We could summarise our development goals, including Qatar National Vision 2030, in these words: building the homeland and the citizen, from which major tasks assigned to the leadership of the state are derived. We consider the building of institutions that are based on rational management of resources, professional standards and benchmarks of productivity and efficiency, and serving the public interest on the one hand, and keenness on the welfare of the citizen, qualifying him for useful productive work and grooming him to find meaning for his life in serving the country and society on the other hand. These are the two faces of the development process that we aspire to.
As you know, the comprehensive development of our country has been, and continues to be, a major concern for us, because we believe that an integrated and balanced development is the key to establishing a modern state responsive to the needs of today, and capable of achieving the stature we look forward to. The Qatari people expect a decent standard of living, without abandoning our authentic Qatari Arab identity and our most tolerant Islamic faith.
The Father Emir first started to realise the majority of our goals in the economic domain. Qatar’s economy has sustained its accomplishments by achieving the best results as per the vision and strategy worked out for this purpose, despite global economic uncertainty and instability that prevent complete recovery from the successive crises that have afflicted a number of advanced and emerging economies.
Real GDP increased at a lesser rate in 2012 compared to the previous years. But if we take into account low growth in the oil sector, then we can see that achieving this growth rate in GDP required a growth rate of up to 10% in the non-oil sector and this is not an easy achievement. This is what must be done to diversify the structure of the Qatari economy, with the participation of the private sector, and encourage private initiatives that can identify potential market needs. In addition, the rate of growth achieved in 2012 is also considered a remarkable rate when compared to growth rates for the same year with a number of economic groups. It is twice the global growth rate, and five times the growth rate in developed countries. Maintaining good annual growth rates in the coming years is considered a major challenge in light of the expected decline in growth rates in the hydrocarbons sector. This requires doubling our efforts to increase productivity, improving economic and technical efficiency, promoting economic diversification, encouraging entrepreneurship, expanding research and development, and moving towards a knowledge-based economy. This is exactly what we are working to achieve in the next phase.
Real growth in GDP is coupled with other indicators that reflect the strength of Qatar’s economy, namely that government expenditure in the public budget for the 2013/14 fiscal year is higher than spending in any previous budget and higher than spending in the 2012/13 fiscal year by 17%. This increase has come in a timely manner to compensate for less growth in the oil sector, and to continue the fiscal stimulus and the need for spending on the priorities of the National Development Strategy 2011-16.
Qatar has maintained its global competitiveness and its relatively high indicators in the field of human development. Qatar has also attained the highest human development ranking among the Arab Gulf countries in the Human Development Report for 2013 issued by the UN Development Programme. This comparison is not intended as bragging, but to identify strengths in order to preserve them and areas of weakness to work on their development and overcome them.
The private sector remains a key partner in development, whether in diversifying income sources or expanding the state’s productive base, while encouraging the sector, removing obstacles and providing adequate incentives rests with the government. It is the duty of the business community and the Chamber of Commerce to cooperate with the government by providing all necessary proposals and solutions to enable the private sector to play its role. There remains a need to surmount other difficulties facing the private sector, such as combatting monopolies, providing a competitive environment, overcoming bureaucratic barriers, and reducing the size and number of intermediate firms and institutions between the state sector on the one hand, and entrepreneurs and businessmen on the other.
Qatar has confirmed its advanced standing as the most competitive state in the Middle East and has remained among the world’s top 20 economies in 2013. The prominent rankings attained by the State of Qatar in many international indices have been the outcome of great and intensive efforts on the part of the government and the private sector. We will aspire to achieve more and improve our rankings in the remaining indices. In spite of the economic turmoil taking place around the world, the financial sector in Qatar has pushed its way to progress and upgraded its services. This has culminated in Qatar’s stock markets joining the group of emerging markets. Qatar has also maintained its high credit rating, which we seek to upgrade as well by promoting transparency of competitiveness procedures in the markets and simplifying legalisations and laws. Qatar also continues to enjoy a strong financial position, as it has achieved a surplus of 10.4% of GDP, supported by a conservative approach in estimating crude oil prices for budgeting purposes. The government will continue planning a budget within the context of medium-term spending that takes into account the priorities and allocations assigned to each sector, with a focus on outputs and outcomes.
God has blessed us with a natural resource that would not have brought us this income without the vision and courage of The Father Emir in terms of the long-term investment of this wealth. We are supposed to preserve it and prepare for alternatives. Despite the high standard of living that we can provide, we must deal responsibly with our resources and economy. This is not only about the next generation, but also the type of man we are keen on grooming at the present. Is he productive or just a consumer? Social responsibility and avoidance of irresponsible extravagance are among the personal attributes that we want. The Almighty said, “Those when they spend are not extravagant and not sparing but hold a just balance between...”
In this context, a study has to be made on the causes that raise the cost of some projects in Qatar in a way that does not conform with the cost and profit, or supply and demand. And checking the cause of the rising cost of real estate and storage, and mismanagement that leads to frequent changes in project specifications at the state’s expense, or in delaying or stalling them, then hastily implementing them under worse conditions would increase the cost.
If it is our right to be happy with what has been achieved in the past years, we should not overlook some of the negative phenomena that may be associated with it, foremost among these being the problem of inflation. The high growth rates, huge expenditures on infrastructure and development projects, and the increase in population have led to price increases. No doubt that inflation has a negative effect on growth and society, and therefore price increases are a problem that worries everyone and the government will seek to contain it by all available means and tools, and I mention in particular monetary and fiscal policies combatting monopoly, encouraging competitiveness, setting an appropriate timetable to invest in major projects and coordinating between these projects to avert being concentrated in a short period of time leading to pressure on the available potential capacity. A governmental committee has been set up to propose necessary solutions to control any internal or external inflationary pressures. Individuals and civil society organisations and the Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Qatar must play their role and endeavour to avoid any unjustified price rises, because it is the joint responsibility of these institutions, as much as it is the state’s.
Content sourced from a speech given during the Advisory Council’s 42nd session on November 5, 2013.
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