Qatar urged to tackle 'culture of consumption'

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HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani said on Tuesday that the state must tackle its "culture of consumption" as it deals with the decline in world energy prices.In a speech to mark the opening session of Qatar's Advisory Council, HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani also called for the elimination of "extravagance and waste".
HH Sheikh Tamim said that Qatar would complete all infrastructure projects connected with the 2022 football World Cup but would strive for greater efficiency in government spending in a new five-year plan to be launched next year.

This new approach would incorporate the development of a "culture of planning, work and achievement", as well as cultural changes, especially aimed at the country's young.
"There are challenges that we should tackle, which are related to the goals and values of young people and the impact of the culture of consumption on these goals and values," the Emir said.

"Without that we cannot move forward - wealth alone is not sufficient."
The Emir said the speed of the fall in world prices had taken everyone by surprise.
"Frankly speaking, although we had anticipated that high energy prices would not remain indefinitely... no one expected this fast decline in energy prices," he said.
HH the Father Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani attended the opening of the 45th ordinary session of the Advisory Council .
HH the Deputy Emir Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad al-Thani, HE Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Khalifa al-Thani, HH the Emir's Special Representative HH Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani, HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa al-Thani, HE Sheikh Jassim bin Khalifa al-Thani, HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani were also present.

In his opening address, HH the Emir paid tribute to the contributions of the HH the Grandfather Emir Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani who died on October 23.
HH the Emir said: "A few days ago we bid farewell to HH the Grandfather Emir Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani. With his departure, we lost one of our most prominent leaders and builders of modern Qatar that holds to its genuine Arab and Islamic values and traditions.

"The occasion will not be suffice to cite the achievements of our deceased grandee. Although 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."

The Emir said the economic affairs remained a matter of prime concern, 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, he said that new features of reality had been emerging in the global energy industry as a result of the accelerating technological developments, which had 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 decrease in demand and increase in supply.
"Furthermore, forecasts suggest that uncertainty would linger in those markets.
"Frankly speaking, although we had anticipated that high energy prices would not remain indefinitely and we adopted the Qatar's National Vision in preparation for the day when we can achieve sustainable development to diversify the sources of income and avoid relying exclusively on oil and gas, no one expected this fast decline in energy prices."

HH the Emir said that 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.

"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 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 had started during the implementation of the First National Development Strategy and to rely on an in-depth objective assessment to identify its strengths and weaknesses.
The Emir then summarised the parameters of Qatar's Second National Development Strategy:

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 the light of the outcome of the First National Development Strategy and the 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," the Emir said in this context.
Sixth: Eliminating bureaucratic impediments facing investments. The government has pledged to implement the standardisation of transactions procedures and the "single window" by the end of this year. "We expect further measures from it to remove obstacles and complications facing investments."
Seventh: Stimulating the private sector and directing it towards the most productive sectors, or service-cum-production ones that are compatible with the National Vision trends.
Eighth: Transition from the state of reception embedded 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 the 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.

He said that putting these elements into effect required the development of the culture of planning, work and accomplishment. Also providing needed finance to implement them required an alteration in the culture of consumption and handling of wealth as well as an approach that combined the expectations of both the state and the citizens who belonged to this society and this nation, HH the Emir added.
"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 the youths and the impact of the culture of consumption on these motives and values.

"Without that 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," HH the Emir said.
"We have achieved some significant steps in the introduction of the national service, and we should evaluate this experience to benefit from that, 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 the prevalent reality and not from wishful thinking.

'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 the economic activity, namely:
First: implementation of the new government tenders’ law, which provides for exempting 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 and legislations and method of drafting financial statements of companies so as to comply with the international standards.
Fourth: Acting on finalising a law on partnership between the public and private sectors, which will enable awarding government projects to the private sector as well as ensuring their high-quality and low cost implementation. It will also help to promote foreign investment in Qatar, specially at the current stage in which we invest in the infrastructure. It is difficult to provide funds for all the projects that we want to execute as per the strategic plan.
Fifth: The involvement of the Qatar Development Bank in manifold activities to encourage small and medium businesses that include direct and indirect financing.
Sixth: Developing huge housing complexes for workers at the Industrial Area as well as in the economic and logistical zones."
In the area of infrastructure, HH the Emir said activities for developing projects for express ways’ network had 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 sixty billion Qatari Riyals. All these projects are due to be completed ahead of 2022."

"While seeking to reduce dependency on oil and gas in our economic activities and striving to achieve economic diversification, we will continue to pay an adequate attention to the energy sector as an important source to expand our economic base," HH the Emir said, adding: "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 loading of gas on board 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."
He said 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 at achieving sustainable prosperity for the State of Qatar. But this development process will not succeed without the co-operation of everyone.
"Here I especially mention the public sector employees and entrepreneurs in the private sector. A public sector’s employee should not be inactive in discharging work requirements. 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, accomplish 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 realize 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, encourage excellence and innovation and create an inventive private sector capable of competing globally and has a commitment towards the National Vision values, such as encouraging national workforce and preserving the environment.

"With regard to our foreign policy, the support of the Co-operation Council of the Arab States of the Gulf, the strengthening and development of the relations between our brotherly countries occupy the forefront of our priorities, especially against the backdrop of the very serious developments gripping the world, and 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 lingered to assume the role dictated on us by our Arab and Islamic sense of belonging, in defending the causes of both our Arab and Islamic Ummas, first and foremost is 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 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 the youth, achieving social justice, promoting human rights, consolidating the values of tolerance, keeping clear of sectarianism in all its manifestations, and avoiding double standards."
The Emir said that in the humanitarian field, and on the basis of the state's well-established basics and genuine values, Qatar would continue its effective role in adopting initiatives that served people and providing aid i to alleviate the plight and suffering of victims in all parts of the world.
"There are basic tasks that lie before us in the coming year to accomplish with the same resolve and determination. I am confident that we, along with your valuable contributions, will go on the right track to achieve our aspired goals. (Source)