Doha, QATAR - In his keynote address at the World Economic Forum's Arab Competitiveness Roundtable held in Doha today, His Excellency Mr.Abdullah Bin Hamad Al Attiyah, Deputy Prime Minister of Qatar, spoke of the importance of developing infrastructure to facilitate growth, and the determination to continue the economic diversification of the country's economy.
"Keeping in line with the vision of the Emir, His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, we are determined to pursue our economic efforts away from the political climate in the region," said His Excellency Mr.Abdullah, who is also Qatar's Minister of Energy.
"We are looking away from the oil sector and setting up procedures for a viable economic climate by 2015."
He was speaking during a conference on competitiveness within the region and, indeed the rest of the world, where Qatar's global standings ranked in the top 40, an admirable figure compared with its neighbours.
According to the third Arab Competitiveness Report unveiled today, Qatar ranks 32nd in the group of 40 most advanced world economies, up two places from the last report in 2005. The report highlights Qatar's growth in economic strength and efficiency.
The influential discussions throughout the day provided an open platform for business leaders, academics and government officials to express their views on economic development and competitiveness in the Middle East and comment on the new report.
The report serves as a key indicator on the economic efficiency of countries in the Arab World, and is likely to influence future economic policies and business directives across the Middle East and Arabian Peninsula.
Enhancing education was also identified as a key factor in developing and maintaining economic competitiveness, especially in trimming jobless numbers and sustaining future economies. This sentiment was echoed throughout the conference halls at the Four Seasons Hotel in Doha and summed up by Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker.
"Our goal is to enhance our relationships with other universities, helping to fulfill their dreams for a bright future. It is important that we create the right jobs for the right people. We all need to train our brightest students for the top leadership positions," Al Baker said.
Al Baker, who is also Chairman of Qatar Tourism Authority, was involved in a lively discussion on enhancing competitiveness within the travel and tourism industry. The Minister of Tourism from Egypt, Zoheir Garranah suggested that a liberal open skies policy in the region would help to facilitate more tourism traffic.
Al Baker said that Qatar had a specific plan in place to target certain types of tourism. "Our plan is in place to attract high-spend, upmarket tourists, focus on sports tourism as well as health tourism. We do not want to attract mass tourism. That is not our market."
Geoffrey Lipman, Assistant Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organisation suggested that tourism could be the catalyst for generating jobs - not only in the hospitality sector, but also in other areas of the economy. He praised the rapid growth of Doha-based Qatar Airways as an example of how this development can be sustained.
"Thanks to the global leadership of carriers like Qatar Airways, the development of the infrastructure necessary to facilitate tourism is being put in place, and will continue to see benefits in the future," said Lipman.
Al Baker cited the airline's 35 per cent year-on-year growth over the past decade as proof of the economic sustainability that is achievable in the Middle East.
This year's report expanded coverage to 13 Arab economies - Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Syria, Tunisia and United Arab Emirates.
Highlighting Qatar's development, the report suggests the country's strategies are heading in the right direction.
"Public investments appear to be made in the right areas, for example for improving transport infrastructure," the report said, but added, "going forward, the capacity for innovation in the public and private sectors will have to be upgraded."
The World Economic Forum's highly-acclaimed Arab World Competitiveness Roundtable 2007 has been held in Doha for the second time in two years.
Doha-based Qatar Airways will operate a fleet of 110 aircraft by 2013 – almost double the existing size. Qatar Airways has ordered 80 Airbus A350s, 60 Boeing 787s and 32 Boeing 777s, with deliveries of the latter having started in November 2007. The airline is a launch customer of the twin-deck Airbus A380 ‘super jumbos’ with five aircraft on order and scheduled for delivery from 2010. Qatar Airways moves to the New Doha International Airport in 2010, when the first phase of the new facility opens. For more information, visit www.ndiaproject.com
Qatar Airways is one of only six airlines in the world with a Five Star ranking for service and excellence awarded by Skytrax, the independent aviation industry monitoring agency. Skytrax also named Qatar Airways’ cabin crew as Best in the Middle East for the fifth year running in 2007 following a survey of more than 15 million passengers worldwide. For more information, log onto www.qatarairways.com
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