The speech comes less than a month before kick off for the World Cup.
Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani touched on domestic and global issues on Tuesday at this year’s opening session of the Shura Council.
The Qatari leader spoke at the Shura Council’s new “Tamim bin Hamad Hall”, named in honour of his support to the legislative body.
Sheikh Tamim started off his speech by listing the Gulf state’s latest economic developments, which he said has managed to power through global challenges including the setback led by the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020.
“We are grateful to Allah that we were at the forefront of countries that succeeded, by virtue of the measures taken at the national level, in addressing these negative effects and mitigating their toll,” added the amir.
Qatar’s gross domestic product in the first half of this year alone spiked by 4.3% coupled with a 7.3% growth rate of the non-oil sector, in comparison to the same period in 2021, he added.
“The hike in energy prices turned a projected budget deficit at the beginning of the year into a surplus of QAR 47.3 billion in the first half of the year,” said the amir.
The multi-billion dollar North Field expansion project, the largest of its kind, is set to further contribute to Qatar’s economic growth, placing it as the leader of liquified natural gas (LNG) production on a global scale.
The project is expected to increase Qatar’s LNG production capacity to 126 million tonnes per annum by 2027.
“The North Field expansion project is one of the most important strategic projects that support our economy and the State’s public finance in the long term,” said the amir.
Qatar’s annual inflation rate reached 4.6% in the first half of the year, which the amir said is lower than global figures thanks to necessary measures taken by the Gulf state to reduce it.
“Qatar has also occupied an advanced global position at the food security level, as a result of implementing the national strategy for food security through several strategic productive projects,” said Sheikh Tamim.
Commenting on Qatar’s sustainability initiatives, the amir noted the country “has adopted the national program of integrated resource sustainability, waste recycling and building of treatment”.
Last week, QatarEnergy inaugurated the Al-Kharsaah solar energy project, covering 10% of Qatar’s electricity consumption.
The Gulf state has also worked on encouraging investors in all of its sectors by amending legislation to remove obstacles that hinder investments.
“The state is also working on amending the legislation regulating foreign investment to remove the obstacles facing that investment, projecting Qatar at the international level as an incubator for direct international investment and improving the investment environment,” said the leader.
World Cup criticism
Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has slammed an anti-Qatar campaign that has been levelled at the Gulf state since it won the bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, saying “no other host nation” has faced this level of criticism.
“Since we won the honour of hosting the World Cup, Qatar has faced an unprecedented campaign that no other host nation has received. And we had handled it at first in good faith while considering some of the criticism positive and beneficial,” Sheikh Tamim told the Shura Council on Tuesday.
With the World Cup less than a month away, the amir noted that the major event is where Qatar “proves itself” on various fronts, both economically and culturally. The Gulf state is the first Arab nation to host the much-anticipated tournament.
Qatar has received a barrage of criticism for its track record in its treatment of migrant workers, with scrutiny exacerbating in recent weeks as the World Cup looms around the corner.
Western media outlets have also continued to release headlines that have been slammed by experts and officials in Qatar as misleading and “sensationalist”.
Despite this, Doha has introduced major reform to improve the conditions for workers in the country, with officials assuring such progress will continue long after the tournament ends.
The amir added that while the criticism has helped Qatar “develop aspects that needed development”, it has continued to rear its ugly head.
“It soon became clear to us that the campaign has continued and expanded, and includes slander and double standards, until it has reached such a ferocity that many, unfortunately, wonder about the real reasons and motives behind it,” said Sheikh Tamim.
The Qatari leader explained that the World Cup encompasses aspects such as positive change, accepting challenges, and involving it in developing its infrastructure.
“This is a big test for a country the size of Qatar, that amused the entire world with what it achieved and continues to achieve. We accepted this challenge with faith in our capabilities as Qataris,” said the amir.
The World Cup is scheduled to kick off on 20 November and is set to attract at least 1.5 million spectators.
On foreign policy
The amir highlighted Qatar’s key position in achieving peace regionally and globally, noting that Doha’s approach “is based on complying with international law” and “adopting preventive diplomacy in defusing crises before they escalate.
“The commitment to and application of these principles has made Qatar a reliable partner in peace making and stability support,” said the amir.
Sheikh Tamim’s speech also comes amid a global energy crisis that was further exacerbated by the ongoing Russian war on Ukraine, with its “detriments increasing day by day.”
“In the complex international circumstances, Qatar maintains its positive balance between its principles and interests, a stance which has earned it remarkable respect,” said the amir.
Europe was particularly hit by the crisis in Ukraine, given its heavy reliance on Russian gas.
The region previously received 40% of its gas supplies from Moscow and almost a third of the shipments pass through Ukraine. However, the supplies dropped amid sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.
As a LNG giant, Qatar was approached by European countries in bid to ditch reliance on Russian gas. Some of those countries include Germany, Italy, and Austria.
The Gulf state previously stated that Doha alone cannot fill Europe’s entire demand for gas, pointing to long-term contacts with its Asian buyers.
“We are doing our best to contribute to addressing the crisis in global energy shortage in consultation with our partners, and our strategic plans,” said the amir.
The Qatari leader added that the expansion of its mega gas field “will have a significant impact on mitigating the repercussions” of the energy crisis “in the short and medium terms.”