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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 2022). 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 +1.6% in 2021 and +3.4% in 2022, pushed by a boom in the services sector associated with the FIFA 2022 World Cup. It is expected to reach 2.4% in 2022 and 1.7% in 2024 (IMF, January 2023).

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 58.4% in 2021 and 46.9% in 2022. The IMF anticipates a debt reduction in 2023 and 2024, with levels reaching 43.4% and 42.4% of GDP respectively. The negative economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the fall in oil prices translated into a current account deficit in 2020 (-2% of GDP) before returning to positive territory in 2021 (+14.7%) and 2022 (+21.2%). It is expected to reach 22.1% in 2023 and 15.2% in 2024. 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 were completed for the World Cup in 2022. Inflation was estimated to have fallen to -2.7% in 2020 but came back in 2021 at 2.3% and 2022 at 4.5%. The IMF estimates inflation to decrease to  3.3% in 2023 and 2.1% in 2024 in its latest World Economic Outlook of January 2023. Qatar is planning the introduction of a 5% VAT in 2023-2024.

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 20222023 (E)2024 (E)2025 (E)2026 (E)
GDP (billions USD) 236.42235.50246.36258.77270.69
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change)
GDP per Capita (USD) 83,52181,96884,89988,73192,359
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 42.441.438.336.334.9
Inflation Rate (%) n/a2.
Current Account (billions USD) 63.1241.5338.0134.3429.69
Current Account (in % of GDP) 26.717.615.413.311.0

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database , October 2021

Country Risk

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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, 2023).

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 was booming due to the preparation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup of football. Overall, the industrial sector contributes 60% of GDP and 54% of employment (World Bank, 2023).

The services sector is based mainly on financial services and is estimated to account for 44.8% of GDP, giving employment to 45% of the active population (World Bank, 2023). 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 54.0 44.8
Value Added (in % of GDP) 0.3 65.6 38.3
Value Added (Annual % Change) 7.7 2.5 6.8

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.



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 93% of the country's GDP in 2021 (World Bank, 2023). Mineral fuels, oils and distillation products represented over 85% of the country’s exports in 2022 (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.

In 2021, the main trading partners were China (15.5%), Japan (13.6%), India (15%) and South Korea (12.8%). Qatar’s leading suppliers were China (16.3%), the United States (11.8%), India (6.4%) and Germany (5.8%). 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 (27.1 billion USD in 2020 and 60.33 billion USD in 2021). The fluctuation in oil prices, the COVID19 pandemic and the global effect of the war in Ukraine has impacted on the surplus in recent years. Exports increased in 2021 to 87.20 billion USD from 51.50 billion USD a year earlier) while imports increased from 25.83 billion USD to 27.98 billion USD). As many countries in the region, Qatar remains a net importer of services: imports reached USD 34.34 billion in 2021, while exports amounted to USD 18.34 billion. The trade surplus including services was estimated to have sharply increased to USD 44.34 billion in 2021, from USD 11.86 billion the year before (WTO, 2023).

Qatar’s trade balance surplus has surged to hit QAR 28.2 billion  (7.75 billion USD) in December 2022. The figure reflects a 10% increase on an annual basis and a 7.6% climb on a monthly basis. The surge in the Gulf country’s trade balance surplus is mainly attributed to the increase in exports and the curbing of imports (Qatar Planning and Statistics Authority, 2023).

Foreign Trade Values 20182019202020212022
Imports of Goods (million USD) 31,69629,17825,83527,98533,479
Exports of Goods (million USD) 84,90572,93551,50487,203130,964
Imports of Services (million USD) 32,50435,41634,69834,34041,000
Exports of Services (million USD) 18,27319,11119,42918,34630,728

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

Foreign Trade Indicators 20182019202020212022
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 91.890.090.093.0n/a
Trade Balance (million USD) 50,98141,58127,13760,33997,445
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) 36,75025,27611,86944,34587,173
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 4.61.9-8.9n/an/a
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -1.2-2.2-1.5n/an/a
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 35.937.940.934.1n/a
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 55.952.249.158.9n/a

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Forecasts 2023 (e)2024 (e)2025 (e)2026 (e)2027 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) -
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change)

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)
China 15.9%
India 11.6%
South Korea 10.9%
Japan 9.6%
United Kingdom 6.5%
See More Countries 45.5%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
China 16.2%
United States 14.6%
India 6.2%
Italy 5.7%
Germany 5.0%
See More Countries 52.3%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data



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.


COVID-19 Country Response

Travel restrictions
Regularly updated travel information for all countries with regards to Covid-19 related entry regulations, flight bans, test and vaccines requirements is available on TravelDoc Infopage.
To find information about the current travel regulations, including health requirements, it is also advised to consult Travel Regulations Map provided and updated on a daily basis by IATA.
Import & export restrictions
A general overview of trade restrictions which were adopted by different countries during the COVID-19 pandemic is available on the International Trade Centre's COVID-19 Temporary Trade Measures webpage.
Economic recovery plan
For the general overview of the key economic policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic (fiscal, monetary and macroeconomic) undertaken by the government of the Quatar, please consult the country's dedicated section in the IMF’s Policy Tracker platform.
Support plan for businesses
For an evaluation of impact of the Covid pandemic on SMEs and an inventory of country responses to foster SME resilience, refer to the OECD's SME Covid-19 Policy Responses document.
You can also consult the World Bank's Map of SME-Support Measures in Response to COVID-19.