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Banking

Qatar’s grand ambitions

Sheikh Mohammed Al-Thani has many roles. As Qatar’s economy and commerce minister he presides over the world’s fastest-growing economy. He is also chairman of the Qatar Financial Centre and the Doha Securities Market. Al-Thani is considered one of Qatar’s most forward-looking policy-makers, a man who has great ambitions for the Gulf state. Talking to Sudip Roy in Doha, he outlines the economic progress of Qatar and argues that it will become the financial services hub for the Middle East.

What is your outlook for Qatar’s economy for the next five years?

In 2004, the economy grew 19.5%. Last year we recorded tentative growth of almost 21%. We became the fastest-growing economy in the world. We are expecting growth in 2006 to be even stronger. The reason for that is because a lot of activity will be concentrated to meet the Asian Games deadline [to be held in Doha in December]. Also there are many projects that will reach their peak in terms of development, mainly on the gas and hydrocarbons side. There are also more projects focused on services and in infrastructure. So we expect major growth this year. It might exceed 2005. For the next five years, my expectation is that we will continue to have high growth. I don’t see it slowing down.

Is there a concern that the economy is growing too fast?

Yes. It’s a good problem to have. The [potential] concern is inflation. In 2005 it was 6.8%. Another potential problem is people basing their investment decisions on the high growth figure. If it slows, what happens? What goes up has to come down. We are trying to educate people.

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