Eight months after its Arab neighbors broke off ties with Qatar, the Gulf state says regional isolation is making it stronger.
The country’s finance minister says Qatar’s economy is “resilient” and “open for business.”
“Lots of people gave us a few weeks to survive this,” Ali Shareef Al Emadi. “Despite whatever we had in the eight months, we’re still [one of] the fastest growing” economies in the region, he added.
Last June, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut all diplomatic and transport links with Qatar. The three gulf states gave Qatari nationals 14 days to leave, and advised their own citizens to leave Qatar.
They accuse Doha of funding terrorism and destabilizing the Middle East, claims Qatar strenuously denies.
But it was quick to find alternative suppliers, turning to Iran,Turkey and other countries further afield.
Looking beyond the Gulf
Qatar’s energy wealth has helped it ride out the economic shock. It’s the world’s leading exporter of liquified natural gas, accounting for about 30% of global demand. Japan, South Korea and India are among its biggest customers.
Rating agency Moody’s has estimated that Qatar burned through more than $38 billion of its reserves in the two months following the embargo to prop up its economy.
Al Emadi disputed the figure and said the banking system is “very healthy.”
Qatar is also home to a leading global airline, Qatar Airways. The carrier was initially hit hard by the dispute, with 18 destinations suddenly out of bounds. It was forced to cancel about 50 flights a day.
But Al Emadi said the airline is bouncing back.
“We’ve opened 10 routes last year, we are going to do another 10 to 15 in 2018. This blockade won’t stop us from actually growing,” he said.
World Cup preparations on track
The enforced isolation had raised questions about Qatar’s ability to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022. But preparations were well underway before the embargo started, Al Emadi said. Qatar is still awarding about $9 billion in new contracts for the big soccer event.
Qatar’s dispute with its neighbors doesn’t seem likely to end anytime soon.
Just this month, the UAE said Qatari fighter jets intercepted two commercial aircraft bound for Bahrain. It followed a claim by Qatar accusing UAE military jets of breaching its airspace. Both countries denied the allegations.