In a sign of its growing fiscal confidence, the government announced on 27 March an expansionary budget for 2002/03. The budget, which came into effect on 1 April, forecasts a 14 per cent rise in spending to QR 20,026 million ($5,500 million) and a 1 per cent increase in revenues to QR 18,207 million ($5,000 million), leaving a budgeted deficit of QR 1,819 million ($500 million). In fiscal 2001/02, the government budgeted a surplus of QR 497 million ($136 million), which local economists say has been exceeded.
The main winner in the budget was public projects, which saw its budgeted allocation rise by an estimated 40 per cent to QR 4,100 million ($1,264 million). Public services and infrastructure were allocated QR 3,086 million ($847 million), with QR 646 million ($177 million) going to road construction, QR 450 million ($124 million) to wastewater projects, QR 209 million ($57 million) to the Doha International Airport expansion project and QR 226 million ($62 million) for power and water schemes.
Of the QR 887 million ($244 million) budgeted for health and social services, QR 375 million ($103 million) has been allocated for the construction of 1,050 low cost houses, QR 200 million ($55 million) for sports facilities and QR 119 million ($33 million) for hospitals. A further QR 418 million ($113 million) has gone for education and youth projects.
Given that revenues have been based on a conservative $16 a barrel oil price, a balanced budget, rather than a sizable deficit, is achievable, economists say. The oil price in early April reached $26 a barrel.
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