Economic and Political Overview

flag Qatar Qatar: Economic and Political Overview

In this page: Economic Indicators | Foreign Trade in Figures | Sources of General Economic Information | Political Outline | COVID-19 Country Response

 

Economic Indicators

For the latest updates on the key economic responses from governments to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the IMF's policy tracking platform Policy Responses to COVID-19.

Qatar lost its status of leading exporter of liquefied natural gas to Australia in 2020 but holds the third largest gas reserves in the world (estimated at 12% of the global total in 2021). The Emirate’s economy is thus heavily concentrated in the gas industry, which represents two-thirds of its GDP and almost 80% of export earnings. Like other Gulf monarchies, Qatar has been hit by the global decline in oil prices since 2014. However, the economic results have been better than that of its neighbours, due to successful economic diversification, namely via the development of large-scale projects. The country weathered the diplomatic rift with other Gulf crisis by finding new import and export routes, with its growth rate reaching 0.8% in 2019. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it plummeted to -3.6% in 2020 but came back to +1.9% in 2021. Subject to the post-pandemic global economic recovery, it is expected to bounce back to 4% in 2022 in a conclusion of an expected boom in the services sector ahead of the FIFA 2022 World Cup (IMF, October 2021).

General government debt has grown from 62.3% of GDP in 2019 to 72.1% in 2020 as the country continued to borrow on international markets and then back to 59% in 2021. The IMF anticipates a debt reduction in 2022 and 2023, with levels reaching 53.1% and 46.7% of GDP respectively. Current account surplus narrowed to 2.4% of GDP in 2019 from 9.1% a year earlier as global energy prices fell. However the negative economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the fall in oil prices translated into a deficit in 2020 (-2.4% of GDP) before returning to positive territory in 2021 (+8.2%). It is expected to reach 11.6% in 2022 and 7.3% in 2023. In the medium term, the expansion of North Field gas projects is expected to be completed by 2024, further boosting gas output. Qatar has been implementing an economic diversification program to lower its dependency on the hydrocarbon sector, and in December 2018 the country announced it would leave OPEC in January 2019 to focus its efforts on natural gas (mainly due to the diplomatic tensions with neighbouring countries). New projects are planned in infrastructure and telecommunications, and various construction projects are in progress in preparation for the World Cup in 2022. Inflation was estimated to have fallen to -0.7% in 2019 and -2.7% in 2020 but came back in 2021 with a jump to 8.2%. The IMF estimates inflation to increase to 11.6% in 2022 and  7.3% in 2023 in its latest World Economic Outlook of October 2021. Indeed, Qatar is planning the introduction of a 5% VAT in 2022.

In 2022, the country’s most immediate challenge remains the economic, social and public health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Qatar is overall a politically stable, rich country (it had the second highest income per capita in the world in 2021 according to the World Bank, PPP). It is estimated that 85% of the inhabitants are expatriates, whose rights are limited, despite the progress made with recent reforms. According to World Bank, unemployment is almost null, representing under 1% of the total labour force in 2021.

 
Main Indicators 20202021 (e)2022 (e)2023 (e)2024 (e)
GDP (billions USD) 144.41179.68221.37234.03232.82
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) -3.6e1.63.42.41.7
GDP per Capita (USD) 53e68828989
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 72.658.446.943.442.4
Inflation Rate (%) -2.72.34.53.32.1
Current Account (billions USD) -2.8626.4346.8751.7635.48
Current Account (in % of GDP) -2.014.721.222.115.2

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database , Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

Main Sectors of Industry

Qatar’s agricultural sector is almost non-existent due to the country’s climate and a lack of arable land. It is estimated to account for only 0.3% of GDP, employing 1% of the workforce (World Bank, 2022).

