MSCI decided to upgrade both countries from frontier market status to emerging market status in May 2014. S&P followed suit, upgrading Qatar in September 2014. Most recently, in September 2015 FTSE had announced that both Qatar and Kuwait were on their watch list, and it was announced that Qatar was upgraded to a secondary emerging market in September 2015, although Kuwait failed to make it to the upgraded list.
In March 2016 Fitch affirmed Qatar’s long-term foreign and local currency issuer default ratings at “AA” with a stable outlook. S&P also affirmed their “AA” long-term and “A-1+” short-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings for the state, with a stable outlook in March 2016. Both the Fitch and S&P announcements were met with praise in Doha following a spate of downgrades from rating agencies in other neighbouring Gulf states, such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman.
However, ratings agency Moody’s had placed the country’s “Aa2” government bond and issuer ratings on review. In their May 2016 assessment, Qatar’s wealth, strong economic growth and reform plans led Moody’s to maintain the country’s “Aa2” ranking – one of its highest scores – after warning of a possible downgrade in March 2016. Yet, in the report, Moody’s also stated that it had a negative outlook for Qatar as the government takes on more debt. The ratings agency noted the country has a limited ability to cut spending related to preparations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup or reduce government salaries – which make up 20% of total state spending – since the public sector is dominated by Qataris.
The “Measuring the Information Society 2015 Report”, published by the UN International Telecommunication Union (ITU), ranked Qatar 31st worldwide out of 167 countries in the ICT development index, up seven places from its 2014 ranking. This puts the state in second place in the Arab region behind Bahrain (27th), with the UAE in third (32nd), followed by Saudi Arabia (41st), Kuwait (46th) and Oman (54th).
Meanwhile, in “The State of Broadband 2015” report, published by ITU and UNESCO, Qatar ranked very well across numerous categories. For mobile broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, Qatar ranked 15th out of 189 at 106.3 – it was fourth in the GCC region behind Kuwait (2nd), Bahrain (5th) and the UAE (10th). In terms of households with access to an internet connection, Qatar ranked second out of 133 countries surveyed worldwide at 98%, the highest in the MENA region.
Qatar also ranked higher than its neighbours and 12th overall for the percentage of individuals using the internet at 91.5%, with Bahrain at 91%, the UAE at 90.4%, Kuwait at 78.7% and Saudi Arabia at 63.7%.
One of the more disappointing rankings released was the 2015 OECD “Education at a Glance” report, which covers the attainment of universal basic educational skills. Qatar came in 68th place out of 76 countries. The other GCC member countries also ranked in the lower half of the OECD report, with the UAE in 45th, Bahrain in 57th, Saudi Arabia in 66th and Oman in 72nd.