HH the Emir Inaugurates Advisory Council 44th Ordinary Session
HH the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani inaugurated the 44th ordinary session of the Advisory Council at its premises on Tuesday morning.
HH the Father Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani attended the opening. HH the Deputy Emir Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Thani, HH the Special Representative of HH the Emir Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al-Thani and HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa Al-Thani were also present at the opening.
The opening was also attended by HE the Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al-Thani and a number of Their Excellencies Sheikhs, Ministers, Heads of the diplomatic missions accredited to the state and the state’s dignitaries.
HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani declared the opening of the 44st session of the Advisory Council, expressing confidence that the new session will be similar to its previous ones, as a new and fruitful addition to the legislative work, which the esteemed Advisory Council is responsible for, within the framework set by the Constitution.
HH the Emir said that legislative policies in the State of Qatar are primarily directed to achieve the goals specified by the Permanent Constitution, namely: to proceed with establishing and developing the State of law and institutions, organizing the three powers of the State, maintaining and promoting the basic components of the family and society, and the creative balance between respect for the citizens’ rights and the public interest of the society and the homeland, and providing means of a decent life for the Qatari citizen in his present and his future.
“In the past years we issued, with your valuable contributions and diligent effort, many legislations in all these fields, especially regarding the organization of the State apparatus, health and education, organizing the economic activity, providing care for the family and the community, etc. We still have more to do, because our determination to pursue progress for our country and the well-being of our people is limitless,” HH the Emir said.
Despite the instability in the Middle East, and the sharp drop in the oil and gas prices, HH the Emir said that Qatar’s economy has maintained a good growth rate through 2014, as the growth rate of GDP at constant prices reached about 6.1%, which is a favorable rate.
“Its importance is noticeable when compared with the growth rates in the oil-exporting countries in the Middle East and North Africa, where the growth rate was 2.4%, and with an average growth rate standing at 3.6% of gross domestic product in the GCC countries, to which we belong,” HH the Emir noted.
What attracts attention, is that at the time of a drop of 1.5% in the contribution of the main component of GDP, which is the oil and gas sector, the non-oil sector contribution has increased by about 11%, HH the Emir pointed out.
HH the Emir added that this growth has been coupled with the continuation of a high level of confidence in Qatar’s economy by global rating agencies. Qatar has achieved advanced positions in global competitiveness indexes. Also a global credit rating institution has upgraded Qatar Stock Exchange to Emerging Markets Status (EMS) from Frontier Market (FM).
With feelings of gratification raised by these achievements, HH the Emir cautioned that such a large and continuous decline in energy prices, requires alertness. “I stress that it requires caution and alertness but not fear. Differentiation here is important, alertness is realistic and useful in public policies, but fear is not realistic and harmful, and does not help in drawing up the right policies, as it spreads the sort of climates that negatively impact the economy and investment, and hence becomes like a false self-fulfilling prophecy,” HH the Emir underlined.
“Caution must prompt us to be frank with each other, to band together in the face of challenges, and to be vigilant in rejecting the two extreme trends: the unjustified panic on the one hand, and the self-delusion that is reflected in embellishing reality for self-satisfaction, on the other hand,” HH the Emir added.
HH the Emir noted that Qatar had passed through more difficult stage than this stage when its economy was not at this level of configuration, and the energy industry in the country was not at such a level of development.
“But the key to passing through this stage safely is that each of us should realize that as he benefited during the stages of rapid growth and high oil prices, he should also bear with us the tasks, responsibilities and burdens of this stage. The participation by all, each according to his ability in bearing the burden, is fair. The citizen has no problem in making a contribution when he feels that there is fairness in the matter. ‘Allah does not assign burden to any soul except what is within its capacity,’ verily true are the words of Allah,” HH the Emir said.
HH urged hard working to keep the development process on the right track, despite the sharp decline in the oil prices, because the right development is the one that will protect the country from the negative effects of oil and gas price fluctuations in the future, and from the risks of changes in the global economy.