The economy of Qatar is based on the oil and natural gas sectors: proved natural gas reserves represent 13% of the world total and the third largest in the world, while proved oil reserves exceed 25.2 billion barrels, which means the production could continue for over 56 years at current levels. Qatar's liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry has attracted tens of billions of dollars in foreign investment and made Qatar the world’s largest exporter of this commodity. Being the country’s main economic engine and government revenue source, Qatar is highly dependent on the oil & gas sector, thus after the drop in commodity prices in recent years, it tried to diversify its economy, focusing mainly on manufacturing, construction, leading non-oil GDP to steadily rise to just over half the total. The construction sector in particular is booming due to the preparation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup of football. Overall, the industrial sector contributes 52.3% of GDP and 54% of employment.

The services sector is based mainly on financial services and is estimated to account for 52.7% of GDP, giving employment to 45% of the active population (World Bank, 2022). Tourism is also an important economic sector: The Qatari government expects to increase the share of tourism in GDP to 4% from 3.5% by 2023.

 
Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 1.2 53.7 45.1
Value Added (in % of GDP) 0.3 51.2 53.8
Value Added (Annual % Change) 1.3 -3.0 -2.9

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 

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Monetary Indicators 20162017201820192020
Qatari Rial (QAR) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 MUR 0.100.110.110.100.09

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 
 

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Indicator of Economic Freedom

Definition:

The Economic freedom index measure ten components of economic freedom, grouped into four broad categories or pillars of economic freedom: Rule of Law (property rights, freedom from corruption); Limited Government (fiscal freedom, government spending); Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labour freedom, monetary freedom); and Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). Each of the freedoms within these four broad categories is individually scored on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall economic freedom score is a simple average of its scores on the 10 individual freedoms.

Score:
72/100
World Rank:
31
Regional Rank:
3

Economic freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Index of Economic Freedom, Heritage Foundation

 

Business environment ranking

Definition:

The business rankings model measures the quality or attractiveness of the business environment in the 82 countries covered by The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Country Forecast reports. It examines ten separate criteria or categories, covering the political environment, the macroeconomic environment, market opportunities, policy towards free enterprise and competition, policy towards foreign investment, foreign trade and exchange controls, taxes, financing, the labour market and infrastructure.

Score:
7.20/10
World Rank:
28/82

Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit - Business Environment Rankings 2020-2024

 

Country Risk

See the country risk analysis provided by Coface.

 

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Foreign Trade in Figures

Qatar's trade policy is essentially focused on creating a modern and liberal economy. This is reflected in its promotion of investment (both domestic and foreign), its trade diversification programs at the regional and international levels and membership in several organisations, such as the WTO. Trade represents 90% of the country's GDP in 2020 (World Bank, 2022). Mineral fuels, oils and distillation products represented over 85% of the country’s exports in 2021 (mainly natural gas, followed by crude and other oil products), while imports were led by manufactured products, especially machinery, boilers, Electrical and electronic equipment and Vehicles other than railway and tramway.

The main trading partners were Japan (16%), China (16%), India (15%) and South Korea (13%). Qatar’s leading suppliers were the US (16%), China (15%) and the UK (7.3%). Qatar has very few trade barriers and relatively low customs duties. It has signed a number of free trade agreements, both bilaterally and via the Gulf Cooperation Council, and has concluded a new trade deals with Pakistan on February 2020.

Benefiting from strong oil and gas revenues, Qatar's merchandise trade balance is structurally positive (41.5 billion USD in 2019 but USD 27.1 billion USD in 2020). The fluctuation in oil prices and the COVID19 pandemic has weighed on the surplus in recent years. Exports decreased in 2020 to 51.5 billion USD, from USD 72.9 billion a year earlier) while imports were reduced significantly (25.8 billion USD against 29.1 billion USD a year earlier). As many countries in the region, Qatar remains a net importer of services: imports reached USD 32.9 billion in 2020, while exports amounted to USD 18.3 billion. The trade surplus including services was estimated to have fallen to USD 11.8 billion in 2020, from USD 25.2 billion the year before (WTO, 2021).

The trade surplus in Qatar rose to QAR 25.6 billion in December of 2021 (7.03 billion USD) from QAR 8.6 billion in the same period of last year. Exports soared 107.8% to QAR 35.6 billion (9.77 billion USD), due to higher sales of petroleum gases & other gaseous hydrocarbons (+147.1%), crude petroleum oils & oils obtained from bituminous minerals (+47.9%), and non-crude petroleum oils & oils obtained from bituminous minerals with an increase of 77.9% in sales (Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics, 2022).

