Qatari emir: govt can no longer ‘provide for everything’

DOHA: Qatar’s ruler on Tuesday warned citizens that the small Gulf state’s government can no longer “provide for everything” and called on individuals to take personal initiatives to build a strong nation, amid a year of tumbling oil prices likely to dent national budgets in the region.

Years of unprecedented wealth in the country had led some to a situation of “dependency on the state to provide for everything,” Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani said in an address to Qatar’s 45-member Advisory Council, the state-run Qatar News Agency reported.

Generous state subsidies and benefits had reduced the “motivation of individuals to take initiatives and be progressive,” said Sheikh Tamim. The 35-year-old leader, who took over after his father’s abdication in 2013, said that reduced government spending would help citizens “reject self-delusion.”

Sheikh Tamim did not give specific figures for this year’s projected budget balance or next year’s plan, but his speech suggested Qatar was moving away from the double-digit spending increases that characterized the past decade.

“This budget will focus on efficiency in government spending. It will also tend to promote growth and expansion in non-oil sectors to diversify the economy,” he said.

As the world’s top liquefied natural gas exporter, Qatar’s finances are among the strongest in the Gulf, but its earnings have plunged this year; exports of petroleum gases and other gaseous hydrocarbons shrank 40 percent from a year earlier to $3.6 billion in September.

State shortfall

Qatar has admitted it is facing a fiscal shortfall of 4.9 percent of Gross Domestic Product in 2016 and of 3.7 percent in 2017 due to falling oil prices.

Sheikh Tamim also urged an end to corruption wasteful government spending, and excessive bureaucracy.

“We will not tolerate financial and administrative corruption, or abuse of public positions for private purposes, or abandoning professional standards for a personal interest,” he said, in comments carried by QNA.

In addition, companies must stop being “patrons” of the state and instead create a more robust private sector, Sheikh Tamim said, announcing that a review of all state-run firms had been carried out, and that subsidies for some companies would be cut completely.

“After submitting this review to the Supreme Council for Economic Affairs and Investment, I have directed that subsidies for a number of these companies be ceased, and some to be privatized,” Sheikh Tamim said, without naming the firms.

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