In keeping with past practice, the government adopted a conservative stance in drawing up revenue forecasts for the 2003/04 budget. Revenues in the new fiscal year, which began on 1 April, have been based on a $17-a-barrel oil price, up from $16 in fiscal 2002/03.

The slight rise, coupled with a projected increase in non-crude income – primarily liquefied natural gas (LNG) and petrochemicals – has resulted in budgeted revenues rising by 18.6 per cent to QR 21,586 million ($5,930 million), and the budgeted deficit falling to QR 1,726 million ($474 million) from the previous QR 1,819 million ($500 million).

Few expect a deficit to be recorded, however. Over the past three years, the government has turned in surpluses as a result of the surge in LNG production and robust oil prices. The last budget had a budgeted deficit of QR 1,819 million ($800 million), which is expected to turn into an actual surplus of QR 3,000 million ($824 million), says Mohamad Moabi, senior manager in the economics & planning department at Qatar National Bank (QNB). We expect that there will be another surplus this year of similar size.

The biggest item in major development projects is for public services and infrastructure, which sees a 38.2 per cent increase in its budgeted allocation to QR 4,266 million ($1,172 million). Of the total, road projects account for QR 1,001 million ($275 million), the sewerage sector QR 658 million ($180 million) and other projects QR 1,259 million ($345 million). Unlike in previous budgets, there was no mention of a budget allocation for the new Doha International Airport project.