Manama: Qatar will hold advisory council (parliamentary) elections in the second half of 2013, Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani said on Tuesday.
"We implemented the Constitution and achieved most of its stipulated objectives, such as the establishment of a Constitutional Court and holding the municipal council elections," the Emir said as he opened the 40th regular session of the Advisory Council.
"However, some clauses of the constitution could not be implemented due to the developmental challenges that the country is facing and to the turmoil in the region," he said.
According to the Emir, these clauses needed a legal framework and reinforcement.
"I, therefore, announce from this forum that the election to the Advisory Council will be held in the second half of 2013."
"The objective is to set up a modern and economically independent state - a state that could take its political decisions independently and is able to invest its wealth in any country it wishes."
According to the Emir, the building of a modern state had to go through specific steps, referring to the passing of a constitution in 2003, the setting up of a constitutional court and the staging of municipal polls.
The constitution was passed in 2003 and the municipal elections have been held four times, the latest in May.
Under the constitution, two thirds of the 45-member council should be elected, while the rest would be named by the Emir.
"We do have a vision and we did not sit passively isolated from others, regretting a political status that the people have rejected. We have always preferred that regimes start changes on their own and lead the movement of transformation, instead of seeing people rise up," the Emir said.
Talking about the economic situation in Qatar, the Emir said that the high economic growth the country has achieved would not have been possible if the state had not invested its resources with a view to diversifying the sources of income.
"We cannot sustain growth without investing in education and heath to build the Qatari capacities so that citizens can shoulder their responsibilities."
Qatar has treaded a long and bumpy way to progress and prosperity, he said, recalling the time in 1995 (when he assumed power) when Qatar's crude production was barely 300,000 barrels a day.
"This forced us to take foreign loans worth billions of dollars to set up giant projects, including those to develop natural gas, petrochemicals, and to upgrade oil fields and expand existing projects," he said, quoted by Qatari daily The Peninsula.
"To take such decisions was not child's play. Some people called it adventure. The debt reached as much as 43.6 percent of the country's GDP in 1995."
In 1998, the ratio of debt to the GDP jumped to 111 percent of the GDP, he said, while crude prices in the international markets went down making things more difficult, he said.
"We then decided to invest in gas development."
"In my opinion there is the need to upgrade the Qatari economy so that we are one of the world's top economies," he said.
The Emir said that in 1995 the country's GDP was QR29.6 billion ($8.1 billion) which soared to QR463.5 billion ($126.98 billion) in 2010, and the per capita income was $16,164 (QR59,728), a figure which had multiplied manifold currently to an incredible over $74,721 (QR272,733) to become one of the highest in the world.
In comments on the recent salary raise of Qatari state employees, Shaikh Hamad said it was only logical because the country has been witnessing economic growth, the Emir said. He, however, asked the people to work harder and with sincerity.
"Do your best at workplace and work in a perfect way to help the country achieve its development-related goals and targets," the Emir said, adding that laziness would not be tolerated.
The government, he said, is closely monitoring the situation and periodical reports are being made. Anyone found not doing his work properly would be taken to task.
Referring to Qatar's foreign policy, the Emir said its basic tenets were peaceful co-existence, mutual respect and enhancing common interests. "We want the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Arab region to take an active alongside the international community to maintain peace and security and help achieve development in all sectors by adhering to the principles of justice, believing firmly in human rights."
International conflicts and disputes should be settled in a peaceful way in accordance with the international law, he said.
The Emir said that Qatar has always supported the Palestinians in their struggle to get their basic rights and set up an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.
Congratulating Palestine on acquiring full membership of Unesco, he said Qatar has actively backed its bid for United Nations membership. "We urge the international community to work to help stop the Israeli aggression in Palestine and end the siege on Gaza."