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Interview

HE Dr. Saleh Mohammad Al-Nabit, Ministry of Developing Planning and Statistics, Qatar

Qatar‘s minister of development planning and statistics discusses the viability of the country’s national vision 2030, and the role his ministry can play in helping Qatar reach its development goals.

One of the prime objectives of Qatar’s National Vision 2030 is to transform the country into a knowledge-based economy, in which the concept of Qatarization plays an essential role. In your opinion, how feasible is Qatarization today?

The QNV2030 is clear about the need to increase the effective participation of Qataris in the labor force. Presently, the available skills of nationals do not always match those demanded by potential employers. Qatarization is best interpreted in terms of building the nationals’ skillsets, empowering citizens to participate and contribute effectively to the economy and society.

What are the key challenges under your scope to be addressed in order to achieve Qatarization?

One important challenge is to ensure that our educational system is delivering the capabilities and skills that our citizens need to contribute effectively to national economic and social development. A second important challenge is to encourage more Qataris to participate in the private sector and to develop entrepreneurial capabilities for a generation of young Qatari businessmen and women.

What is the Ministry’s role in providing the optimum infrastructural, cultural and economic conditions for foreign investors and companies to contribute to Qatar’s current and future development?

My Ministry’s role is to provide strategic direction and advice and to help build a solid platform from which the country can grow and diversify, both through domestic investments and attracting foreign investors. Establishing such a platform can only succeed through collaboration among many actors within government and outside. Economic stability and resilience, an enabling and efficiently regulated business environment, and high quality infrastructure services are vital to support durable growth and economic diversification and to allow the private sector to play a larger part in the economy.  Qatar’s National Development Strategy 2011-2016 sets out an agenda that aims to address these goals in an effective way.   Our mid-term review of the strategy suggests good progress in some areas, but building the strong institutions and governance structures needed to create and sustain market-led growth and a more competitive economy takes time.

The fostering of innovation and competition is core to a diversified economic development and sustainable growth for a country. In Qatar’s case, how is the government stimulating the development and growth of homegrown small to medium size enterprises, and what programmes are in place for young entrepreneurs?

There are many efforts to stimulate the expansion of the private sector and support local entrepreneurs. We have tallied about 120 different programs by 19 different implementing agencies, such as Enterprise Qatar (EQ), Qatar Chamber and Qatar Development Bank (QDB), which target local SMEs.  The programs range from: provision of funding, discounted financial services/products, incentive awards, business/contractual/export opportunities, sales outlets, advisory services, courses, workshops, conferences to portals. The challenge ahead is to ensure that these efforts are well coordinated and generate the synergies which integration would bring.   A second challenge is to ensure that the initiatives are well designed, respond to the needs of the SME community, and that they deliver beneficial results.

Qatar has increased LNG exports to Japan and major new LNG export agreements with China are due to start over the coming years. Qatar also expects other Asian markets such as India and Pakistan to be an area of energy growth over the longer term. From your perspective as Minister of Development Planning and Statistics, what can Qatar learn from Asia’s rapid development?

It should be remembered that the “Asian Miracle” took four decades to unfold, a period roughly equivalent to the time that Qatar has been an independent country. While catch-up for China and India has been fast, they started from a much lower base and still today are some decades away from reaching the levels of prosperity seen in Japan, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan or the second stage developers, Malaysia and Thailand.

Qatar has internalized the experiences of numerous rapidly developing Asian countries, which are reflected throughout our own National Development Strategy. One of the key lessons goes back to the centrality of an education system that can help develop capabilities among citizens. Other lessons from Asia include the benefits that flow from open trade and investment regimes, and the creation of a vibrant private sector. Through the NDS and wider efforts, Qatar is moving forward in all of these areas.

What more could be done from a domestic point of view to extract value out of the country’s close ties with the Asian continent?

Qatar is striving to partner with Asian companies that can contribute significant value to on-going domestic projects. A great number of Asian companies are involved in the vast portfolio of projects underway. These companies contribute their knowledge and skillsets to projects across the Qatari economy—from hydrocarbons through to civil engineering projects.

The transfer of policy and institutional knowledge has also been important for Qatar.   For example, in the creation of Enterprise Qatar, an initiative from Asia that was led by the former Ministry of Business and Trade and GSDP, we studied closely at the experiences of Singapore and Korea in particular and received excellent cooperation from organizations in these countries.   In numerous other areas, Qatar looks to Asia for examples of good practice, for example water management in Singapore.

What is the role of the Ministry in driving better energy efficiency for Qatar?

Energy efficiency is a theme that resonates through the NDS.   Several targets are set in the NDS that aim to promote greater efficiency in production and use.   Multiple benefits are expected to follow.  Kahramaa and their Tarsheed program have, now taken up these early initiatives.   The Kahramaa Sustainability Report for 2013 cites encouraging early results with reductions in both energy and water use per capita.  Through the mid-term review of the National Development Strategy we will be lending support to Kahramaa’s excellent initiatives and to others that seek to enhance energy efficiency.

To read more articles and interviews on Qatar, and to download EnergyBoardroom’s latest free report on the country, click here.

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