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Foreign workers and economic diversification in Qatar

About 1.9 million foreign workers represent approximately 95% of the economically active population in Qatar.

Qatar is a hydrocarbon-rich country with a small indigenous population relative to the expatriate community.

GDP per capita amounted to $62,800 in 2019. As outlined in Qatar’s National Vision 2030, the country will pursue the goal of economic diversification over the next decade, and will seek to build an economy less dependent on petroleum resources and with a larger private sector.

Foreign workers

The construction of infrastructure to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup provided a major economic stimulus.

In recent years, according to the WTO, Qatar experienced three major economic shocks. The first of these began in 2014, when falling oil prices impacted the price of natural gas, the main export commodity and source of revenue for the Qatari government.

Measures were then taken to curb public spending and fiscal discipline was maintained, and prices partially recovered in 2017 and 2018.

Building on the reform of domestic fuel prices carried out in 2016, which consisted of raising those prices to world market levels and subjecting them to regular adjustments to reflect international price developments, utility prices (water and electricity) charged to non-Qatari businesses and households were also increased.

In June 2017, the economy suffered the second shock following the decision taken by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom of Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates to cut economic and trade ties and most transport links with Qatar. The dispute officially came to an end on January 5, 2021.

The measures had significant short-term negative effects, such as capital flight.

However, Qatar made use of its sovereign wealth fund, which can be called upon in emergency situations, to stabilize the economy.

On the trade side, minor effects of the diplomatic rift were felt mainly on imports.

The fall in trade within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was offset by an increase in imports from other sources, particularly the United States, Turkey and Oman.

The share of imports from the European Union, China and India also increased compared to 2014. Asian countries absorb more than 80% of Qatar’s exports, which are dominated by sales of liquefied natural gas (LNG), crude oil and other petroleum products.

 

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