[DOHA] Qatar's demand for oil products, boosted by an expanding airline and a pre-World Cup spending spree, is bucking a trend of slower consumption growth and even contraction in the region as economies slowed on lower oil prices.
Average daily consumption of gasoline, jet fuel and other refined products was a record 228,000 barrels per day in the first five months of 2016, more than double the pace in 2011, according to data published by the Joint Organisations Data Initiative in Riyadh.
Petrol demand in Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest crude exporter, contracted for the first time in at least a decade this year, while Oman's consumption grew just 1 per cent during the first four months of this year, below the annual average growth rate of 9.6 per cent over the past decade, according to BMI Research.
Qatar is in the second year of a US$200 billion infrastructure upgrade ahead of hosting the 2022 soccer World Cup. It plans to build eight stadiums, a US$35 billion metro and rail system, and a new city for 200,000 people north of the capital, Doha.
Qatar Airways added at least 29 planes to its fleet since moving to a new airport in 2014, a facility it plans to expand before the World Cup. Demand for kerosene doubled over the past two years to an average 113,000 barrels per day in the first five months of 2016, according to the latest JODI data.
Slower economic growth pushed Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Bahrain to reduce or eliminate fuel subsidies over the past year to limit government spending because of low oil prices. Qatar, the world's biggest liquefied natural gas exporter, has also increased domestic energy prices to trim a projected budget deficit.
"Purchasing power in Qatar is extremely high, which will allow people to continue consumption of petroleum products despite price increases," John Sfakianakis, director of economics research at the Gulf Research Center, said in a phone interview.
"The aviation industry's expansion and investments in infrastructure have made Qatar an outlier in the region because its non-oil economy is still growing." Qatar's population was 2.48 million as of June 30, up from 2.34 million a year earlier, according to government data, and 1.71 million at the end of 2011, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
Its economy is expected to grow 3.4 per cent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund. That's the fastest pace in the oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.