In the name of God and with God’s blessings I declare the opening of the 43rd Session of the Advisory Council.
Members of the Advisory Council,
I welcome you to our annual meeting that we all treasure as a well-established constitutional tradition, in which we review the affairs of our beloved country, the course of government action towards realising our national and development goals, the performance of the national economy, and the services sector and public utilities, and the ways to develop them for the better, within the framework of the bases and strategies that we have endorsed to achieve the overall development and realise its objectives.
The keenness on assessment in the light of evaluating the results on the ground, is part of the strategies’ implementation process, so as to build on its advantages and to avoid the mistakes that were made.
The government is currently leading efforts to implement the national development strategy 2011-2016. 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 change in various economic, social and demographic factors.
This appraisal has shown that a number of parties that are taking part in the development march have drawn up their operational plans. It has also shown that the institutional cooperation and coordination between these parties have achieved positive beginnings. Yet, some parties have not done that yet.
I have issued my directives to the Prime Minister to prepare plans with a practical timetable to solve issues related to warehouses, logistical areas, economic zones industrialisation plan, licensing the required factories for the State, alongside a list of unwanted industries – unless there is an exception, resolving workers’ housing issues, developing a plan to meet the need for land plots in the State and a plan for promoting economic and trade sectors, activating the financial and stock markets, launching the first agricultural and food group, and developing a strategy for tourism with an illustration of tourist projects that will be completed during the next two years.
I would like to emphasise here that plans are not drawn up for the purpose of completing a procedure as a formality only, plans are drawn up to be implemented. Hence they must be designed carefully, and to be enforceable within the framework of relevant inputs, including available budgets. Our institutions must get used to respect the projected plan and to be held accountable for this plan and its goals.
Brothers, Members of the Advisory Council,
Our national economy remains, as it has always been, our primary preoccupation, and diversifying the income sources has become a necessity that we seek to achieve by various ways, namely, through allowing the private sector to actively participate in various aspects of economic activity and overall development of the State and to promote investments for future generations.
Our economy has achieved good growth rates in terms of GDP as it recorded growth rate of 6.3% this year. Realising this rate is considered as a great achievement if we take into account that the contribution of the hydrocarbon sector in the GDP did not make any significant increase in the same year, so all the growth came from the expansion in the non-oil sector, particularly the services, and especially the financial and construction sectors which have been stimulated by the huge external and internal investments, where the growth rate reached about 11%, in addition to the development in this year’s trade balance compared to previous years, which led to a surplus in the trade balance of 52% as a percentage of GDP.
While that growth is accompanied by a rise in inflation rate to 3.1% in 2013, yet we continue our efforts to curb inflation through coordinating fiscal and monetary policies, encouraging competition, and setting a timetable for implementing major projects to reduce pressure on the abilities capacities.
Encouraging competition to reduce prices will not be enough, but it is necessary to ease red tape procedures that increase investment risk, raise the storage capabilities and improve their conditions, try to reduce real estate prices, and plan carefully for managing and implementing projects so as to avoid constant change of specifications during the course of work that may increase cost. It is also necessary to control the prices of consumer goods.
With our constant emphasis on the private sector as the main partner in development, the government has approved an ambitious programme to stimulate the private sector and support the infrastructure for trade. This programme which is composed of 19 projects and initiatives, supports practice of business competitiveness.
The government is also in the process of completing the preparation of new legislation and measures that will contribute to developing the business environment and leaving the widest possible space for the private sector to contribute to the sustainable development in the business sector.
I have directed the government to work on launching the economic zones and the new port project in accordance with specific time limits. And in this context, the government is in the process to merge Qatar company for medium and small enterprises with Qatar Development Bank, in order to unify the efforts and to ensure implementing support projects directed towards this important sector.
Within the context of the efforts to encourage foreign investment, non-Qataris have been allowed to increase the percentage of equity stake they own in companies listed on the Qatar Exchange, and GCC citizens have now the same treatment accorded to the Qataris in this respect.
The government has taken other serious steps to promote the participation of the private sector, by encouraging the government institutions to assigning services and support operations to private companies, and a circular has been issued requiring the State-funded institutions not to establish companies or engage in economic activities without a permission from the Office of the Prime Minister, for the State should not compete with the private sector.
Within the same context, Mesaieed Petrochemical Company was listed on the stock exchange under the State’s plan to offer part of the shares of leading government companies for the public, in order to increase the citizens’ participation in economic activity and strengthen financial markets in the State.
In the preparation of the annual budget for the year 2014-2015 raising the efficiency of government spending was taken into account, with allocating a large part of the increase in expenditure for implementing the major projects in health, education, infrastructure, and transportation sectors, since the total expenditure on these projects will be over 50% of the total expenditure in the budget for this year. The total budget expenditure estimates have reached 218.4 billion riyals with an increase of 3.7% over the previous budget.
Perhaps the best testament to the success of our economic policies and the strength and status of the Qatari economy, is the international indices, that are prepared in accordance with the principles of objectivity and actual figures, which show that Qatar has maintained an advanced credit rating, among the highest in the world, and it has also ranked high on the Global Competitiveness indices.
