Economy

Forward Planning

Development Strategy

While oil prices dropped sharply at the end of 2014, leading to a lower consumer price for fuel, and while homes and industry are burning natural gas, it may seem […]

While oil prices dropped sharply at the end of 2014, leading to a lower consumer price for fuel, and while homes and industry are burning natural gas, it may seem too early for Qatar to talk about an end to hydrocarbons as a pillar of the global economy. Yet Qatar’s National Development Strategy (NDS) for 2011-16, as a five-year subset of their National Vision 2030, has set aspirations of human, social, economic, and environmental development, to offset a potential future where hydrocarbons are no longer the tent pole of Qatar’s economy, but instead play a part in placing Qataris among the world’s most advanced nations.

The NDS presents Qatar as facing five major issues: the first, that of modernization while preserving Qatari culture and traditions; second, sustainable development which balances the needs of current generations with those of the future; an economic strategy which manages growth and avoids uncontrolled expansion or inflation; a “Qatarization” policy of offering education which will allow Qatar’s citizens to access jobs for which foreigners have previously been preferred; and developmental management which aligns economic growth with environmental management and social development, which is intended to protect Qatar’s religious and cultural values, including the sanctity of the family and home.

The Strategy breaks these five issues down into 20 key challenges which Qatar faces before it reaches the 2030 target of an advanced country developing sustainably with a high standard of living. As an example, when it comes to the economy, the aims include diversifying the economy away from natural gas, the funding of research and development in fields which offer employment to Qatar’s citizens in fields other than oil & gas or media, specifically funding medical research.

As an example of the kind of development intended, in recent years Qatar has developed Education City, a 14-sq-km area housing campuses for eight faculties from universities based in the USA, UK, and France. These include Texas A&M University, Weill Cornell Medical College, University College London (UCL) Qatar, as well as Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, whose notable graduates include Qatar’s deputy emir Abdullah bin Hamad al-Thani. These schools include many foreign students as well as foreign-based residents of Qatar, reflecting Qatar’s openness to the world. These school campuses reflect $6.5bn investment, through the direction of the national Qatar Foundation.

These efforts fall under the rubric of promoting human development, a key tenet of the five major pillars of the Strategy. Like many Gulf countries, Qatar hopes to secure employment for their own citizens, but unlike many of its neighbors who have tried (and failed, often in repeated spurts every few years) to give all jobs to locals, Qatar’s strategy aims to keep 20% of employment reserved for Qatari citizens, reflecting the greater openness and tolerance towards the outside world for which Qatar is rightly recognized.

Another key element of the Strategy is environmental protection, a concern when the economy of the Gulf has for decades counted on the extraction and processing of oil, and the environment has often taken a backseat to the ferocious pace of development. Qatar has resolved that future generations should not have less reason to live in, and love, the Gulf area, by protecting and developing the freshwater, air, and green spaces within the country. These plans include two projects with the involvement of the private sector, and a national environmental awareness campaign, already underway. Energy reduction and water efficiency in the homes are elements of this plan, but so are plans to reduce the flaring of gas to .0115 bcm per million tons of energy by half from 2008 levels, as well as the recycling and enhanced management of solid waste.

In June 2014, the Qatar Solar Energy company opened a solar-panel factory, with panels currently generating 300MW of energy a year, with the intention to eventually produce 2.5GW of solar energy annually. This reflects a commitment by Qatar to convert two percent of its power output to renewable sources by 2020.

Social cohesion is also key, and Qatar’s leaders are aware that modernization and globalization, while delivering prosperity for Qatar, are also bringing with them challenges to traditional Qatari cultural, religious and family values. Efforts are underway to safeguard and develop Qatar’s national heritage, while also allowing for a multi-stakeholder program, which would go some distance to giving the many foreign workers present in Qatar a voice in their governance. An example of the preservation of Islamic tradition can be seen in the building of the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, designed by architect I. M. Pei (see Focus on page 189). There is also Katara Cultural Village, which is Qatar’s largest and most multidimensional cultural project, contributing to the achievement of Qatar National Vision 2030. In line with the goals set forward by the Qatar National Vision 2030, Katara serves as a guardian to the heritage and traditions of Qatar and endeavors to spread awareness about the importance of every culture and civilization. Katara Cultural Village hosts international as well as regional festivals, workshops, performances, and exhibitions.

Qatar will be also hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2022, and this global event may serve as the springboard by which Qatar can display to the world the advances made. In a display of Qatar’s commitment to sustainable development and respect for the environment, the Al Wakrah Stadium built for the 2022 World Cup will supply 15% of tournament energy using on-site renewable sources and minimize waste by 90% through design efficiency and construction waste management.

“This strategy has been subjected to an objective appraisal three years after being launched to monitor progress made in its implementation, and the amendments to its targets in light of changes in various economic, social, and demographic factors,” Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani wrote for TBY. “The institutional cooperation and coordination between these parties have achieved positive beginnings.”

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