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Economic Overview

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 201920202021 (e)2022 (e)2023 (e)
GDP (billions USD) 175.84e145.45e169.18180.88186.49
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) 0.8-3.6e1.94.02.6
GDP per Capita (USD) 62,817e54,18561,79164,76865,467
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 62.372.159.053.146.7
Inflation Rate (%) -0.7-2.72.53.22.4
Current Account (billions USD) 4.23-3.48e13.8720.9013.58
Current Account (in % of GDP) 2.4-2.48.211.67.3

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database , October 2021

Note: (e) Estimated Data

Country Risk

See the country risk analysis provided by La Coface.

 

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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.

 
Monetary Indicators 20162017201820192020
Qatari Rial (QAR) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 USD 3.643.643.643.603.64

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 

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Foreign Trade

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 Values 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

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Indicators 20162017201820192020
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 89.591.591.890.3n/a
Trade Balance (million USD) 25,37536,73350,98141,58127,137
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) 9,00923,01236,75025,27611,869
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

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Forecasts 20212022 (e)2023 (e)2024 (e)2025 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) 2.13.8-1.45.96.6
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) 1.03.5-4.0-0.4-0.3

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

 
International Economic Cooperation
Member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

Member of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

The country is also part of the Greater Arab Free Trade Area(GAFTA), a pact of the Arab League entered into force in January 2005 which aims to form an Arabic free trade area. 

 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2020
Japan 15.5%
China 15.2%
India 14.3%
South Korea 12.9%
Singapore 6.7%
See More Countries 35.5%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2020
United States 15.7%
China 14.9%
United Kingdom 7.0%
Germany 6.1%
India 5.2%
See More Countries 51.1%

Source: Comtrade, 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.
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.
 

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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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