“Since 2008 we have taken precautions against that in Qatar National Vision 2030, and in the National Development Strategy of the State 2011 – 2016. On this occasion, I stress that despite the decline of prices in the energy market, we will continue to implement the infrastructure development and human development projects,” HH the Emir said.
HH the Emir said that Qatar National Vision 2030 aims at transforming Qatar into an advanced country, capable of achieving sustainable development and ensuring the continuation of a decent living standard for its people, for generations to come, by seeking to develop a diversified economy, with diminishing dependence on hydrocarbons, and where investment is directed towards knowledge-based economy, and the private sector grows in importance.
HH added that the 2011-2016 National Development Strategy has crystallized the development priorities during this period, which include sustaining economic prosperity, upgrading infrastructure, raising natural resource management efficiency, diversifying the national economy, activating the private sector role, and promoting human development especially in the fields of education, health and environment protection.
Preparatory work has begun to draw up the National Development Strategy 2017-2022. “Here I would like to indicate through you to the Ministers and all the staff involved in the National Development Strategy within and outside the State apparatus, that the items I have mentioned are objectives that could be accessible through a clear-cut action plan with proper indicators and benchmarks to measure the implementation success,” HH the Emir said.
HH the Emir emphasized the need to plug the gaps in the planning framework, improve coordination across the sector, and among different sectors, and to focus on outputs and outcomes. The actual concrete results are the criteria for the strategy success. “It is true that international ratings published by the newspapers from time to time about the ranking of Qatar in this or that field are encouraging and optimistic, but what is most important is our own assessment of the results, and how much are they real and tangible?” Regarding the efficiency and feasibility of government spending, HH the Emir said that the general budget for the fiscal year 2016 is being prepared to begin on the first of January next. It will take the fall in oil prices into consideration, so as to avoid a big budget deficit that may cause harm that surpasses the balance of payments to the overall economy.
“We must transform the mandatory spending control at this stage into an opportunity to face those drawbacks, and we should not miss this opportunity,” HH the Emir stressed.
HH noted that this budget will focus on efficiency in government spending. It will also tend to promote growth and expansion in non-oil sectors to diversify the economy.
HH the Emir said that the inflation rate for the current year is expected to be in the range of 2%, and despite the fact that this rate is low, the government should not hesitate at encouraging competition and at the same time controlling prices, to achieve financial and economic stability.
In the field of strengthening the private sector and economic diversification as well as limiting the State’s competition with the private sector, HH the Emir said that a comprehensive review of all State-owned companies has been carried out. “After submitting this review to the Supreme Council for Economic Affairs and Investment, I have directed that, subsidies for a number of these companies be ceased, and some to be privatized, and management of some be transferred to the private sector, and government corporations and companies not to compete with the private sector, and opportunities for this sector to implement government projects be enforced.” But the private sector in the State of Qatar must assume its responsibilities and take the initiative, and not to wait for the State to be a patron State. The patron State caters for the incapable citizens, children and the elderly. In addition to that, Qatar has been ranked first in the world in spending to subsidize consumer products, but when it comes to business, it must not be a patron State of business. Because that is an area of private initiative, HH the Emir underlined.
HH the Emir said that the State must strengthen the business sectors by arranging investment conditions, eliminating bureaucratic bottlenecks, and preparing an incubating infrastructure for the projects. But the rest depends on the business sector itself.
In addition, this sector is supposed to be more than just an intermediary between the State and foreign companies. “Surely, foreign companies are indispensable, but we want to see the domestic capital contribution, its initiatives and willingness to take risks in developing the national economy in order to make profit,” HH added.
HH the Emir said that the State undertakes vigorous efforts for developing economic zones, logistics, and storage facilities. Two industrial zones have been launched during 2014 and 2015. The government continues to put forward projects for tender to increase storage capacity and reduce operational costs for investors. “This does not solve the whole problem, as we must also address the unjustified rise in real estate prices. Everyone knows that high operational costs in all areas would eventually reach the State and inflate its budget. This is no longer possible.”
