In the name of God and with God’s blessings I declare the opening of the 42nd Session of the Advisory Council.
Honourable Brothers, Members of the Advisory Council,
At the outset of the opening of the ordinary annual session of your esteemed Council, I greet you and wish you a fruitful work. I am fully confident that your deliberations will be constructive and useful, as is always the case, and that the Council will resonate with your valuable contribution to enriching the legislative work, preparing legal frameworks necessary to regulate the various activities in the State, and advancing the development process toward its goals.
We, brothers, could summarise the development goals, including the Qatar Vision 2030, in three words: building the homeland and the citizen, and from which the major tasks assigned to the leadership of the State are derived.
We consider the building of institutions that are based on rational management of resources, professional standards, and benchmarks of productivity and efficiency, and serving the public interest on the one hand, and keenness on the welfare of the citizen, qualifying him for useful productive work, and grooming him to find meaning to his life in the serving his country and his society on the other hand, twofaces of the development process that we aspire to.
As you know, the comprehensive development of our country has been, and continues to be, a major concern for us, because we believe that an integrated and balanced development is the key to establishing a modern State responsive to the needs of today, and capable of achieving to Qatar the stature that we look forward to, and to the Qatari people the decent standard of living they deserve, without abandoning our authentic Qatari Arab belonging and our most tolerant Islamic faith.
We thank God, the Almighty, for his grace, by which we are on the right track which His Highness the Father Amir started to realise the major part of our goals.
In the economic domain, Qatar’s economy has sustained its accomplishments by achieving the best results as per the vision and strategy worked out for this purpose, despite global economic uncertainty and instability that prevent complete recovery from the successive crises that afflict a number of advanced and emerging economies alike.
The real gross domestic product (GDP) increased by lesser rate in 2012 compared to the previous growth rates. But if we take into account the low growth rate in the oil sector, then we could figure out that achieving this growth rate in the GDP required a growth rate of up to 10 % in the non- oil sector, and this is not an easy achievement.
This is what must be done to diversify the structure of the Qatari economy, with the participation of the private sector, and encouraging private initiative that can identify the potentials and market needs, in the context of price control and development planning of the country.
In addition, the rate of growth achieved in the year 2012 is also considered as a remarkable rate when compared to the growth rates for the same year with a number of economic groups, it is twice the global growth rate, and five times the growth rate in developed countries.
Maintaining a good annual growth rate in the coming years is considered a major challenge in light of the expected decline in growth rates of hydrocarbons sector. This requires doubling our efforts to increase productivity, improving economic and technical efficiency, promoting economic diversification, encouraging entrepreneurship, expanding research and development, and moving forward towards the knowledge-based economy. This is exactly what we are working to achieve in the next phase.
The real growth rate in GDP is coupled with other indicators that reflect the strength of Qatar’s economy, namely:
That government expenditures in the public budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year is higher than any spending in previous budgets and higher than the spending in the 2012-2013 fiscal year by 17%.
This increase has come in a timely manner to compensate for lower growth in the oil sector, to continue the fiscal stimulus and the need for spending on the priorities of the National Development Strategy 2011-2016, which include health, education and infrastructure development.
Qatar has maintained its top rank on global competitiveness and its relatively high indicators in the field of human development. Qatar has also attained the highest Human Development ranking among the Arab Gulf countries in the Human Development Report for 2013 issued by the United Nations Development Program. This comparison is not intended for bragging, but to identify areas of strength to preserve them and the areas of weakness to work on their development and overcome them.
The private sector remains a key partner in the development, whether in diversifying income sources or expanding the productive base of the State, thus encouraging this sector, removing obstacles encountered by it, and providing it with adequate incentives, rests with the government in the first place, and it is the duty of the business community and the Chamber of Commerce to cooperate with the government by providing all necessary proposals and solutions to enable the private sector to play its role.
There remains a need for surmounting other difficulties facing the private sector, such as combating monopoly, providing an atmosphere of competition, overcoming the bureaucratic barriers, and reducing the size and number of intermediate companies and institutions between the State sector on the one hand, and entrepreneurs and businessmen on the other.
Qatar has confirmed its advanced standing as the best competitive State in the Middle East, and remained among the world’s best twenty economies this year.
The prominent rankings attained by the State of Qatar in many international indices, have been an outcome of great and intensive efforts on the part of the government and the private sector. We still aspire to achieve more to improve our rankings in the remaining indices.