 
Foreign Trade Indicators 20162017201820192020
Imports of Goods (million USD) 31,82030,88731,69629,17825,835
Exports of Goods (million USD) 57,59067,50084,28872,93551,504
Imports of Services (million USD) 31,54129,71530,73533,64832,897
Exports of Services (million USD) 15,17617,52717,78018,33618,378
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 41.838.635.938.0n/a
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 47.752.955.952.3n/a
Trade Balance (million USD) 25,37536,73350,98141,58127,137
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) 9,00923,01236,75025,27611,869
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 89.591.591.890.3n/a

Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank , Latest Available Data

 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2021
China 15.5%
Japan 13.6%
India 12.8%
South Korea 12.8%
Singapore 6.1%
See More Countries 39.2%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2021
China 16.3%
United States 11.8%
India 6.4%
Germany 5.8%
United Kingdom 5.7%
See More Countries 54.1%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data

 
 

Main Products

87.2 bn USD of products exported in 2021
Petroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbonsPetroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbons 61.2%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 14.2%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 9.0%
Polymers of ethylene, in primary formsPolymers of ethylene, in primary forms 3.1%
Mineral or chemical nitrogenous fertilisers (excl....Mineral or chemical nitrogenous fertilisers (excl. those in pellet or similar forms, or in packages with a gross weight of <= 10 kg) 2.8%
See More Products 9.7%
28.0 bn USD of products imported in 2021
Turbojets, turbopropellers and other gas turbinesTurbojets, turbopropellers and other gas turbines 6.4%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 4.0%
Telephone sets, incl. telephones for cellular...Telephone sets, incl. telephones for cellular networks or for other wireless networks; other apparatus for the transmission or reception of voice, images or other data, incl. apparatus for communication in a wired or wireless network [such as a local or wide area network]; parts thereof (excl. than transmission or reception apparatus of heading 8443, 8525, 8527 or 8528) 3.1%
Parts of aircraft and spacecraft of heading 8801...Parts of aircraft and spacecraft of heading 8801 or 8802, n.e.s. 2.7%
Articles of jewellery and parts thereof, of...Articles of jewellery and parts thereof, of precious metal or of metal clad with precious metal (excl. articles > 100 years old) 2.4%
See More Products 81.4%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data

 
 

To go further, check out our service Import Export Flows.

 
 

Main Services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data

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Political Outline

Current Political Leaders
Emir of Qatar: Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani (since 25 June 2013)
Prime Minister: Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdul Aziz Al Thani (since 28 January 2020)
Next Election Dates
Works for holding the country's first legislative election were inaugurated in October 2019. General elections were held in Qatar for the first time on 2 October 2021, following an announcement by the Emir of Qatar on 22 August. A total of 284 candidates contested the 30 seats, with 29 women running. All candidates ran as independents.Voter turnout was 63.5%.
Main Political Parties
The Qatari citizens enjoy limited political rights, and the formation of political parties is prohibited in the country. The only elections are for an advisory municipal council, and all candidates for municipal elections run as independents. Legislative elections for the Advisory Council are yet to be held.
Type of State
Constitutional Monarchy
Executive Power
The chief of state is the Emir, a hereditary title. Though the country is formally a constitutional monarchy, the Emir exercises the executive power and has mandate to approve or reject legislation after consultation with an Advisory Council.
The Emir also appoints the Prime Minister and approves the formation of the Council of Ministers upon recommendation of the Prime Minister.
Legislative Power
Qatar’s legal system is a mix of civil law and Islamic law (sharia). The Advisory Council (or Majlis al-Shura) can draft and approve laws, but the final say is in the hands of the Emir. The Council has 45 members, 30 of whom are elected by direct, general secret ballot, while 15 are appointed by the Emir. The Council of Ministers can also propose draft laws and decrees to the Advisory Council.
Sharia law is applied to laws related to family law, inheritance, and several criminal acts.
 

