AT A TIME WHEN ECONOMIC STRATEGIES HAVE GONE ON THE DEFENSIVE, QATAR DOES NOT WANT WEAKER HYDROCARBONS TO UNDERMINE ITS NATIONAL AND REGIONAL SECURITY. ALL THIS UNFOLDS DURING AN ERA OF HEIGHTENED GEOPOLITICAL TURBULENCE IN THE WIDER MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA, WHERE DEFENCE SPENDING IS EXPECTED TO REACH $920BILLION BY 2020.
The increasing geopolitical tensions has called for a comprehensive review of the spending in the vital defense sector, going beyond the conventional economic objectivity --in order to ensure peace and stability, which are the key ingredients to ensure sustainable growth and attractive investment climate for both local, regional and global firms.
Qatar is militarily active in Yemen, where it is a key member of Saudi Arabia-led coalition and its main source of weapons and systems has beenfrom the US, Germany, France and Italy. Sending strong signals that it was strengthening and modernising its defence infrastructure, Qatar hogged the global media limelight at the recently concluded Doha International Maritime Defense Exhibition and Conference (DIMDEX) where it signed QR33 billion worth of deals with companies from across the globe.
This comes amidst the crash in oil prices that started in 2014 that has begun to reverse the surge in military spending in many oil revenue-dependent countries. Further cuts are expected in 2016, according to a recent reportby Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, an independent resource on global security.
“Traditionally the military has not been seen as a priority by Qatar's government. However, the announcement of $23-billion worth of defense procurement projects in 2014 marked an unprecedented increase in investment in the military,” according to Craig Caffrey, principal defense budget analyst at IHS Jane's Aerospace, Defense & Security.
For the peninsular country, maritime security is of prime importance. The new Hamad Port, which is all set to become fully operational by the end of this year, will provide landing to its naval vessels in addition to being used for commercial purposes. Also in view of its offshore exploration assets (Qatar has a vast repository of 900 trillion cubic feet of natural gas), there are a plentitude of opportunities across various verticals in the country's naval defence infrastructure, which was evident from the participation of 60 countries at the recently concluded DIMDEX.