In spite of the economic turmoil taking place in the world, the financial sector in Qatar has pushed its way to progress and upgrading its services. This has culminated in Qatar Stock market’s joining the group of emerging markets. Qatar has also maintained its high credit rating, which we seek to upgrade as well, through promoting transparency of competitiveness procedures in the markets, and simplifying legislations and laws.
On the other hand, Qatar continues to enjoy a strong financial position, as it has achieved a surplus of 10.4 % of GDP, supported by a conservative approach in estimating crude oil prices for budgeting purposes.
The government will continue in planning a budget in the context of a medium-term spending that takes into account the priorities and allocations assigned to each sector, with a focus on outputs and outcomes.
God has blessed us with a natural resource that would not have brought us these incomes without the vision and courage of HH the Father Amir on the long term investment in this wealth. We are supposed to preserve it and prepare its alternatives. Despite the high standard of living that we can provide, yet we must deal responsibly with our resources and our economy. This is not only about the next generation, but also the type of man we are keen on grooming at the present. Is he productive or just a consumer? Social responsibility, and non-slip to irresponsible extravagance are among the attributes of the human personality that we want. The Almighty said, “Those when they spend are not extravagant and not niggardly but hold a just balance between”.
In this context, my brothers a study has to be made on the causes that raise the cost of some projects in Qatar in a way that does not conform with the cost and profit as well as supply and demand. And checking the cause of the rising cost of real estate and storage, and mismanagement that leads to the frequent change in the specifications of projects at the expense of the State, or in delaying them and stalling in their implementation, then hastily implement them, with worse conditions that would increase the cost.
Brothers, Members of the Advisory Council,
If it is our right to be happy with what has been achieved in the past years, we should not overlook some of the negative phenomena that may be associated with it, foremost among these is the inflation problem.
The high growth rates and huge expenditure on infrastructure and development projects and the increase in population, have led to price rise. No doubt that inflation has negative effect on growth and society, and therefore price rise is a problem that worries everyone and the government will seek to contain it by all available means and tools, and I mention in particular the monetary and fiscal policies, combating monopoly, encouraging competitiveness, setting an appropriate timetable to invest in major projects, and coordinating between these projects to avert being concentrated in a short period of time leading to pressure on the available potential capacity. A governmental committee has been set up to propose necessary solutions to control any internal or external inflationary pressures. Individuals and civil society organisations and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Qatar must play their role and endeavour to avoid any unjustified price rise, because it is a joint responsibility, and the role of those institutions is no less important than that of the State in this area.
Human development represents one of the most fundamental pillars of the Qatar National Vision, and the Qatari citizen remains the main focus of our attention through catering for the best education levels to secure advancement and progress for him, and at the same time maintain their identity and caring for his physical and psychological health, and at the same time preserve his identity and his Arabic language as a key attribute of our identity and culture. There is no contradiction between progress and originality. On the contrary all peoples of the world achieved progress by using their own languages and at the same time developed these languages, yet this did not prevent them from learning and mastering foreign languages as a requirement for scientific, economic and civilisational development in general.
Therefore, the government will spare no effort to increase funds allocated for education and its development. Spending on education accounted for 13.4% of the total budget for this year, i.e. 3.8% of the Gross Domestic Product, and we shall seek to continue spending on research and development and expanding school vouchers system, scholarship and training programs, and improving the quality of the educational process, because education is the driving force to progress.
In the health field the 2013-2014 fiscal year budget included a 13% increase to achieve better levels of health services, also a primary health care strategy has been adopted to become a national priority to improve the health system, and to double the number of health centres in the next five years along expanding and diversifying medical services, particularly the preventive services. Also the first phase of the social health insurance system has been launched this year, and is supposed to cover all citizens by the beginning of 2016.
But, as I have already said in my speech to my Qatari brethren when I assumed the reins of power, all’s well that ends well.
But I say at the same time, we should not deceive ourselves. This is worse than deceiving others, because he who deceives himself blocks his own path to fix the errors. The criterion of success in the areas of human development such as health, education, culture and sports, etc., is not measured solely by the scale of investment (in which there would be no dereliction on our part, God willing), but the lesson lies in working efficiently and faithfully and in the outputs and outcomes. We have achieved a lot in the past years on the road to development and institution-building, and on the progress of the Qatari citizen. The policy of human development cannot be implemented if we do not hold accountable those who commit negligence, mismanagement, or corruption. Brothers, he who works could make mistakes, and refraining from taking initiatives and work is not a solution, but it is by no means acceptable to underestimate labour standards, or remunerate he who underestimate these standards rather than holding him accountable.
