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Qatar ready to spend US$150b over 4 years

QATAR has set aside about US$150 billion for various projects over the next four years and stands ready to inject funds into local companies hit by the global economic meltdown, the energy-rich Gulf nation's prime minister said in comments published yesterday.

Sheik Hamad Bin Jassem Al Thani's assurances are the latest indication that natural gas-rich Qatar is pressing ahead full steam with growth plans despite a global recession that has hammered some of its Gulf neighbors.

The government "is ready to intervene to aid companies," Sheik Hamad was quoted as saying by Qatar's Al Raya newspaper. But the premier said the intervention would be direct, and not through the country's sovereign wealth fund.

The Qatar Investment Authority had previously stepped in to support troubled banks by buying between 10 and 20-percent stakes of the institutions. The government has also stepped in to support the banks, buying the investment portfolios of seven local banks.

Sheik Hamad said focusing on domestic projects was a key part of the country's growth plans and that the government had earmarked about US$150 billion until 2012 for various infrastructure and other local projects.

Qatar has so far been better able to weather the global downturn than many of its five fellow Gulf Cooperation Council member states. While the United Arab Emirate sheikdom of Dubai is struggling with debt and others are coping with tighter revenues following the slump in oil prices, Qatar has looked to new natural gas streams being brought on line to support its growth.


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