With Qatar's five-year National Development Strategy coming to an end in 2016, what have been some of the major end results?
While the strategy process and implementation should be seen as continuous and will stretch beyond 2016, many of the major reforms now underway were identified. These include changes in the fiscal process, efforts toward reducing subsidies and increasing efficiency, the introduction of a national health insurance scheme, infrastructure planning, and a national R&D effort. Beneficial outcomes from these efforts are expected in the years ahead. One of the Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics' most remarkable achievements in 2015 was the Simplified Census of Population, Housing, and Establishments, which was conducted in cooperation with the Ministry of Municipality Urban Planning and intends to provide a proper database to carry out comparisons, projections of demographic data, and the community's social, economic, and urban characteristics. The results of this census were announced on October 20, 2015, during the celebration of World Statistics Day. That celebration was in line with the request of the UN General Assembly, which adopted October 20, 2015 as World Statistics Day under the slogan “Better Data, Better Lives,” emphasizing the importance of statistical data as inputs in the formulation and follow-up of sustainable development strategies in order to achieve the national development goals. One of the other key achievements by MDPS was the election of the State of Qatar as a member of the Statistical Commission and the UN Commission on Population and Development to represent the Asia-Pacific Group for the 2016-19 term, which came to crown the efforts exerted by Qatar in the fields of statistics, population, and development issues, and the continuous and effective coordination between MDPS and all the concerned parties.
How does Qatar formulate broad sweeping plans like the National Development Strategy or the Qatar National Vision 2030 in a way that global macroeconomic forces, like the recent financial crisis or drop in oil prices, do not affect the goals or outcome of these strategies?
Of course, it is not possible to predict the future precisely, and all strategies are formulated and implemented under conditions of uncertainty. But in formulating a strategy it is important to identify risk factors and to consider how the strategy can be adapted to changing circumstances. In fact, the National Development Strategy 2011-16 advocated many of the changes that are now in process, at a time when oil prices were high. The newly drafted financial system (2015) is one example. It supports budget reforms and ensures that government spending delivers value for money. But lower oil prices have accentuated the challenges and have given even greater urgency to action, while the core of the strategy is not changed—a core that gives primacy to sustainability and ensures that prosperity today is not bought at the expense of the welfare of future generations. Also, we have taken careful note of the lessons learned from the preparation and implementation of our first National Development strategy, with the midterm review emphasizing the need to link the strategy and budget process much more closely.
Looking forward, what challenges or obstacles do you foresee in Qatar achieving the objectives of the Qatar National Vision 2030?
One of the key challenges facing Qatar National Vision 2030 is to develop the second generation National Strategy for the Development of Statistics (NSOS), and to provide indicators required for monitoring progress in project implementation and for evaluating project outputs, thus enabling decision makers to propose and introduce necessary interventions in order to creatively achieve NDS goals. In addition, the challenges that were first identified in QNV2030 are still to be fully met. But that is expected, as they are intrinsically long-term development challenges. There are many areas where Qatar will continue to expend efforts to improve and do better—in healthcare and in education outcomes, for example. Fiscally, we need to calibrate our sights conservatively so that we will provide adequate funds for the future.