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Qatar can defend economy and currency, finance minister tells CNBC

Reuters , Monday 12 Jun 2017
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Qatar can easily defend its economy and currency against sanctions by other Arab states, Qatari finance minister Ali Sherif al-Emadi told CNBC television in an interview broadcast on Monday.

He added that the countries which had imposed sanctions would also lose money because of the damage to business in the region. "A lot of people think we're the only ones to lose in this... If we're going to lose a dollar, they will lose a dollar also."

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and transport ties a week ago, accusing Doha of backing terrorism. The sanctions have disrupted flows of imports and other materials into Qatar and caused many foreign banks to scale back their business with the country.

But Emadi said the energy sector and economy of the world's top liquefied natural gas exporter were essentially operating as normal and that there had not been a serious impact on supplies of food or other goods.

Qatar can import goods from Turkey, the Far East or Europe and it will respond to the crisis by diversifying its economy even more, he told CNBC.

The Qatari riyal has come under pressure in the spot and forward foreign exchange markets, but Emadi said neither this nor a near 10 percent plunge in the local stock market was cause for concern.

"Our reserves and investment funds are more than 250 percent of gross domestic product, so I don't think there is any reason that people need to be concerned about what's happening or any speculation on the Qatari riyal."

Asked whether Qatar might need to raise money by selling off stakes in large Western companies held by its sovereign wealth fund, Emadi indicated this was not on the cards at present.

"We are extremely comfortable with our positions, our investments and liquidity in our systems," he said.

Prices of Qatar's international bonds have dropped sharply, but in answer to another question, Emadi said he saw no need for the government to step into the market and buy those bonds to support prices.

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