UPDATE 2-Sharp fall seen in Qatar 2012 economic growth

Tue Oct 25, 2011 8:38am EDT

* GDP growth seen at 15 pct in 2011 - development planning authority

* Projections more pessimistic than analyst forecasts

* World Cup spending unlikely to ramp up until after 2012

By Regan Doherty

DOHA, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Qatar's economic growth is expected to slow down sharply to 5.1 percent in 2012, from a projected 15 percent for this year as the country's decades-long gas expansion programme winds down, the Gulf state's development planning authority GSDP said on Tuesday.

"The GSDP foresees a sea change in the economy's dynamics in 2012," the General Secretariat for Development Planning (GSDP) said in a report.

"The impulse to growth from vigorous expansion of the hydrocarbon sector in past years will rapidly recede and growth will increasingly depend on solid performance in other sectors," it said.

The projection is more pessimistic than September's Reuters poll of analysts, which forecast the economy of the world's top liquefied natural gas exporter to expand by 18.9 percent this year and 7.7 percent in 2012 helped by higher gas output and robust government spending.

"This is entirely a hydrocarbon effect," Frank Harrigan, director of the department of economic development, told a news conference.

In 2010, the hydrocarbon-reliant economy is estimated to have grown by 16.6 percent in real terms by the International Monetary Fund. Qatar has yet to release 2010 GDP data in constant prices.

New investments in Qatar's hydrocarbon sector must await the results of a technical study on the country's North Field, the source of its massive gas reserves.

In 2005, the country declared a moratorium on development of the North Field, expected to last through 2014 and possibly beyond.

Qatar, one of the top investors globally through its sovereign wealth fund, would not be immune to the impact of a potential recession in advanced economies as global credit market difficulties could seize up capital funding for the country's many planned projects, the authority said.

"The possibility of a sharp fall in activity in advanced economies -- made worse by sovereign debt problems in Europe spilling over into those economies' banking sector and going global -- would affect Qatar," the report said.

"Falling oil prices and constraints on project financing would be two ways in which such turbulence could reverberate through the domestic economy."

BUDGET SURPLUS

However, the Gulf Arab country is well-positioned to ride out any turbulence as banks are well-capitalised and the government holds ample fiscal reserves, it said.

Qatar's government budget surplus should reach 12.6 percent of economic output in calendar 2011 and 7.8 percent in 2012, the report showed.

The surplus for fiscal 2010/11 was revised to 19 billion riyals ($5.2 billion), or 4.1 percent of gross domestic product, it said, up from a previously reported 13.5 billion riyals, or 2.9 percent of GDP. Qatar's fiscal year starts in April.

Aggregate growth of 5.1 percent in 2012 would require Qatar's non-oil economy to grow at approximately 9 percent, on a par with China's growth and faster than that of India, the report said.

Spending linked to the 2022 World Cup is unlikely to ramp up until after 2012, the report said, estimating base outlays on stadia and facilities at $9 billion.

The country has allocated 40 percent of its budget between now and 2016 to infrastructure projects.

Qatar's central bank said in a separate report on Tuesday that banks are well provisioned to withstand unforeseen contingencies, and a sharp rise in commodity prices and rising local non-rent inflation pressures are likely to be a major concern going forward.

"Qatar's financial system has remained largely insulated from the global economic gyrations. The banking system continues to remain sound, profitable and resilient," Central Bank Governor Sheikh Abdullah bin Saud al-Thani wrote in the financial stability review.

Proactive liquidity management and ensuring orderly financial market conditions remain a top priority for the central bank, it also said in the review posted on its website www.qcb.gov.qa.

Consumer inflation in Qatar edged up to 2.2 percent on an annual basis in September, its highest level since at least the beginning of 2010, but still far from a record 15 percent seen in the oil-boom year of 2008.

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