HH the Emir stressed that it is necessary to remove the bureaucratic obstacles encountering investment, especially some procedures that have turned into mere stumbling blocks hindering work. This also applies to some duplication among the ministries, and frequent changes in the procedures, transactions, requested forms and licenses, which tend to confuse citizens, as well as local and foreign investors. Many would not venture to invest, if the investor is requested every day to fill out a new form, a new license; or if several conditions were changed many times during the submission of the application. It is necessary to standardize as much as possible the procedures at the ministries, for the citizen and the investor by means of one-stop shop concept.
“This idea must find its way through to be implemented in a comprehensive manner. Surely, there is no investment without conditions. However, the conditions and procedures in our country must be clear, complex free and stable,” HH the Emir said.
“I have directed the government to hammer out an industrial strategy to increase the contribution of manufacturing industry to GDP, particularly, those based on knowledge. It is necessary for Qatar to produce at least part of its food. I hope that these plans will find their way into implementation,” HH the Emir added.
HH the Emir continued on saying: “I would like to take a short pause to address the Qatari youth, Qatar’s economy cannot dispense with foreign expertise and labor, this is true, yet Qatar cannot be built without you. It cannot be built on a limited number of professions and specialties that are pursued by all. There is a complete and vital sectors of the State such as the field of security, army and police, and even planning, management, engineering, medicine and scientific research, where we need Qatari youth, and Qatari youth must turn to all specialties and take their homeland into account when taking decisions.” Citizenship is not a set of privileges, but first and foremost is a sense of belonging to the homeland. This affiliation entails a set of rights and duties towards the society and the State. Citizenship is also a responsibility, HH the Emir underlined.
“A citizen has the right to benefit from the wealth of his country. But the citizen must ask himself from time to time, what did I give for my country and my community? What are the best ways to be useful? And what can I do to contribute to the national wealth of my country so that future generations can also benefit. This is what we mean when we say that the real wealth of nations is the human resource, and the real source of its poverty is also the human resource. Thus, countries differ from each other,” HH the Emir said.
“I also affirm here before you that if this is what expected from the citizen, then what is expected from anyone in a public position is much more than that. In this sense we will not tolerate financial and administrative corruption, or abuse of public positions for private purposes, or abandoning professional standards for a personal interest,” HH the Emir added.
Meanwhile, HH the Emir said: “Our pursuit for economic diversification and reducing the dependence on oil and gas does not mean that we will not pay adequate attention to maintain and develop this sector, because this sector has enabled us to achieve growth rates during a period of fifteen years, which are among the highest growth rates in the world, and this growth is the one that helped to achieve qualitative leaps in all economic, human and social fields, and it will remain for a long time a major component of the GDP and a source of wealth used to expand the production base for future generations.” In the field of foreign policy, HH the Emir said that Qatar continues its effective collective and bilateral work in the field of foreign policy in the various Gulf, Arab, Islamic, and international frameworks.
“I emphasize here on continuing our efforts with our brothers in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to strengthen our collaboration at all political, economic, social, and security levels, and on developing the Council’s action mechanisms, so as to be able to face the regional and global challenges and changes, and to achieve the interests of our peoples. We are also most keen to strengthen the fraternal relations with all brotherly Arab countries; which are desperately in need of unifying their ranks and positions and to deepen cooperation to cope with the risks and challenges they encounter,” HH the Emir said.
To the same extent, HH the Emir said that Qatar pays great attention to defending Arab and Islamic causes, achieving international peace and security, adhering to international legitimacy and building friendly relations that respect common interests with the countries of the world and which are based on mutual respect and non-interference in internal affairs.
“In these days in which we witness the uprising of the Palestinian people to defend themselves against the practices of the occupation, and protect the sanctities of the Arab and Islamic Umma as a whole, and the legendary steadfastness of the Syrian people in defending their right to a decent life in their homeland, I reiterate our commitment to these just causes and to our principles vis-a-vis all Arab issues,” HH the Emir said.