Qatar’s budget ran a deficit equivalent to 23 per cent of annual economic output in April-June last year when government revenues plunged, data from the Gulf oil and gas producer showed.
The deficit reached QR22.9 billion ($6.3 billion) in the first three months of Qatar’s 2010/11 fiscal year as government revenue fell to just 15 per cent of the amount collected in the same quarter of 2009/10.
The world’s top liquefied natural gas exporter boosted spending by 25 per cent in the current fiscal year, helped by robust oil prices and gas output expansion. It is set to spend still more in the run-up to hosting the 2022 soccer World Cup.
The fiscal year in Qatar starts in April. The country publishes its actual public finance data with long delays.
Revenue stood at QR5.2 billion in April-June 2010, while expenditures were at QR28 billion, or 24 per cent of the full-year plan, well up from a year earlier but broadly in line with average quarterly spending in 2009/10.
In its 2010/11 budget, the cash-rich Opec member pencilled in spending worth QR117.9 billion and a surplus of QR9.7 billion or 2.7 per cent of GDP.
Analysts polled by Reuters in December expected the surplus to reach 11.3 per cent of GDP in the current fiscal year.
Qatar, one of the world’s top investors through its sovereign wealth fund, has overspent its budget plan in the previous two fiscal years. Its income also largely overshot the initial plan due to conservative oil price estimates.
Gradual expansion of gas output helped Qatar sail through the global downturn relatively unscathed, bringing the budget surplus to QR46.6 billion or 13 per cent of GDP, for 2009/10, which was the highest surplus in five years.
Qatar, whose hydrocarbon-based economy is forecast to expand by 12.8 per cent this year, assumed an oil price of $55 a barrel in its 2010/11 budget.
Benchmark US crude prices have been hovering between $64 and $90 a barrel since the start of the current fiscal year.
Qatar plans to spend some $100 billion over the next five years on infrastructure projects including road and rail networks, planned before it was chosen to host the World Cup, as well as air-conditioned stadiums.