Qatar hasn’t made a decision on whether to sell debt, with current oil prices close to the level the country needs to finance spending, according to Finance Minister Ali Al Emadi.
“We feel very comfortable,” Al Emadi told reporters in Doha on Tuesday, adding that Qatar is spending about $500 million a week on capital projects. The economy will grow 3.4 percent to 3.5 percent in 2017, he said.
Qatar posted its first budget deficit in 15 years in 2016 due to the slump in global energy prices, which came with the gas-rich Gulf state in the midst of its $200 billion spending plan on preparations for the FIFA World Cup in 2022. Last year was “probably the most difficult” in terms of the strain on public finances, and the government has based the 2017 budget on a “conservative” global oil price of $45 a barrel, Al Emadi said.
Brent crude was trading at $55.39 a barrel at 12:40 p.m. in Doha.
Spurred by the lower energy prices and overlapping bureaucracy in places, Qatar has merged ministries and canceled or delayed some projects over the past two years. This helped to curb operating costs while the government continues a spending plan that will peak by 2019, Al Emadi said.
Almost 90 percent of projects related to the World Cup, including new highways, rail links and hospitals, have been awarded, he said, and two thirds of them will be completed by 2020.
“We are giving ourselves a good chance to deliver things on time,” Al Emadi said. “We don’t want to be in a place where we start painting when people are coming to the country.”
The government, which dominates the economy through the national oil company Qatar Petroleum and stakes in other industries, is seeking to open up opportunities to private businesses, both in the run-up to the 2022 soccer tournament and beyond.
More than $8 billion in projects were awarded to local companies that could have been delivered by the government, and investors are being encouraged to participate in logistics, health care and education industries, Al Emadi said.
Qatar is still keen to invest overseas, with the country’s sovereign wealth fund investing $35 billion in the U.S. by 2020 as planned, he said.
“We’ve been very much active globally,” Al Emadi said. “Part of the sovereign wealth fund strategy is to have very much a diversified portfolio. Some of the choices we’ve made over the past three or four years — in terms of geography and currency — have paid off for us very well.”