* Bonds with allies have become stronger than before
* Qataris have become more committed to the ethics they are famous for
* Economic institutions and financial markets share optimism with Qatar
* Country is moving at a steady pace to achieve water and food security
Qatar's economic invulnerability against external tremors has been boosted and its self-reliance has increased, and the country has been able to overcome the impacts of the blockade to a large extent, His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani said on Tuesday.
His Highness the Amir made the observations while delivering a speech at the opening of the 47th ordinary session of the Advisory Council at its headquarters on Tuesday.
The Amir inaugurated the session at a ceremony attended by His Highness the Father Amir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. His Highness the Personal Representative of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani, His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa al-Thani, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Khalifa al-Thani and HE Sheikh Jassim bin Khalifa al-Thani were also present.
His Highness the Father Amir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and other dignitaries attending the inauguration ceremony of Advisory Council's 47th ordinary session.
The inauguration was also attended by HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani and a number of Their Excellencies Sheikhs, ministers, heads of the diplomatic missions accredited to the country and the State's dignitaries.
“It gives me pleasure to meet with you on this auspicious annual occasion of opening a new session of your esteemed council, marking the beginning of a new legislative term in which our constitutional institutions will proceed with assuming their responsibilities to reach the goals we have set for ourselves from growth-achieving until fulfilling the standards of keeping up with the achievements of contemporary human civilisation, and the formulation of our Qatari Arab and Islamic identity and culture on sound moral and civilised grounds,” the Amir said.
“Since our last meeting, which took place under the circumstances that you know, Qatar's economic invulnerability against external tremors has been boosted and our self-reliance has increased, the bonds with our allies have become stronger than before, and our relations with most of the world countries have developed,” he stressed.
“Most importantly, the Qataris have become more committed to the ethics they are famous for, and their awareness and realisation of the scale of their country’s accomplishments and the importance of national sovereignty and independence of our political decision, under which these accomplishments were achieved, have been deepened.”
The world economy witnessed a recovery in 2017 involving most countries, regional and economic blocs, but this improvement did not include the Middle East, North Africa and the GCC countries, including Qatar, he said. “But growth in Qatar was the least affected, also a drop in our hydrocarbon GDP was coupled with about 4% growth in GDP from other sources, thus reflecting the role of economic diversification as an important growth component.”
Exports increased by 18%, leading to a significant improvement in the public budget, trade balance and current account, His Highness the Amir said. The banking system retrieved in less than 10 months the level of indicators that prevailed before the blockade, while the level of some of them became even better. In addition, Qatar Central Bank regained its reserve level, and the Qatari riyal maintained its value and free circulation. The state continued to provide funding for the World Cup projects without compromising the projects required to achieve the National Vision, he added.
The number of factories operating in the state increased by about 14% after the blockade, and these factories managed to achieve a great deal of self-sufficiency in some food products and consumables. “It is to be noted here that the role played by the private sector in achieving these results was pivotal in terms of its interaction with the requirements of this stage.”
Qatar has been able to overcome the impacts of the blockade to a large extent, the Amir said. "Economic institutions and financial markets share optimism with us. The World Bank expects Qatar's economic growth rate to reach 2.8% in 2018, and will rise to around 3% in the following years. Global credit rating agencies also revised their outlook for Qatar’s economy from negative, immediately after the blockade, to currently stable, thus reflecting their favourable expectations for the financial and economic performance of Qatar in the future."
His Highness the Amir also observed that "we are striding at a steady pace to achieve water and food security and to secure sufficient electrical energy to push forward the development drive and meet its requirements.” The Umm Al-Houl station in the Economic Zone has come on-stream and will be officially opened at a later date. This mega project will increase Qatar's electricity production by about 30% and water desalination by about 40%, he added.
The state has adopted a conservative fiscal policy to reduce spending, necessitated by the sharp drop in oil and gas prices that started at the end of 2014. The signs of success of this policy have started to be seen and it is expected that this policy will lead to a public budget surplus this year, he noted, adding that this surplus will increase in the coming years.
The Amir said the Qatar National Vision goals to achieve economic diversification and reduce dependence on oil and gas never means neglecting the oil and gas sector, "the basic source of our wealth". Economic diversification aims at achieving growth without being affected by fluctuations in the prices of these two sources, but it is necessary to constantly develop them.
He referred to key developments in this regard, including the completion of preliminary studies for the development of a major project for the production of LNG from the North Field. This will help Qatar maintain its position as the world's largest liquefied natural gas exporter for many years to come.
His Highness the Amir also spoke about the merger of Qatargas and RasGas and how Qatar Petroleum is heading to become global. "Our oil exports have not been affected by the blockade, the State has been keen to fulfilling all its obligations under the existing contracts and has concluded several long-term contracts," he added.
"We have achieved great and rapid progress in nation-building, living standard and human development in health and education. We have many challenges ahead in these areas, and we have to ascertain commitment to the work ethics and the act of giving to the society. In this context, we also confirm the importance of national service and its role in building the youth of this country," HH the Amir said.
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