DUBAI (BLOOMBERG) - The 15-month embargo of Qatar by Saudi Arabia and three other Arab nations has been a "blessing" for the gas-rich nation's economy, its economy minister said.
Since the boycott began, Qatari exports have risen 19 per cent, while its global trade climbed 16 per cent, Sheikh Ahmed Bin Jassim Bin Mohammed Al Thani told Bloomberg in a TV interview in Berlin. Economic growth this year is forecast to be the fastest in the Gulf, at around 2.9 per cent, the minister said, citing World Bank estimates.
"The blockade on Qatar from an economic point of view is behind us," the minister said. "We are doing excellent. In fact, from an economic point of view, it's a blessing."
After the blockade, Qatar ventured into markets that had been ignored before, he said.
"If we lost around a 110-million market, we opened a 400-million market" in countries including Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Pakistan, Iran and central Asia, he said.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic, trade and transport links with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of destabilising the region by supporting Islamist movements and cozying up to Iran. Qatar denies the charges and has refused to accept a list of 13 demands to normalize relations.
The Qatari economy has managed to weather the punishing diplomatic and trade boycott thanks to the deep pockets of its sovereign wealth fund. The Qatar Investment Authority replaced billions of dollars withdrawn from its banks in the aftermath of the boycott. The International Monetary Fund expects the country's gross domestic product to grow 2.9 per cent this year.
Sheikh Ahmed is in Germany with Qatar's emir, who is expected to announce several investments during his state visit. The minister said foreign companies have greater opportunities for investment in Qatar now because projects traditionally carried out by the state will be opened to the private sector.
Qatar is looking at investments in South-east Asia after the emerging markets rout created opportunities in fundamentally strong markets, he added.