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HH The Amir Speech at the Opening of the 45th Advisory Council Session

01 November 2016



 

In the name and blessings of Almighty God, I declare the opening of the 45th Session of the Advisory Council.

Honourable brothers, members of the Advisory Council,

I congratulate you on the occasion of opening the new session of your esteemed Council, which marks the beginning of a new legislative term, which we are confident will be a big boost in the domain of upgrading our legislation to be responsive to our national requirements for economic and social development, and in helping the government with thoughtful opinions to implement its annual and future plans and programmes in order to fulfil and execute the Qatar National Vision as per the specified time limit and achieve its objectives.

Honourable brothers,

A few days ago we bid farewell to His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani, the Grandfather Amir. With his departure we lost one of our most prominent leaders and builders of modern Qatar, which holds to its genuine Arab and Islamic values and traditions. The occasion will not suffice to cite the achievements of our deceased grandee. These have been mentioned time and again in recent days, yet his scented memory will remain vivid in the minds and hearts of all Qataris. May Allah bestow mercy on him and rest his soul in His most spacious paradise, and grant mercy to our dead and to the martyrs of this homeland and this Umma.

I extend my thanks to all those who expressed their condolences and sympathies to us on this loss. 

Honourable brothers, members of the Advisory Council,

Economic affairs remain a matter of prime concern for us, especially in light of the circumstances created by the sharp decline in hydrocarbon prices, but we are determined to proceed with our development plans to achieve the goals we have drawn up in Qatar’s National Vision.

In this regard, new realities are emerging in the global energy industry as a result of accelerating technological developments, which have led to an increase in oil and gas production to unprecedented levels and the subsequent sharp decline of prices in the global energy markets.

Also, the drop in growth rates in significant energy markets has placed pressure on prices due to a decrease in demand and increase in supply.

Furthermore, forecasts suggest that uncertainty will linger in those markets.

Frankly speaking, although we had anticipated that high energy prices would not remain indefinitely, and we adopted Qatar’s National Vision in preparation for the day when we can achieve sustainable development to diversify sources of income and avoid relying exclusively on oil and gas, no one expected this fast decline in energy prices.

In spite of the sharp decline in oil and gas prices, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at constant-prices posted an annual growth rate of around 3.6% in 2015, in comparison with the average 1.9% growth rates in oil exporting countries in the Middle East, according to the IMF.

Qatar has maintained its credit rating, which is one of the highest in the world. It has also continued to assume top positions in the indices of Global Competitiveness. Qatar ranked 18th in the latest world competitiveness report by the World Economic Forum and ranked second in the Middle East.

Honourable brothers,

By presenting these figures we do not mean to underestimate the negative repercussions of the energy markets’ current crisis on our economy, but we want to illustrate by figures an actual reality, namely that our economy is still robust and credited with a high level of confidence by the global rating agencies. This is an accomplishment per se against the backdrop of the current circumstances.

To counter the negative effects of these developments, we have to continue to implement the development process we started in 2008 by launching the Qatar National Vision 2030 and the first National Development Strategy 2011-2016. We are now in the process of launching the Second National Development Strategy 2017-2022.

We have to intensify the efforts we started during the implementation of the First National Development Strategy, and rely on an in-depth objective assessment to identify its strengths and weaknesses.

To be more specific, the parameters of Qatar’s Second National Development Strategy could be summarised as follows:

First: Identifying the obstacles that hampered the implementation of some programmes and projects in the First National Development Strategy to draw lessons in order to avoid recurrence.

Second: Maintaining the required continuity to complete the initiatives and infrastructure projects under implementation and major projects, including the facilities of Qatar World Cup 2022, in compliance with Qatar National Vision 2030.

Third: Reviewing development priorities in light of the outcome of the First National Development Strategy and new global developments.

Fourth: Identifying the available opportunities to implement new programmes and projects compatible with the sectoral and national priorities.

Fifth: Achieving education and health projects in a manner that satisfies, qualitatively and quantitatively, the needs of citizens, according to the highest global standards. Although we set out in these fields of basic human development from the point of responsibility of the state in the first place, still we concluded that it is necessary to benefit from the constructive interaction between the private and public sectors in this respect.

Sixth: Eliminating bureaucratic impediments facing investments. The government has pledged to implement the standardisation of transaction procedures and the “single window” by the end of this year. We expect further measures to remove obstacles and complications facing investments.

Seventh: Stimulating the private sector and directing it towards the most productive sectors or service-cum-production sectors that are compatible with National Vision trends.

Eighth: Transitioning from the state of reception imbedded in simple social welfare policies to a state of action by empowering all segments of society to participate in national development.

Ninth: Continuous review of tariffs and fees for many services and commodities to better reflect their economic cost, and to direct subsidies towards targeted groups in need in a way not conducive to extravagance and waste.

Tenth: Developing and modernising the public sector’s institutions in order to reach a distinctive public sector credited with efficiency, transparency, and subject to accountability.

Putting these elements into effect requires development of the culture of planning, work and accomplishment. Also, providing needed finance to implement them requires an alteration in the culture of consumption and handling of wealth as well as an approach that combines the expectations of both the state and the citizens who belong to this society and this nation.

Sometimes, dear brothers, when I see billboards on the streets that read: “Qatar deserves the best”, I say it would be more correct to read: “Qatar deserves the best from its citizens”. There are challenges that we should tackle, which are related to the motives and values of youths and the impact of the culture of consumption on these motives and values. Without this we cannot move forward; wealth alone is not sufficient. Citizenship is an affiliation, which incorporates rights on the part of the state as well as duties towards the community and the state.

We have achieved some significant steps in the introduction of the national service, and we should evaluate this experience to benefit from it before moving forward to upgrade this experience needed by the state, the community and the Qatari youth.

