DUBAI, (Reuters) – Qatar, the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas, said it expects to post a budget surplus of 7.4 billion riyals ($2.03 billion) next fiscal year generating more revenue from oil sales on higher prices.
The expected surplus, which compares with a forecast 6.74 billion riyals for the fiscal year than ends on Monday, will give Qatar more funds to invest overseas as it seeks to diversify its economy from energy.
State-owned Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), which invests the country’s surplus wealth, manages assets worth about $60 billion, according to Standard Chartered Plc, including stakes in the London Stock Exchange and Credit Suisse. Qatar also produces 800,000 barrels per day of crude oil.
Next year’s budget, which starts on Tuesday, bases its oil revenue on a price of $55 per barrel, compared with a forecast $40 per barrel last year, state-owned Qatar News Agency reported on Monday.
Expenditure was set at 95.9 billion riyals, it said, without giving data for actual spending this fiscal year.
Qatar, the richest Arab country in per capita terms with a population of about 900,000, budgeted spending for this fiscal year at 65.7 billion riyals.
Gulf Arab states usually adopt a conservative forecast for revenue from oil, their biggest source of income. So far this quarter, the average price of benchmark U.S. oil CLc1 is $97.87 per barrel, compared with $95.98 in the three months to Dec. 31.
Like other states in the world’s biggest oil-exporting region, Qatar has been ploughing windfall oil and gas revenue into real estate, infrastructure and financial services to diversify its economy.
It expects its economy to grow 15.5 percent at current prices this year, accelerating from 2007 as it expands its oil and gas sector, and spends more on infrastructure, the government said last week.
Qatar’s nominal GDP grew 12.5 percent last year after surging more than 30 percent in each of 2004, 2005 and 2006 as the state that holds the world’s third-biggest natural gas reserves boosted output.
As its economy expands, Qatar, which pegs its riyal currency to the dollar, has also faced accelerating inflation. Price rises hit 13.7 percent in the fourth quarter, just off a record.