Expecting a "good" fiscal and financial position owing to hardened oil prices, Qatar has rather adopted an "opportunistic" approach in tapping the global debt markets.
The government had adopted a very conservative $40 a barrel price for oil in this fiscal's general budget, expecting a QR32bn deficit; but the country has seen an "excellent" first quarter (Q1) when oil prices averaged $64, HE the Minister of Commerce and Industry and the Acting Finance Minister Ali bin Ahmed al-Kuwari told the Qatar Economic Forum, powered by Bloomberg.
"We had an excellent Q1 when oil prices moved in the right direction and averaged $64 a barrel. This resulted in a surplus of QR0.2bn. Going by this trend for the remaining part of the year, we should be in a good position," he said.
Highlighting that usually, deficit triggers deficit, but spending and expansion also drives the debt; he said being opportunistic, Qatar would be looking at the debt management more from the perspective of refinancing the expensive debt.
The minister expressed confidence that the country's gross domestic product or GDP would post bigger growth with Qatar announcing further expansion in its hydrocarbon sector. This assertion comes when asked about the recent report of the Bank of America that projected Qatar's nominal economy to double in size, to reach $300bn by 2027, from $145bn in 2020.
The report had said Qatar could become the swing LNG or liquefied natural gas producer and its LNG expansion plans is slated to boost real economic growth and fiscal surpluses to high-single digits and mid-single digits on average over 2021-27.
The planned expansion of LNG capacity should enhance activity through boosting hydrocarbon real GDP, or gross domestic product, growth over 2025-27 and non-oil real GDP growth through higher investments over 2022-27, it had said.
Stressing that the country's priority is diversification; al-Kuwari said this is being undertaken with focus on three areas of foreign direct investment (FDI), incentivising the private sector and improving the business environment.
He said in order to attract more FDI, Qatar has instituted the Investment Promotion Agency, encourage business clusters (such as the Qatar Financial Centre), established Qatar Free Zones and Media City.
In order to help the private sector, al-Kuwari said, in 2020, Qatar enacted the PPP (public private partnership) law, which signalled a critical step in providing a legislative framework for regulating the private sector's contribution to the implementation of major development projects.
In the initial stage, the government has announced a PPP initiative in the education system, whereby it plans to build 45 new schools at an estimated cost of $1bn.
The PPP Law aims to allow the public sector a new perspective in managing national projects in order to enhance the proficiency, productivity and sustainability of such projects and handling the same in a cost efficient manner, according to law firm Al Tamimi.
On the business environment, al-Kuwari highlighted that foreign ownership up to 100% is permitted in all economic sectors subject to specific legislation regarding commercial activities carried out by non-Qataris as well as the recent recommendation from the Council of Ministers on increasing the foreign ownership limit in the listed companies up to 100%.
In the past, al-Kuwari said, Qatar concentrated on developing infrastructure but now the focus will be more on manufacturing, technology, innovation, food hub and logistics as part of strengthening the knowledge-based economy and thus attracting more white-collared talents.