Al-Attiya said that Qatar’s ambitious energy investment programme – estimated at $3,000 million a year up until 2006 – had been safeguarded against low oil prices. ‘We are very conservative in our investment planning. To be very conservative is very good in our business,’ he said. ‘We are averse to building white elephants.’

Al-Attiya also called on the international banking community to be more flexible to financing energy projects in the region. ‘The bankers should understand that there are cycles in the energy business, rather than being worried about the immediate outlook,’ he said. ‘They should not look at the next-20 -year forecasts, but take the last 20 years, and they will see that there has not been one default in the region.’

Speaking 10 days after Qatar Fuel Company (Wuqud), the state’s first semi-private energy company, was set up, Al-Attiya said it would be up to the Higher Economic Council to decide whether QP should sell off some other of its existing assets to the private sector. ‘The council will discuss the situation,’ he said. ‘We do have a good stock market in Doha and privatisations, such as Wuqud, will assist its development.’