“We don’t feel any difference. It’s a celebration everywhere,” say buoyant Qataris about sanctions

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HIGHLIGHTS

NEW DELHI: Last month, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt imposed sanctions and severed diplomatic and travel ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism and being an ally of regional foe Iran, charges that Qatar denies. Observers expected the country would reel from the sanctions, but it’s getting by just fine. Here are 10 things to know about how Qatar is getting by despite the blockade:

1) Immediately after the sanctions, worried residents rushed to grocery stores, emptying shelves of dairy products and other food imports, because Saudi Arabiahad sealed Qatar‘s only land border, as part of the sanctions.

2) That didn’t last long, as store shelves were quickly restocked. Grocery stores are now brimming with meats and cheeses thanks to imports from Europe and Turkey, which stepped up supplies to beleaguered Qatar. In addition, Qatar set up five new shipping routes – two to Oman, two to India and one to Turkey, to circumvent the problems caused by the sanctions.

3) Even the tourism sector is still flourishing. Luxury hotels like the W and St. Regis continue to serve lavish meals around the clock and alcohol flows freely for visitors. Famous Barcelona soccer players Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba met with fans last week at a mall in the capital, Doha, which will host the 2022 World Cup.

4) With an economy heavily reliant on imports, Qatar has done its best to not allow its neighbours’ sanctions dissuade its larger international intake from other cooperating countries like Australia. Just last month, the country’s main port received as many as 4,300 cars from there.

5) In addition, Qatar has already flown in around 165 Holstein cows from Budapest, the first of 4,000 cattle that will be imported by August from Hungary, the US, Australia and Germany, reported CNN. This is to prevent any possibility of a milk shortage in the country.

6) Qataris also claimed back their camels stranded in Saudi Arabia due to the sanctions. Qatari farmers’ ability to make their daily wage was severely hampered and they managed to reclaim their camels under what the owners said was an informal deal with Saudi border guards.

7) Infrastructure projects have also been unaffected by the blockade. Work on the expressway network that will facilitate access to FIFA World Cup stadiums is continuing without any stoppages. And construction on the Orbital Highway, which directly connects to the Hamad Port, is still going smoothly.

8) Qatar has been able to sustain itself through the sanctions while making such bold imports due to its enormous wealth. It has some $340 billion in reserves. Around $40 billion of that is in cash plus gold, and $300 billion is in reserves with the Qatar Investment Authority, according to the country’s central bank governor Sheikh Abdullah Bin Saoud Al Thani. Qatar’s main source of revenue, natural gas, continues to flow uninterrupted. Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund has also invested strategically over the years in international luxury brands and real estate in major cities like New York and London.
9) All this had led to the optimism among Qatar’s citizens the residents which in turn has resulted in an outpouring of popular support for Al Thani, the 37-year-old emir has emerged. Signs on cars and billboards read “We are all Tamim. We are all Qatar”, referring to Qatar’s emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani “We don’t feel any difference. It’s a celebration everywhere,” a Qatari man Badr Jeran told the Associated Press, as he shopped at a mall.
10) Despite the blockade by the four Arab countries, life has not been impacted significantly in Qatar. The government has stepped in to help pay additional costs of shipping and has looked to its allies, like Turkey, for food imports. In light of these developments, France‘s foreign minister on Saturday became the latest foreign diplomat to visit the region and attempt to help find a resolution to a crisis that has dragged on for more than a month.


(With inputs from Agencies)

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