Despite surging demand for health services in Qatar, the country is cutting this year’s budget for building new facilities by two-thirds, an Ashghal official has reportedly said.
The public works authority had planned to award contracts to build seven new, publicly-run Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC) centers in 2016.
However, that has now been scaled back to three, Ahmad al-Ansari, lead advisor for contracts and project management at Ashghal, told Reuters yesterday.
This is because the organization’s budget for healthcare facilities has been cut from a previously-planned QR7 billion to QR2.5 billion, Al-Ansari said.
Overall, Ashghal’s 2016 budget for spending on new public infrastructure, such as hospitals, schools, mosques and roads, has dropped from a previously-estimated QR25 billion to around QR15-17 billion, he added.
The official attributed the slowdown in construction to a government “restructure” of priorities following the fall of global oil prices, but added that planned projects would still go ahead.
“We (Ashghal) haven’t canceled any of our programs. All we’ve done is extended them. We’ve slowed down a little bit on the number of projects released this year.”
Speaking on the sidelines of a conference in Dubai, he added, “We’re hoping within the next year to stick to our original plan, which is to award (contracts to build) at least eight health centers every year.”
In January 2015, PHCC had announced it would open six new health centers that year to help cope with the rising population, which has put pressure on existing facilities.
There are currently 22 PHCC centers, according to the organization’s website, and a total of 19 new, publicly-run health clinics were scheduled to open by 2018.
However, at least three of these (Rawdat Al Khail, Al Thumama and Um Slal) had their opening dates pushed back and are now planned to open by the end of this year.
The majority of the PHCC centers are now only open to Qatari nationals, with expats accepted in just a few clinics.
The cuts come as Qatar is predicted to have a budget deficit of QR46.5 billion this year – its first shortfall in 15 years.
In December, the Emir slashed the overall budget for spending this year by around 7 percent, to QR202.5 billion.
While few details were available at the time of which sectors would be affected, the country’s finance minister said at the time that the cuts would trim fat from government operations, and would not have any negative impact on Qatari citizens or the quality of government services.