NEW YORK: Qatar’s revenues from gas exports helped the country withstand the blockade imposed, Qatari Minister of Economy Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani said. While the country has incurred additional costs in certain areas as a result of the siege, these costs remain insignificant because of the natural and financial resources owned by the state, he said, pointing out that the state has $335 billion in assets in various countries of the world. He was speaking at a dialogue session, “The Qatari Economy Under the Current Siege and the Future,” organized by the Business Council for International Understanding at Harvard Club in New York. The event was held on the sidelines of Qatar’s participation in the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly. Sheikh Ahmed said the International Monetary Fund’s affirmation that the Qatari banking sector remains sound, with high asset quality and strong capitalization, proves the Qatar’s economy has shown immense resilience to the Saudi-led siege. Despite rising transport and food costs, the IMF said, overall inflation remained subdued at 0.8 percent year-on-year-basis in June and 0.2 percent in July, the minister noted.
Qatar’s gross domestic product (GDP) at 2013 prices witnessed a growth of 2.5 percent in the first quarter of 2017 compared to same quarter previous year, Sheikh Ahmed said. With regard to the legal and legislative frameworks set by the state to stimulate investment, he pointed out that the laws have greatly facilitated the establishment of new companies in the country. The issuance of the Commercial Companies Law, abolished minimum capital requirements for the establishment of limited liability companies, he added.
The country has provided non-Qatari investors with the opportunity to carry out investment projects in specific economic fields, with ownership ranging at 49-100 percent in agriculture, industry, health, education, tourism, energy and mining sectors, Sheikh Ahmed said. He added that the country has launched key projects to boost public and private sectors, providing promising investment opportunities in logistics, food security, education, health, tourism and sports. He said the Qatari business community, with the support of various government agencies and institutions, has been able to leverage its resources to boost local production by opening up new trade channels with many strategic partners around the world. He pointed out that the private sector, in cooperation with foreign investors in the country, has benefited from the investment opportunities available in many promising economic sectors, contributing to the growth of non-oil sector, which recorded more than 70 percent of nominal GDP during 2016.
On the measures taken by the state to combat the blockade, he said that Qatar has lodged a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) against the siege countries because of their violation of laws and conventions relating to the trade in goods and services as well as aspects of intellectual property related to trade. He said the measures taken by the siege countries was the first of its kind in the history of WTO. “They constitute a clear violation of the global trading system and have serious negative consequences at the regional and global levels,” he said. The total volume of trade exchange between Qatar and other countries of the world reached about QR81 billion in the second quarter of 2017. “The crisis provided Qatar an opportunity to identify and enhance its strengths and address shortcomings in ensuring its resilience,” Sheikh Ahmed noted.