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Qatar faces first budget deficit in 15 years

[DOHA] Qatar could run its first budget deficit in 15 years in 2016, official government figures have predicted.

Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics figures also showed that the energy-rich Gulf state's economy will grow by 7.3 percent next year.

This was down on the previous estimate of 7.7 per cent, but still above growth in 2014 of just over six percent.

The figures were released on Wednesday in a statement posted on the ministry's website.

In 2016, Qatar expects to run a fiscal deficit of 4.9 per cent of GDP, the ministry said, and 3.7 per cent the following year.

However, the government said it would continue with its huge investment programme ahead of hosting the football World Cup in 2022, despite the anticipated deficit.

"The fall in oil prices that began in June 2014 was not anticipated," said Dr Saleh Al-Nabit, development planning and statistics minister.

"If they persist, lower oil prices will narrow the government's fiscal cushion but our considerable financial reserves will provide an ample buffer.

"Important capital spending plans will proceed." Doha is expected to spend some US$200 billion on infrastructure projects over the next decade.

These include a new metro system, a new port, and even a new city north of the capital Doha.

The country's controversial hosting of the 2022 tournament, long criticised over human rights and corruption claims, has come under increased scrutiny in the past few weeks.

Following the arrest of Fifa officials in Zurich, Swiss judicial authorities have announced an investigation into the awarding of the 2022 World Cups as part of a far-reaching corruption scandal.

Officials overseeing plans for the tournament say their preparations remain unaffected.

AFP