Qatari citizens have been known from time immemorial for their good morals, generosity, modesty, speaking little and working more, and championing oppressed people. I am afraid that we fail to pass on to our young people these genuine values, the values of work, humility, and good manners, and treating others with respect, and we are keen to see that young people find meaning and purpose in their life in all this, in the light of the civilisation of consumption. Our Prophet said, “Nothing will tip the scale heavier than good manners,” and also said, “I have been dispatched to complete morals.” Is there a goal for the upbringing and education superior to that goal?
Our foreign policy has always been based on the principles of peaceful coexistence and cooperation with all countries and peoples, mutual respect, promoting common interests, consolidating international peace and security, keenness out of our existence in the Gulf region and our Arab and Islamic affiliations, to participate effectively in the issues and concerns of our Arab and Islamic nations.
We have always acted to strengthen the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and achieving integration among its States, and bolstering Arab solidarity and developing the system for the joint Arab action, so that the Arabs have a high status and a voice in this world.
During its presidency of the Arab summit, Qatar has worked to reach a common vision on several issues on the Arab arena, and we believe that we have always been supportive of the Arab public opinion and the Arab peoples aspirations for justice and dignity.
The Palestinian cause remains, the focus of our Arab and foreign policy in general, this Arab and Palestinian wound in the body of the nation is still chronic and inflamed. Every day, Israel with its aggressive settlement policy pushes away the prospects of a just solution to the issue. The primary responsibility for the continuation of the Palestinian issue and the suffering of the Palestinians without a solution, lie on the Israeli intransigence and the continuation of its unjust siege of Gaza strip, the policy of annexation and settlement in Jerusalem and the West Bank and the occupied Syrian Golan, and international leniency with this intransigence, which amounts to collusion. But we must also blame the Arab inactivity towards Arab causes, especially the Palestine cause and division among the Palestinians, which is a key factor in weakening the Palestinian position and making way for Israel to step up its aggressive policy in light of the Arab and Palestinians preoccupation with their differences.
All of you know the developments of the Syrian situation, where conflict continues between the rebels and the army of the regime, the atrocities perpetrated by the latter which constitute crimes against humanity, have culminated in the usage of internationally banned chemical weapons against unarmed civilians.
Although the regime has already bombed its cities with aircrafts and caused the deaths of over a hundred thousand male and female Syrians, and despite the displacement of millions, that massacre with its hideousness and horror has shocked human conscience in various countries around the world, without exception, and the whole world has expected a firm move on the part of the international community, represented by the United Nations commensurate with the horrors and ugliness of the tragedy.
The UN Security Council resolution which all of you know has adopted disarming the regime of its Chemical weapons without addressing the crux of the Syrian problem.
The Syrian people did not carry out their revolution and bear what is beyond human toleration to disarm the chemical weapons of the regime that governs them, but to get rid of that regime which does not hesitate to use it against them.
The international community has failed to stand up against the regime that committed and is still committing crimes against humanity, and also failed to take binding resolutions to stem the bloodshed, due to use of the veto by some countries in the Security Council, thus paralysing the ability of the Council to take appropriate resolutions on the one hand, and because of the mounting double standards in international politics on the other.
Therefore, in view of the impact of our long experience with the Council on the Palestinian issue, and on the case of the Syrian people now, I have called in my speech before the United Nations last September for the need to accelerate the achievement of a comprehensive reform of the United Nations and the Security Council system. Otherwise, the peoples will lose confidence in the international legality and justice, which it should work to achieve them.
We will not let down the brotherly Syrian people who defend their dignity and existence on their land not just to achieve freedom and justice. Nobody should try to exchange achieving justice for this people who paid the highest prices and wrote an epic of heroism and pride, for unconditional and non-time-bound negotiations that would lead to nothing. Negotiations should be held to reach a political solution on the basis of the recognition of the fair demands of the Syrian people, and on the basis of a timetable for achieving them.
Honourable Brothers, Members of the Advisory Council,
We are convinced of the rightful trend based on combining principled positions and the higher interests of our people and our nation, and dealing with the countries of the world on the basis of mutual interests and respect. Also we trust the capabilities of our people and their sound nature.
I wish you a productive work in your annual session. I hope that we meet next year, God willing, when we have achieved more in serving Qatar and its dear people.
May God guide you to success, and may God’s Peace mercy and blessings be upon you.