Wed, Nov 01, 2017 - Page 10 News List

Qatar rift could diminish growth in the region: IMF

AFP, DUBAI, United Arab Emirates

The economic impact of the diplomatic rift between Qatar and its Persian Gulf neighbors has so far been limited, but a prolonged crisis could weaken the region’s mid-term growth, the IMF said yesterday.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt on June 5 severed diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed an economic blockade, accusing Doha of promoting extremist groups.

Qatar, which is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) alongside Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, has denied the charges.

The four nations froze all economic deals with gas-rich Qatar, and Riyadh closed the only land exit for the peninsula.

“The diplomatic rift between Qatar and the neighboring countries had a limited impact on the Qatari economy and its impact on the region is muted in the short-term,” IMF director for the Middle East and Central Asia Jihad Azour said.

“So far, there are no signs that the diplomatic rift had an impact on growth in the GCC,” Azour told reporters, adding that it had a “very limited impact on trade and almost no impact on oil price.”

However, the IMF warned in its Regional Economic Outlook released yesterday that if the crisis drags on, it will negatively impact mid-term growth prospects for the six-nation GCC.

“A protracted rift could weaken medium-term growth prospects, not only for Qatar, but also for other GCC countries,” the report said.

If the rift continues, it will “slow progress toward greater GCC integration and cause a broader erosion of confidence, reducing investment and growth, and increasing funding costs in Qatar and possibly the rest of the GCC,” it added.

The crisis had resulted in some financial pressures on Qatar, as its sovereign credit rating and outlook had been downgraded, raising interbank interest rates and leading to a decline in private sector deposits, the report said.

The initial impact on Qatari banks has largely been mitigated by liquidity injections by the central bank and increased public sector deposits, the IMF said.

Last month, Moody’s Investors Service estimated that about US$30 billion was withdrawn from Qatar’s banking system in June and July. Moody’s estimated that Qatar used US$38.5 billion — equivalent to 23 percent of its GDP — to support the economy in the first two months of sanctions.

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