Public Works Authority official says healthcare spending cut by two-thirds but Qatar 2022 is unchanged
Qatar has cut its planned spending on building healthcare facilities by about two-thirds this year following the drop in energy prices but expenditure on its World Cup-related projects should be unchanged, an official said on Wednesday.
The world's top liquefied natural gas exporter is one of the richest countries per capita but it faces a 46.5 billion riyal ($12.8 billion) budget deficit this year because of the continued lower oil and gas prices.
Like other Gulf states, it is turning to international markets to bridge the gap - it is expected to price its first sovereign bond issue in four years on Wednesday - but it is also having to reduce and prioritise state spending.
"Due to the recent oil and gas price drop, the government has to restructure, re-plan its priorities," said Ahmad al-Ansari, lead advisor for contracts and project management at Qatar's Public Works Authority (Ashghal).
"We (Ashghal) haven't cancelled any of our programmes. All we've done is extended them. We've slowed down a little bit on the number of projects released this year."
Ashghal is responsible for planning, design, construction and delivery of all infrastructure projects and public buildings in Qatar, according to its website.
It aims to build 60-70 new primary healthcare centres over the next decade. This year, it was meant to award contracts to build seven of these but that number has been cut to three, said Ansari.
"We're hoping within the next year to stick to our original plan, which is to award (contracts to build) at least eight health centres every year," Ansari told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Dubai.
Ashghal will spend 2.5 billion riyals building healthcare facilities this year, instead of 7 billion riyals as previously planned, he said.
Ansari didn't elaborate on when the cut was implemented.
The authority has cut its 2016 budget for public buildings, which includes schools, healthcare and public parks, by 50-60 percent versus what it had originally expected to spend, said Ansari.
Ashghal's total 2016 budget is 15 billion to 17 billion riyals, down from the previously-estimated 25 billion riyals.
Ashghal's priorities include road building, plans for which have been little changed, likewise the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
"I think anything related to the World Cup will stay unchanged. The plans for the projects we're doing to serve the World Cup won't be affected," added Ansari.
Since when did football and the World Cup rank above healthcare in the humanitarian priority list?