Qatar raises select government salaries

Qatar raises select government salaries
Qatar raises select government salaries
Under pressure from lower oil prices, the Gulf Coast country of Qatar is increasing pay for a range of government employees.

A Nov. 7 press release shows the government is poised to make substantial increases, even doubling some government salaries.

The move comes after a series of cutbacks and layoffs in the country within the last couple of years, including the downsizing of 1,000 foreign workers at Qatar Petroleum.

What is the context for the current salary increase, and how is it meant to impact the country's economy?

Viju Joseph is the manager of investment research and analytics at research firm Aranca. He tracks equities in the GCC/MEA region.

“Much to the delight of Qatari citizens, the government is set to raise the wages of government employees in 2017 such that certain employees would receive a hike of nearly 100 percent,” Joseph recently told Gulf News Journal. “This is an anomaly compared with regional trends, wherein GCC countries have attempted to curb spending by adapting stringent austerity measures, such as reducing government wages.”

Joseph said a lot of the changes in government salaries have more to do with social conditions than pure economics.

“Qatar’s previous salary growth was during the Arab Spring in 2011, when citizens were offered a raise of 60 percent largely to uplift sentiment and maintain political stability,” Joseph said. “Hence, the current move to increase government salaries by almost 100 percent has raised eyebrows, especially when other GCC countries seek austerity measures to cut government expenditure due to low energy prices.”

As for the overall economic impact of the salary increases, Joseph said it's not likely to be significant given the 15 percent of the total workforce that government workers account for.

“In the near term, such a wage upgrade is expected to drive household spending and consumer demand,” he said. “However, this is likely to further pressure inflation, which has already increased to 2.6 percent in September 2016 from an average 1.8 percent in 2015. The banking sector is also expected to witness the salary hike’s impact in terms of increase in deposit inflows, as household savings improve.”

Joseph pointed out that, since government workers already tend to earn more than others in the private sector, the salary increases will in some ways exacerbate an income gap that can cause problems of its own.

Nevertheless, although it may strain the social fabric in some ways -- barring a coordinated move upward in private sector salaries -- Joseph said the public sector salary increases do mesh with some previously stated national goals.

“With regard to the development plans under Qatar National Vision 2030 (QNV 2030), strengthening institutional capacity (public sector) for services is vital for the long-term success and the wage hike move can be viewed as steps into that direction,” Joseph said.

In short, while neighboring Saudi Arabia has cut some salaries for government workers, Qatar seems to be going the other way, in order to beat the austerity blues.