Optimism for Qatar amid uncertainty

07 April 2015

Steady growth forecast for Qatar’s economy

State-owned Qatar National Bank (QNB) has forecast that the country’s economic growth will accelerate to 7 per cent in 2015 and hit 7.9 per cent in 2017, driven mainly by ongoing project activity in the run-up to the 2022 Fifa World Cup football tournament.

The forecast was released after new data revealed growth of 6.2 per cent in 2014 and after the Qatari government outlined plans to spend $182bn on capital projects over the next three years, excluding spending in the oil and gas sector.

While there is no doubt that Qatar’s government finances are strong and the economy is robust, there are several factors that make it difficult to forecast just how well the Qatari economy will perform over coming years.

One of the key factors is going to be global energy prices.

Government data shows that Qatar’s hydrocarbon sector contracted by 1.5 per cent over 2014.

QNB predicts that it will return to growth in 2015, but this is by no means certain.

Qatar is the world’s biggest liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter, and the price of LNG often lags behind oil prices due to the nature of LNG contracts.

The Washington-headquartered IMF has predicted a sharp fall in the value of Qatar’s hydrocarbon exports in 2015 and 2016, due to lower prices and a reduction in hydrocarbon exports. It is expecting the value of exports to fall by more than a third during 2015 and a further 11 per cent in 2016.

While Qatar’s non-hydrocarbon economy is expected to drive growth in the run-up to the World Cup, it is difficult to estimate to what degree the country’s oil and gas industry is interlinked with sectors that are considered non-hydrocarbon industries.

The impact of a prolonged period of poor performance by Qatar’s oil and gas sector could curtail the country’s expectations.

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