Qatar has cut its planned spending on building healthcare facilities by about two-thirds this year following the drop in energy prices but expenditure on its World Cup-related projects should be unchanged, an official said on Wednesday.
The world's top liquefied natural gas exporter is one of the richest countries per capita but it faces a QR46.5bn ($12.8bn) budget deficit this year because of the continued lower oil and gas prices.
Like other Gulf states, Qatar is turning to international markets to bridge the gap - it is expected to price its first sovereign bond issue in four years on Wednesday - but it is also having to reduce and prioritise state spending.
"Due to the recent oil and gas price drop, the government has to restructure, re-plan its priorities," said Ahmad al-Ansari, lead adviser for contracts and project management at Public Works Authority (Ashghal).
"We (Ashghal) haven't cancelled any of our programmes. All we've done is extended them. We've slowed down a little bit on the number of projects released this year."
Ashghal is responsible for planning, design, construction and delivery of all infrastructure projects and public buildings in Qatar, according to its website.
It aims to build 60-70 new primary healthcare centres over the next decade. This year, it was meant to award contracts to build seven of these but that number has been cut to three, said al-Ansari.
"We're hoping within the next year to stick to our original plan, which is to award (contracts to build) at least eight health centres every year," al-Ansari told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Dubai.
Ashghal will spend QR2.5bn building healthcare facilities this year, instead of QR7bn as previously planned, he said.
Al-Ansari didn't elaborate on when the cut was implemented.
The authority has cut its 2016 budget for public buildings, which includes schools, healthcare and public parks, by 50-60% versus what it had originally expected to spend, said al-Ansari.
Ashghal's total 2016 budget is QR15bn to 17bn, down from the previously-estimated QR25bn.
Ashghal's priorities include road building, plans for which have been little changed, likewise the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
"I think anything related to the World Cup will stay unchanged. The plans for the projects we're doing to serve the World Cup won't be affected," added al-Ansari.
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