Qatar: Looking beyond heavy industry to diversify its economy

30 May 2011

Doha is looking to attract financial services and other white-collar industries to diversify its economy

Now that Qatar’s stellar hydrocarbons growth is about to end, the country is about to enter what many experts say will be the most important decade of its history.

With so much gas available it would seem that attracting heavy industry would be the logical choice for Qatar, but in reality it seems that Doha is satisfied with what it has got.

The state-owned Qatar Steel Company (Qasco) is a major player in the Middle East, with more than 15 million tonnes a year (t/y) of steel production.

While Qasco still has plans to add further capacity to its main complex at Mesaieed, it is also increasing its regional footprint by taking shares in other steel mills across the region.

Qasco has been around since 1974 and knows the Middle East steel market as well as anyone. Taking strategic shares in various mills across the GCC rather than adding massive extra capacity in Qatar is obviously something the company has thought long and hard about.

 In contrast, Qatar Aluminium (Qatalum) is a brand new smelter and is still commissioning its first phase, which has a capacity of 585,000 t/y. The company has plans to double its capacity in a second and third phase, but no timescale has been set as yet.

What this indicates is that Doha does not see attracting more heavy industry as a suitable way of diversifying its economy. This is backed up by the government trying to attract financial services and other white-collar industries to the country.

So, while Qatar has the gas to fuel an industrial boom, it seems it is going to leave that to its larger neighbours in the GCC.

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