QATAR ALL SET TO OUTPERFORM KEY ENERGY PLAYERS IN THE REGION

AMANULLAH BASHAR
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Mar 22 - 28, 2010

Qatar's economy is growing at an unprecedented rate because of exporting oil and gas across the world. The state has world's prolific oil and gas fields. According to latest reports Qatar's economy is all set to perform even better during 2010 as compared to 2009.

Qatar, the world's largest natural gas exporter, is expected to outperform the oil region's key players Saudi Arabia and the UAE - this year due to undertaking massive expansion of its gas facilities. Shaikh Abdullah Bin Saud Al Thani in his recent comments on economic performance has said he expects that 2010 financial year will be better than 2009.

In fact the Qatari government is taking concrete steps to facilitate foreign investments in the country. Recently the Qatar authorities have taken a smart but bold initiative by formulating a law that may cut corporate taxes to a flat 10 per cent of profits for foreign companies. The move is likely to attract more foreign direct investment and encourage international companies to set up businesses in the country. Even if Qatar loses revenue from corporate taxes at first, over the long term it is likely to generate more income if it succeeds in attracting a greater number of foreign businesses.

It will not be out of place to mention that foreign investment is essential for developing countries because not only does it provide capital, but it also transfers technology and skills to the local economy. By using the fiscal space it has now to diversify its economy and become an investment destination. Qatar is securing its future.

The country has continued to experience exceptionally strong economic growth throughout the global downturn because of its gas exports. Actually the economy of Qatar is diversifying undaunted of the worldwide economic slowdown. The oil forms the cornerstone of Qatar's economy and accounts for more than 70% of total government revenue.

It may be mentioned that Qatar's proven reserves of gas are the third-largest in the world, exceeding 7 trillion cubic meters. The economy was boosted in 1991 by completion of the $1.5-billion Phase I of North Field gas development. In 1996, the Qatar gas project began exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Japan. Further phases of North Field gas development costing billions of dollars are in various stages of planning and development, and agreements were concluded in 2000 and 2001 with UAE, Bahrain, and Kuwait to expand gas via pipelines and to Korea, India, and China via ship.

HEAVY INDUSTRY

Qatar's heavy industrial projects, all based in Umm Said, include a refinery with a 50,000 b/d capacity, a fertilizer plant for urea and ammonia, a steel plant, and a petrochemical plant. All these industries use gas for fuel. Most are joint ventures between European and Japanese firms and the state-owned Qatar General Petroleum Corporation (QGPC).

The US is the major equipment supplier for Qatar's oil and gas industry, and US companies are playing a major role in North Field gas development and related energy and water infrastructure development.

Qatar pursues a vigorous program of "Qatarization" under which all joint venture industries and government departments strive to move Qatari nationals into positions of greater authority. Growing numbers of foreign-educated Qataris, including many educated in the US, are returning home to assume key positions formerly occupied by expatriates. In order to control the influx of expatriate workers, Qatar has tightened the administration of its foreign manpower programs over the past several years. Security is the principal basis for Qatar's strict entry and immigration rules and regulations.

FOCUS OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

It is heartening to note that Qatar is investing heavily in promoting research, spending 2.8 per cent of its GDP on funding studies in various fields. There is total annual spending of $1.5 billion (Dh5.5 billion) on research studies in Qatar.

QATAR FINANCIAL CENTER

Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) authority has endorsed a new strategic focus for the Qatar Financial Center (QFC) authority as it moves into 2010 and beyond.

The authority is creating three specific hub strategies concentrating on asset management, re-insurance and captive insurance. The new strategies mark the next phase of the development of the QFC authority. The QFC has played a prominent role to help build the financial services sector in Qatar.

EDUCATION CITY

Qatar which is a house of world class universities has recently attracted France's Graduate School of Commerce which will set up a post-graduate college of commerce in Doha, becoming the first French partner in Qatar's Education City.

According to the accord signed with Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, the college will present executive education and masters in business management and research programs through its membership at Qatar foundations administrative education and research centre.

The Paris-based college ranked first in Europe in the field of business for four consecutive years said that it was committed to improving the competitiveness of global companies through administrative and executive education and training.

Qatar Foundation said the joint project was born through the launch of the first program provided by the Graduate School of Commerce in Paris in Doha.

Qatar Petroleum has contributed to the design of the program and nominated several executives in order to support initiatives aimed at strengthening Qatarization through international standards training. Qatar Foundation and the Graduate School of Commerce in Paris have also hailed the support of oil and gas company Total to the project.

ENERGY

Qatar is powering ahead with plans to become the world's top natural gas exporter, with annual sales of 18 million tons set to quadruple by 2011.

Energy Minister Abdullah Al Attiyah addressing an energy conference has said that Qatar is aiming for even distribution of an anticipated 77 million tonnes per year of LNG exports between Asia, the US and Europe.

"We will be the first country in the world to sell LNG to all three regions," Attiyah said, "and it will be divided almost equally between them". For now, Qatar homes to the world's third-biggest natural gas reserves after Russia and Iran and is exporting about 75 per cent of its LNG sales of 18 million tonnes per year to Asia.

Export volumes of LNG, natural gas super cooled to liquid for transport on tankers, are expected to swell by 4.8 million tonnes by April 2005, after expansion projects.

Qatar, whose gas reserves overshadow its smaller crude oil deposits, has set up two multibillion-dollar projects Qatargas and Rasgas to diversify its economy away from oil. Attiyah said Qatar would also top the ranks in sales of gas-to-liquids (GTL) by 2011 with production of 400,000 barrels per day (bpd).

ExxonMobil Corp. and Royal Dutch/Shell Group may build plants in Qatar that would convert the nation's natural-gas reserves into raw materials that can be used to lubricate car engines. The proposed lube refineries under discussion with state-owned Qatar Petroleum "would produce quality products suitable to meet high environmental standards," Al Attiyah said.

Lubes are a byproduct from the conversion of gas into diesel and other fuels, the Qatari minister said. Exxon and Shell have agreed to spend more than $10 billion on projects in Qatar to convert gas into fuels in a process known as gas-to-liquids. The GTL plants are almost 10 times bigger than any other such plant. Qatar plans to utilise its gas reserves to industrialise the emirate and reduce its dependence on oil revenue.