How has demographic data gathered by the QSA shaped the country’s economic development plans?
AL THANI: In the last 10 years, Qatar has witnessed a comprehensive and aggressive development. This has resulted in us addressing the issue of development relative to demographics, in terms of characteristics, strengths, knowledge, and know-how. We view, for instance, the workforce implications on the overall development as a key factor on how we can go about meeting the set objectives and targets in the overall development of the country. Therefore, and on these grounds, we had put together a population projection for the years to come and we've linked it to the projects and mega-projects that we have in the country. Based on those aspects, the Qatar Statistics Authority had captured where we are today and how we are intending to facilitate for the future, based on the development and the challenges that we are going to encounter in the future.
As we all know, Qatar has maintained double digit GDP growth for a number of years. To sustain this, Qatar has looked into how to go about diversification. Diversification is going to be the future direction that the country will be focusing on. On this aspect, Qatar will hopefully be leveraging its competitive advantages in terms of its hydro-carbons and how these can be spun off into other sectors. From a population point of view, what we've witnessed in the last 10 years or so is that the overall population has almost doubled. In the 2004 Census, the population was approximately 740,000 and in the 2010 Census we've reached around 1,750,000. This gives a clear indication that the country is on the growth path and that the development is extremely extensive. What we anticipate with the hosting of the 2022 World Cup is that we would be able to foster or to host further development and engagements of not just simply nationals but also expatriates. So the inflow of expatriates will continue in the foreseeable future and this has to be of course aligned with the overall projection of the country. Related to this point is the overall Qatar vision in terms of transforming its people, its economy and its society from where we are today into a more knowledge-based society or economy. This of course requires the focus on education, training, and development. We think the National Development Strategy will be the means of gluing all the relevant parties and agencies together into how we can go about addressing the future outlook of Qatar, in terms of not over relying on hydro-carbons or just one source of revenue or income.
How can potential foreign investors utilize the information gathered and published by the QSA? What kind of response have you received from potential foreign investors?
AL THANI: Qatar has developed a very modern business infrastructure and it will continue to do so. We've been engaged in the most competitive economic, social, and environmental statistical reports and indicators. Through these ranking we've managed to capture where we stand as the most competitive economy in the world. We are in the world competitiveness reports, including the IMD Competitiveness Report. This gives good prospects and insights to the investors from a current or future point of view; how Qatar is going to evolve in the future. We know through the National Development Strategy that Qatar is going to focus in a big way on small and medium enterprises. This will have big implications on engaging investors from outside who possess the know-how and technology and who can come and excel in this particular area. Qatar has been viewed as a hub of partnership. We've experienced this in the oil and gas sector and we’ve replicated the same thing in other sectors, such as education and health. Qatar has a very unique development model that in fact would feature very attractive incentives from an investor point of view, and hopefully, this will result in attracting a wider spectrum of background and expertise in the country. Apart from this, Qatar has looked at the key issues or factors that will stimulate, from an investor point of view, the incentives. In this we are referring to research and development, science and technology, the Qatar Financial Center and the full chain of how to go about developing a very attractive business environment. Qatar has created an organization enterprise dedicated to small and medium enterprises through the Ministry of Business. This is just simply to signal out the importance of small and medium enterprises and how we will go about developing this in this future. There are also other agencies that are part of this process, such as the Qatar Development Bank, the energy sector and others.
The 2010 Census was the first one in Qatar where residents could fill out the questionnaire online. How is the QSA using new technology to decrease data gathering speed and increase data accuracy?
AL THANI: The Census of 2010 had given us an opportunity to examine and to experience technology and its full deployments. We've looked at how we can deploy technology in the total processes of the Census. This has in fact produced very interesting results in terms of its accuracy, reliability, and timeliness; and in receiving data and disseminating the data. This all has promoted better understanding, not just simply from a Qatar Statistics Authority point of view, but from the producers and users of the data. We think technology will stimulate a more interactive network or connection among the producers and the users of data, and how we can translate this into more productive results or outcomes that can give an impact to a policy maker, decision maker, researcher, analyst and others who would hopefully make better benefits of using the data. We define the total approach of the Census in terms of its ultimate products, information that can be used as knowledge. This knowledge should be disseminated to all respective audiences. The 2010 Census had provided us with a golden and timely opportunity because it links the National Development Strategy 2011-2016 with the most reliable and up-to-date data. With this background it could provide a guiding principle for future plans.
The QSA recently published the ‘Foreign Direct Investment Survey’ for the Qatari private sector. What was the objective of conducting this survey?
AL THANI: The FDI survey was extremely important and it is in line with Qatar’s policy in terms of its diversification. We wanted to capture the overall development in this area. We wanted to also provide insight into what are the challenges and experiences that Qatar has experienced in terms of FDI. We needed to distinguish between foreign investments and direct investments, and this would provide clarity from insider investments and from those investors who would want to come and develop a business in the country. That particular survey has given us a very interesting angle in terms of knowing more about where we are in terms of foreign investments, what are the areas that we could explore further in the country, and how we could stimulate FDI further in the future. We see this as being extremely important to promote further investment inflow into the country, as it will stimulate not just the importing of technology and know-how, but will also transfer knowledge, skills and experiences into the country. So developing further infrastructure on how to stimulate FDI in the country is going to be one of the key focuses.
From a population point of view, what we've witnessed in the last 10 years or so is that the overall population has almost doubled. In the 2004 Census, the population was approximately 740,000 and in the 2010 Census we've reached around 1,750,000. This gives a clear indication that the country is on the growth path and that the development is extremely extensive.
What is Qatar’s policy on attracting expatriates?
AL THANI: Geographically, we are positioned very well in the region between the West and the East and this has given us a golden opportunity to get the most skillful and intellectual people who would come and join the country for a specific project or development. What we tend to focus around is more talented individuals, those individuals who are globally minded, well rounded, and who can add value to the country. The focus of the future, from a business perspective, is going to be the high-value end of the chain of our businesses. This is where the focus of the country is more into the downstream business, as it will stimulate more opportunity in terms of small and medium enterprises. This will always entail us to consider bringing more knowledgeable people and people who would be able to comprehend the technology and the know-how.
What role does the QSA play in supporting Qatar’s National Vision 2030?
AL THANI: Subsequent to the launching of the Qatar National Vision 2030, and in order to pursue that vision, Qatar had decided to put together a National Development Strategy. This National Development Strategy has been developed in consultation with the public sector, the private sector, civil society, and the rest of the citizens in the country. This has resulted in a consolidated development plan. Qatar Statistics Authority had been an active player in the development of the National Development Strategy and hopefully its role in engaging the future outlook of it. What we would hope to see in the Statistics Authority is not just simply providing number and figures, but guiding, measuring, and monitoring, in a key performance indicators approach, the overall development of the country.