Qatar will raise the salaries of government employees next year in a rare spending hike by a Gulf state at a time when low oil and gas prices are weighing on state finances. Some Qataris’ basic salaries will double, under a law to be passed in January that was published in Al Sharq newspaper late on Sunday. Salaries for non-Qataris remain the same.
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Gas-rich Qatar is the wealthiest country in the world per capita and its roughly 300,000 citizens enjoy free healthcare and education. But plummeting energy prices since mid-2014 have forced the country to rein in lavish public spending at a time when it is having to fund a $200 billion infrastructure upgrade for the 2022 soccer World Cup.
State subsidies have been slashed and jobs cut at state institutions, including more than 1,000 foreign workers let go in 2015 at Qatar Petroleum. Cutbacks have hit Qatar’s vast migrant workforce the hardest but locals – for whom affluence and stellar economic growth have been the norm – have also been affected.
Some government employees have been annoyed by being told to fly economy class, share offices and cancel journal subscriptions. Qataris on social media on Monday applauded the law as supporting citizens through difficult economic times.
Neighbouring Saudi Arabia in September cut ministers’ salaries by 20 percent in one of the most drastic measures yet by the energy-rich kingdom which racked up a record budget deficit of nearly $100 billion last year. In 2011 Qatar raised state employees’ salaries by 60 percent after Arab Spring protests spread across the region.