DUBAI, (Reuters) – Qatar said on Thursday its economy could grow 15.5 percent at current prices this year, accelerating from 2007 as it expands its oil and gas sector and ploughs money into infrastructure, construction and finance.
Gross domestic product (GDP) of the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) grew 12.5 percent in 2007, its slowest pace in five years, as the value of oil and gas output slowed, the Qatar Statistics Authority said on its Web site.
Qatar’s nominal GDP had surged more than 30 percent in each of 2004, 2005 and 2006 as the Gulf Arab state that holds the world’s third-biggest natural gas reserves boosted output.
The mining and quarrying sector, which includes oil and gas, grew 9.3 percent in 2007, down from 28.7 percent in 2006 and 46.3 percent in 2005, the authority said.
It should expand another 10.9 percent this year as Qatar moves toward boosting total LNG production to 77 million tonnes per year by 2010, up from 31 million tonnes now.
So far this quarter, the average price of benchmark U.S. oil is $97.59, compared with $95.98 on Dec. 31.
Like other states in the world’s biggest oil-exporting region, Qatar has been ploughing windfall oil and gas revenues into real estate, infrastructure and financial services to diversify its economy.
Qatar’s construction sector grew 22.04 percent in 2007 and will probably expand another 24.22 percent this year, while the electricity and water sector will grow 31.37 percent in 2008 versus 25.68 percent a year earlier, the authority said.
Financial services should jump 27.8 percent this year, having expanded 23.02 percent last year, it added.
Qatar has yet to release real GDP data for 2007. Its economy is set to grow at 9.9 percent in real terms this year, the fastest pace of growth in the Gulf Arab region, a Reuters poll showed in December.