Qatar is not diversifying its economy because it is, unlike its Gulf neighbours, running out of its oil and gas reserves any time soon. They have the third largest gas reserves in the world, following Russia and Iran, with an estimated 872 trillion cubic feet – the equivalent of 188 billion barrels of oil. At the current production rate, it is estimated these reserves will last for approximately 156 years.
The country is branching out because there is more to Qatar than oil and gas. The country has embarked on a wide-ranging investment programme to enhance the economic diversity ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The programme includes investing oil and gas revenues into major infrastructure projects, industrial manufacturing and to strengthen and develop financial and government services. The diversification also includes the transportation services and the tourism sector. The investment aims to diversify national revenue sources, rebalancing Qatar’s economy to focus on knowledge sectors that is in line with Qatar’s National Vision 2030.
The inaugural Qatar Self Sufficiency Exhibition 2018, which just concluded in Doha (April 1-3), was one such impactful declaration outlining the country’s expansion plan. The expo provided the perfect platform to showcase latest production lines for food, healthcare, industrial and environmental sectors. Apart from local manufacturers, the trade fair caught the fancy of exhibitors from Kuwait, Lebanon, UK, Turkey, Spain, USA, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Iran, China and more, who congregated at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre to network and share ideas for growth and development. Deals worth QR 15 Million were signed.
Abdulrahman Saleh Al Obaidly, Chairman of HiSky for Tourism and Exhibitions, the organisers of the exhibition, said that the idea stems from the vision of the Emir to broaden the economic horizons and focus on the significance of self-sufficiency.
It is expected that post 2022, Qatar will maintain a new chapter of economic progress focused on knowledge sectors and developing international expertise and talent.
Embargo a boon in disguise?
It’s been nearly a year since the Saudi Arabia-led blockade came into effect. If the idea was to stifle Qatar’s progressive stride, it has failed miserably. What it has done instead is it has stimulated the tiny nation into becoming more resolute and self-reliant. It triggered the emergence of a new Qatar.
While it was tough going initially, the siege finally drove Qatar to focus on turning hardships into privilege and freedom. There has been an explosion of developmental activities in all sectors of the economy. It is rapidly achieving food security with new-fangled urgency after the blockading countries severed supply routes. The predicament inspired Qatari farm owners to expand farmlands and amplify food and fodder productions with government support. Thousands of Jersey cows have been flown down from Australia to boost milk production and make Qatar self-reliant in dairy products.
As per a ministry report, Qatar’s poultry sector has seen a production surge from 40 to 80 percent since blockade took effect. It is also becoming self-sufficient in fresh meat by producing 100 percent of its requirements by 2018 end. The country has doubled its livestock and increasing fish yield with the start of fishing projects in its territorial waters.
Qatar has been continuously intensifying and deepening its trade relationship with a number of friendly nations. Metro and light railway networks and FIFA World Cup-related ventures are progressing advancing unimpeded. Qatar’s economy is predicted to remain one of the fastest growing in the region with a projected 3.4 growth in 2018.
Diversification will boost employment opportunities
Given the limited local population and the workforce in Qatar, the additional employment opportunities generated during the process of economic diversification will benefit locals as well as expatriates from around the world.
There was a reported decrease in job advertisements in Qatar at an average rate of 20% per month in the initial phase due to the blockade. However, the changing dynamics and the growing thrust on economic diversification through the setting up of new industries with the injection of foreign investments promises a robust market for people looking to make a living in the world’s richest country.
Although the Qatar government is already involved in reforming the labour laws, it must now also consider making it favourable enough to attract employees from various nationalities to fulfil its future workforce demands that is expected to continue to rise.