Indicator of Freedom of the Press

Definition:

The world rankings, published annually, measures violations of press freedom worldwide. It reflects the degree of freedom enjoyed by journalists, the media and digital citizens of each country and the means used by states to respect and uphold this freedom. Finally, a note and a position are assigned to each country. To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) prepared a questionnaire incorporating the main criteria (44 in total) to assess the situation of press freedom in a given country. This questionnaire was sent to partner organisations,150 RWB correspondents, journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists. It includes every kind of direct attacks against journalists and digital citizens (murders, imprisonment, assault, threats, etc.) or against the media (censorship, confiscation, searches and harassment etc.).

World Rank:
128/180
 

Indicator of Political Freedom

Definition:

The Indicator of Political Freedom provides an annual evaluation of the state of freedom in a country as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions (on Electoral Process, Political Pluralism and Participation, Functioning of Government) and 15 civil liberties questions (on Freedom of Expression, Belief, Associational and Organizational Rights, Rule of Law, Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights). Scores are awarded to each of these questions on a scale of 0 to 4, where a score of 0 represents the smallest degree and 4 the greatest degree of rights or liberties present. The total score awarded to the political rights and civil liberties checklist determines the political rights and civil liberties rating. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of freedom, corresponds to a range of total scores.

Ranking:
Not Free
Political Freedom:
6/7

Political freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Freedom in the World Report, Freedom House

 

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COVID-19 Country Response

COVID-19 epidemic evolution
To find out about the latest status of the COVID19 pandemic evolution and the most up-to-date statistics on the COVID-19 disease in Qatar, please visit the Qatari Ministry of Public Health’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)  website with the official data.

For the international outlook you can consult the latest situation reports published by the World Health Organisation as well as the global daily statistics on the coronavirus pandemic evolution including data on confirmed cases and deaths by country.
Sanitary measures
To find out about the latest public health situation in Qatar and the current sanitary measures in vigour, please consult the video How to Protect Yourself Against Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the Home Quarantine Information page.
Travel restrictions
The COVID-19 situation, including the spread of new variants, evolves rapidly and differs from country to country. All travelers need to pay close attention to the conditions at their destination before traveling. Regularly updated information for all countries with regards to Covid-19 related travel restrictions in place including entry regulations, flight bans, test requirements and quarantine is available on TravelDoc Infopage.
It is also highly recommended to consult COVID-19 Travel Regulations Map provided and updated on the daily basis by IATA.
The US government website of Centers of Disease Control and Prevention provides COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Destination.

The UK Foreign travel advice also provides travelling abroad advice for all countries, including the latest information on coronavirus, safety and security, entry requirements and travel warnings.
Import & export restrictions
For information on all the measures applicable to movement of goods during the period of sanitary emergency due to the COVID-19 outbreak (including eventual restrictions on imports and exports), refer to the PWC webpage “Qatar: Customs exemption of certain food and medical goods due to COVID-19”.

For a general overview of trade restrictions due to COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the section dedicated to Qatar on the International Trade Centre's COVID-19 Temporary Trade Measures webpage
Economic recovery plan
For information on the economic recovery scheme put in place by the Qatari government to address the impact of the COVID19 pandemic on the Qatari economy, refer to KPMG Qatar’s Government and institution measures in response to COVID-19.

For a general overview of the key economic policy responses to the COVID-19 outbreak (fiscal, monetary and  macroeconomic) taken by the Qatari government to limit the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the section dedicated to Qatar in the IMF’s Policy Tracker platform.
Support plan for businesses
For information on the local business support scheme established by the Qatari government to help small and medium-sized companies to deal with the economic impacts of the COVID19 epidemic on their activity, refer to the Qatar Development Bank’s webpage “COVID-19 National Response Guarantees Program”.

For a general overview of international SME support policy responses to the COVID-19 outbreak refer to the World Bank's Map of SME-Support Measures in Response to COVID-19.
Support plan for exporters

There are no specific support plans for exporters in Qatar so far. For future possible up-to-date information please visit the website of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Export insurance is provided by the Qatar Development Bank.

 

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Latest Update: November 2022