Qatar launches new five-year development plan in face of blockade

Strategy focuses on making Qatar more self-reliant in the face of a blockade imposed by its neighbours.

    Qatar's GDP data for the third quarter of 2017 showed the economy had largely recovered from the boycott [Naseem Zeitoon/Reuters]
    Qatar's GDP data for the third quarter of 2017 showed the economy had largely recovered from the boycott [Naseem Zeitoon/Reuters]

    Qatar has launched a five-year development plan that focuses on making the Gulf nation more self-reliant in the face of a boycott by other countries in the region.

    The National Development Strategy for 2018-2022, unveiled on Wednesday, pledges to "rationalise energy consumption and encourage development of renewable energy while raising self-sufficiency levels for farming and fishing production."

    The 333-page plan, released by Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani, aims for Qatar to satisfy 30 percent of its demand for farm animals and 65 percent of its demand for fish domestically by 2022, partly through fish farms.

    The document does not give figures for Qatar's current level of self-sufficiency in these areas, but the desert country of 2.7 million is heavily dependent on food imports. Only six percent of its land is arable, the document says.

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    On June 5, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed a land, air and sea blockade on their Gulf neighbour, accusing it of financing "terrorism" and maintaining too close of ties to their regional rival, Iran. Doha vehemently denies the allegations.

    The blockade has disrupted Qatar's imports, many of which used to come across its border with Saudi Arabia, and triggered the withdrawal of billions of dollars from Qatari banks by depositors from the four states.

    Qatar's economy and financial markets were hurt as imports plunged about 40 percent from a year earlier in the first weeks of the boycott.

    But the world's top exporter of liquefied natural gas developed new trade routes and deployed tens of billions of dollars from its sovereign wealth fund, estimated to have about $320bn of assets, to protect its banks.

    Gross domestic product data for the third quarter of 2017 showed the economy had largely recovered from the boycott and was again growing robustly.

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    Efforts to make Qatar more self-sufficient began within weeks of the boycott starting, as a privately owned local company with government support, Baladna, flew in 3,400 cows on state airline Qatar Airways. It plans to build a herd of 14,000, housing them in sheds cooled by fans and jets of mist.

    Other parts of the five-year development plan deal with social conditions, such as encouraging Qatari citizens to play sport and improving the health of young people.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency


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