'A Year On, Qatar Emerging Stronger Despite Blockade'

Published May 28th, 2018 - 10:20 GMT
The blockade has made Qatar to consider ways of becoming more self-sufficient. (Shutterstock)
The blockade has made Qatar to consider ways of becoming more self-sufficient. (Shutterstock)

Almost a year after four Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia imposed a blockade on Qatar, Doha has been able to weather the storm and emerge stronger, according to a report in The Telegraph.

"If Qatar is in crisis, you wouldn't notice it on a flying visit or even during Ramadan, when many shops and most restaurants are closed during daylight hours. But the streets of Qatar are packed with gas-guzzling SUVs ferrying Qataris between air-conditioned offices, palatial homes and a shiny new airport. Viewed from the top of any of its skyscrapers, the sandy landscape is dotted with busy building sites amid a construction boom," Jack Torrance wrote in the report.

The newspaper said all this is happening in Qatar despite the siege and sanctions imposed by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt.

Last June, Qatar found itself adrift almost overnight as its only land border with Saudi Arabia was cut off, and its aeroplanes were denied access to big swathes of airspace. Qatar Airways has already enjoyed faster growth than its rivals, Etihad Airways and Emirates. However, the blockade forced Qatar Airways to suspend routes to 19 destinations. The costs of the sanctions were mitigated by the airline's decision to lease nine of its grounded planes, along with their crew, to British Airways.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar al Baker has been a vocal critic of the International Civil Aviation Organisation's handling of the crisis. The body, part of the United Nations that is in charge of laying down the rules for the use of airspace, has"taken a back seat", he claims.
"Airspace doesn't belong to a country, it belongs to an international community. Qatar is part of the international community, it is a member of the ICAO and the UN, so they need to do their job," he adds. "We are not asking for permission to land in their country, we are asking that this international airspace can be used for international civil aviation traffic," he said.

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The newspaper said the blockade has made Qatar to consider ways of becoming more self-sufficient. While it used to buy most of its dairy products from Saudi Arabia, for instance, Qatar is now rearing cows that will allow it to produce enough yogurt, cheese and milk to meet its own needs.

The paper said Qatar had no unemployment problems and that it had been able to cope with the storm with its huge oil and gas reserves, which continued to flow, saving tens of billions each year.
The report said what helps Qatar is that its biggest export partners are not its immediate neighbours, but countries such as Japan, South Korea, China and India where the demand for Qatar's petrochemicals shows no sign of abating. 

A key question for many is whether the blockade will be halted in time for Qatar's hosting of the football World Cup in 2022.
It has been investing billions of pounds ahead of the tournament, and not just in hi-tech stadiums with air conditioning but also in massive infrastructure projects including a new metro system, an expanded airport and Lusail, a whole new city.

Just north of Doha, the settlement will cost an estimated $45 billion to build and will be home to the iconic Lusail stadium, where the World Cup final will be played. Baker said the competition will"introduce the world to my country". 
"Today some people say that it is somewhere in the backwaters of the Gulf, it is a small town. But when they see what we can deliver it will be such a big boost to the reputation of the culture we have here," Baker added.

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