It´s spelling good news for the health, education and infrastructure segments as they enjoy the largest share of Qatar´s 2016 Budget, at QR 91.9 billion, or 45.4 per cent of the total.
The spending on infrastructure, which totals to QR 50.6 billion, includes railways, the new Doha port, large roadways and the expansion of electricity, water and sewage networks.
Among all Gulf states, Qatar took the lead in presenting the 2016 Budget, also confirming the shift of its financial year to December 31 from March 31, in support to the private sector practice.
For all good, transportation has been in focus, which also includes development of multibillion rail projects ahead of 2022. Qatar Rail is managing the construction of the integrated rail network, Doha Metro and the Lusail Light Rail Transit. As in the case of Doha metro, the first phase is set to be operational in 2019, and the second in 2026.
Despite the positives, as per the Budget announcement, by December 2016, the country expects to post a deficit of QR 46.5 billion ($12.8 billion), its first in 15 years. Although Qatar has been realistic in dealing with the global challenges of plunging oil prices, the deficit is a clear indication of the turmoil oil prices are bringing to gulf economies.
As reported, Qatar has budgeted for revenues of QR 156 billion and expenditures of QR 202.5 billion in 2016. This compares with QR 226 billion and QR 218.4 billion, respectively, in the previous budget. Certainly, the drop in oil prices could leave a country with no better choice. But while there could be a conformist approach towards revenues, the Budget is said to continue spending in key sectors like health, education, infrastructure and transport, with special focus on railways and other projects tied to Qatar´s hosting of the 2022 World Cup.
But, the expenditures too don´t stand at par with the previous years. Total spending for 2016 is at $55.6 billion as compared to $60 billion in 2015. This indeed may not sync with Qatar´s performance, which is known for its budgetary surpluses. But its several years of surpluses could help in financing the deficit.
As per reports, the country possesses a substantial amount of sovereign wealth funds, estimated at $256 billion held by Qatar Investment Authority. It is evident: Despite the odds, Qatar is holding on to its strengths - state reserves and its aptitude to finance any deficit. And, with this, we hope for the country, a safe and non-slippery journey this fiscal.
Also, this edition focuses on the Qatar market, especially the 13th edition of Project Qatar. With participation from 37 countries, including 15 national pavilions spread over five halls, and an outside area, covering 32,000 sq m of exhibition space - optimism prevails and companies are confident of the current and future opportunities in the country. We wish you a happy read!