In Qatar we have to be fully aware of our reality. We have accomplished a lot and we can accomplish more, but we have to set out from prevalent reality and not from wishful thinking.

Honourable brothers, members of the Advisory Council,

We have taken advantage of the drop in prices to explore the potential for rationalising spending, and distinguishing necessary from unnecessary as well as beneficial from non-beneficial. Work will continue on increasing the efficiency of public spending and enhancing transparency and control through a close follow-up of all government projects and programmes and focusing on major development projects. The synergy between fiscal and monetary policies to fight inflation, tackle liquidity pressures and strengthen the banking sector has been promoted. 

In addition, the state has made significant initiatives and great efforts to strengthen the private sector and increase its participation in economic activity, namely:

First: Implementation of the new government tenders’ law, which exempts small and medium businesses from some requirements of government tenders, such as financial guarantees.

Second: Updating trade laws and legislations to liberalise certain goods and services from the commercial agents’ monopoly and permit 
non-agents to import them. The government is working on liberalising other sectors in the future in order to bolster competition.

Third: Updating corporate laws, legislations and methods of drafting financial statements of companies so as to comply with international standards.

Fourth: Acting on finalising a law on partnership between the public and private sectors, which will enable the awarding of government projects to the private sector as well as ensure their high-quality and low cost implementation. It will also help to promote foreign investment in Qatar, especially at the current stage in which we are investing in infrastructure. It is difficult to provide funds for all of the projects that we want to execute as per the strategic plan.

Fifth: The involvement of Qatar Development Bank in manifold activities to encourage small and medium businesses, including direct and indirect financing. 

Sixth: Developing huge housing complexes for workers in the industrial area as well as in the economic and logistical zones.

In the area of infrastructure, activities for developing projects for express ways’ networks have been intensified across the country. Seven projects have been completed and the implementation of fifteen projects is under way. Six other projects will be implemented at an estimated total cost of 60 billion Qatari Riyals. All these projects are due to be completed ahead of 2022. 

Honourable Brothers,

Whilst seeking to reduce dependency on oil and gas in our economic activities and striving to achieve economic diversification, we will continue to pay adequate attention to the energy sector as an important source to expand our economic base.

Therefore, our activities in this sector are still based on several levels, with a focus on exploration projects locally and overseas. In line with Qatar’s National Vision on preservation and conservation of the environment, a project – the largest of its kind worldwide – on recovering evaporating gas during the loading of gas onboard liquefied gas tankers to reduce the carbon footprint, has been commissioned. We also set out to develop a project to generate electricity from solar energy with production capacity of 200 megawatts (MW) in the first phase, rising later to more than 500MW.

Honourable brothers, members of the Advisory Council,

The state has carried out important steps to rationalise spending. It has to combine the evolution of a modern and distinctive public sector mainly benchmarked against success, with encouraging the private sector to implement projects and programmes set by the national strategies that aim to achieve sustainable prosperity for the State of Qatar. But this development process will not succeed without the cooperation of everyone. Here I especially mention public sector employees and entrepreneurs in the private sector. 

A public sector employee should not be inactive in discharging work requirements. A job is a right, but discharging the tasks of this job is a duty. The citizen’s rights on our part include education, training and qualifying him for work, and it is his duty to do his work in the best way possible, accomplishing his tasks on time and as per the required accuracy and complete integrity. As a citizen he also bears an additional duty of advancing the work and being proud of it to realise its mission in serving the community and the state.

As for the entrepreneurs, I want to say that the state expects a payback for the benefits that it provides to the private sector, in order to help put the development process on the right track by launching bold national initiatives and entering into real rather than nominal partnerships with the world’s most reputable foreign companies to transfer technology, and encourage excellence and innovation. This will create an inventive private sector capable of competing globally and having a commitment to the National Vision’s values, such as encouraging the national workforce and preserving the environment.

Honourable Brothers,

With regard to our foreign policy, the support of the Cooperation Council of the Arab States of the Gulf, and the strengthening and development of the relations between our brotherly countries, occupy the forefront of our priorities, especially against the backdrop of very serious developments gripping the world, which have undermined the stability and security of many countries in our Arab region.

Concerning the security and stability of the Gulf region and from the standpoint of our solid principles, we call for resolving differences through constructive and purposeful dialogue in the context of mutual respect and non-interference in internal affairs.

Qatar has never delayed in assuming the role dictated to us by our Arab and Islamic sense of belonging, in defending the causes of both our Arab and Islamic Ummas – first and foremost the Palestinian cause. And we, God willing, will not be inactive in the future.

As for the Syrian crisis, we emphasise our position on supporting a just and comprehensive political solution to end the suffering of this 
war-stricken people and ensure the unity and stability of Syria.

The phenomenon of terrorism and radicalism in all its forms have threatened the stability and security of the world, claimed the lives of innocent people and alerted the international community, including the State of Qatar, to combat this phenomenon. It is inconceivable to eradicate terrorism or radicalism without eliminating their core roots through giving hope to youth, achieving social justice, promoting human rights, consolidating the values of tolerance, keeping clear of sectarianism in all its manifestations, and avoiding double standards.

In the humanitarian field, and on the basis of our well-established basic and genuine values, Qatar will continue its effective role in adopting initiatives that serve humans and provide humanitarian aid in order to alleviate the plight and suffering of victims in all parts of the world.

Honourable members of the Advisory Council,

There are basic tasks that lie before us in the coming year to accomplish with the resolve and determination. I am confident that we, along with your valuable contributions, will go on the right track to achieve our aspired goals.

May Allah help you. Peace, Mercy and Blessings of Allah be upon you.