QATAR: SCORING THE GOAL
Gulf Business|March 2021
Normalisation of ties with the GCC, the upcoming FIFA World Cup and economic reforms are painting a positive picture for the gas-rich nation
ZAINAB MANSOOR

For Qatar, the year 2021 commenced on a resolute note.

The signing of the AlUla Declaration in Saudi Arabia in January this year not only signalled an end to a threeyear regional row and helped restore ties among the GCC countries, but it also thrust Qatar into the spotlight as a potential investment and growth spot.

Multiple sectors could reap the benefits from the end of the blockade. Financial institutions, airlines, tourism and energy are among the industries expected to extend gains on the back of increased air traffic, transfer of liquidity and greater economic collaboration.

“We expect that the restoration of ties between Qatar and boycotting countries will improve political and economic cooperation within the GCC and wider region,” observes Shokhrukh Temurov, analyst, Sovereign Ratings, S&P Global Ratings.

“Qatar’s intra-regional travel, tourism, and real estate sectors will have some economic benefits from improving relations, but the impact on bilateral trade could be marginal. Intra-regional trade was relatively limited even in the pre-boycott period given the almost uniform concentration of GCC member states’ exports on hydrocarbons and the limited scope of strong agriculture or manufacturing sectors in the region.”

Additionally, Saudi clients, who withdrew deposits from Qatari banks due to the blockade, are expected to start shifting some of their funds back, according to a note by Fitch Ratings. The blockade led to the withdrawal of about $30bn of non-resident deposits from Qatari banks in June-October 2017. “This will provide Qatari banks with an additional pool of liquidity, which will diversify their funding base, reduce their reliance on price-sensitive government-related entities and corporate deposits, and cut their funding costs,” the agency said.

Qatari entities share the optimism: QNB Financial Services, part of Qatar National Bank (QNB) Group, said in a strategy report that banks in the country will benefit from the GCC resolution ‘based on general investor optimism’. “Qatar Airways and consequently Qatar Fuel Company could benefit from increased air traffic between Saudi Arabia and Qatar,” the report adds.

Playing host to the FIFA World Cup next year, the first to be staged in the Middle East, is also projected to support the country’s growth momentum. The tournament, to be held from November 21 to December 18, 2022, will be a shot in the arm for Qatar and its long-term strategic goals. A total of 32 teams will play 64 matches over 28 days, during which over one million people are expected to visit the country. A staggering amount of roughly $8bn has been budgeted in total for the tournament’s infrastructure.

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