We are currently facing a decline in oil and fuel prices at the world market level. This is not the place to discuss the reasons for this, but I would like just to emphasise here that our economy is strong and solid and will not be affected by such developments, and our budget is based on very conservative estimates of fuel prices. But nevertheless, I stress that the waste, extravagance, mishandling of State funds, lack of respect for the budget, reliance on the availability of money to cover up mistakes are all behaviours that must be disposed of, whether oil prices are high or low.
Reasonable spending is an economic matter first and foremost, however, it is not only an economic matter but it is also a civilised issue related to the type of society that we want and the type of individual that we rear in the State of Qatar.
Dear Brothers, Members of the Advisory Council,
Regarding our foreign relations, the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf remains the main regional home. Supporting it and strengthening our relations with all its sisterly countries, and deepening the bonds of fraternity among us, come at the forefront of our foreign policy priorities.
In this context, we welcome our brothers, the Gee leaders, at their summit due to be hosted by Qatar next month, hoping that this summit would come out with decisions that meet and achieve the aspirations and ambitions of our peoples in the Gulf, and contribute to achieving and supporting security and stability in the region.
On the other hand, our region is passing through a dangerous stage where there are concurring crises in many countries of the region, foremost among which are the failure of the peace negotiations to solve the Palestinians issue, the continuation of occupation and settlement policy in Jerusalem and the West Bank, and the siege on Gaza.
The other major crises resulted from driving the peaceful movements of the peoples in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya into bloody confrontations whose responsibility is borne by the forces which rejected the path of reform and gradual peaceful transition and confronted the peoples with arms, apart from the growing perils of terrorism and extremism which threaten with dire consequences.
I said before that terrorism and extremism could not be addressed by air strikes. This is true from the military point of view, also from both the political and social aspect, we must get rid of the reasons that contributed to the formation of social environments that incubate extremism, namely, the unprecedented violence perpetrated by the Syrian regime, and practised by some militias in Iraq. Any policy to combat terrorism in Syria and Iraq, which does not take this into account is a crisis management policy without a strategy. I’d like to add here, that our position towards terrorism and religious radicalism offending the religious sentiment and the community is a clear and categorical rejection, regardless of the analysis of the causes of its inception and handling.
The Almighty said: “Whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption (done) in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.” Allah is totally truthful.
Our stand regarding combating terrorism and taking the life of another without right, and rejecting extremism, first and foremost, emanates from the social and cultural threat that it poses to our society, our religion and our nation. We do not want for ourselves and our children to live under such ideas and practices.
The unity and stability of brotherly Yemen is of critical importance, not only for Yemen, but for the entire region, so we appeal to all political forces in Yemen to spare the Yemeni people further division and suffering, and to work towards the implementation of the national dialogue outputs and the peace and partnership agreement, so that the brotherly Yemeni people’s legitimate aspirations for security and stability are realised.
The Yemen youth took to the streets against the old regime in a clear challenge to armed violence. They have refused sectarian and tribal intolerance, and reflected a bright picture for the future of Yemen, as other young people did in public squares of Arab cities, and in spite of all those who tried to soak the dreams of those young people in blood, still we look up at them as the hope and the future of their homelands and nations.
In this context, we say that the genocidal war waged by the regime against the Syrian people, while the world watched, has reached the point dishonouring both the Arab and international communities, especially the major powers. Once again we call for no tardiness in exerting the necessary efforts to break the deadlock surrounding the Syrian issue and work to reach a political settlement to end that conflict in a way that achieves the hopes and aspirations of the brotherly Syrian people, whose humanitarian sufferings have exceeded all limits of toleration.
With regard to the Palestinian cause, being the Arab world central issue, and while we salute the steadfastness of the Palestinian people in facing the Israeli occupation, we do emphasise the support of the State of Qatar for their struggle to get all their legitimate rights, particularly establishing their independent State with Jerusalem as its capital within the 1967 borders. We also reaffirm our support for the national unity of the Palestinian people.
While looking forward to sisterly Libya to surpass its ordeal, we call on all the Libyan people’s spectrum to compromise, put aside their differences, stop the bloodshed, and consecrate legitimacy in order to achieve the aspirations of the Libyan people for security and stability.
While expressing deep concern over the security developments in brotherly Iraq, which caused heavy human and material losses and lack of stability, we call on our brothers in Iraq to achieve national reconciliation and put the national interests above the parochial interests and tendencies for revenge in order to achieve stability and preserve the unity and sovereignty of Iraq.
Honourable Brothers, Members of the Advisory Council,
Building the State of institutions and law, should have a constitutional and legislative framework, and the State of Qatar has seen in recent years a major legislative advancement to complete the legislative system necessary for the State institutions to perform their tasks efficiently, and to regulate various aspects of activity in the State.
While I appreciate your esteemed council’s big role in this regard and in enriching the legislative work, I wish you all success.
May God help you, and May God’s Peace, Mercy and Blessings be upon you.