DOHA: The economy of Qatar, the world’s top exporter of liquefied natural gas, is set to grow 2.6 percent this year and closer to 3 percent in 2019, its finance minister told Reuters.
The Gulf Arab state's economy has largely recovered from a boycott imposed by other Arab states last June and is again one of the region's fastest-growing.
Qatar moved quickly to safeguard its economy after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and transport ties with Doha, accusing it of financing terrorism. Qatar rejects the allegations.
The boycott disrupted imports and triggered the withdrawal of billions of dollars of deposits from Qatari banks. But it developed new trade routes, deposited state money in its banks and helped local firms to develop output of some key goods.
"We are still doing very well and will make sure economic growth outpaces that of the region," Finance Minister Ali Sherif al-Emadi said, forecasting private sector growth of 4 percent in 2018.
He said Qatar was moving on fast with spending in preparation of hosting the 2022 World Cup - the centrepiece of Doha's strategy to project itself on the global stage - and that 90 percent of infrastructure work for the event would be completed by 2019.
Qatar is set to make its first foray into the international bond markets since the Arab row erupted last year. It will meet UK and U.S. investors from April 9-11 ahead of issuing five-, 10- and 30-year dollar notes.
Al-Emadi said before that announcement that the political crisis had not dampened appetite for Qatari debt and that Doha was engaged in the market.
"We haven’t seen any change in financial institutions’ behaviour towards us. It is business as usual," he said. "If we see a good opportunity we will go out."
Qatar’s banking sector is still very liquid and can provide funding options for Qatari firms, while some of the more developed companies in the country have already accessed international bond markets, the minister added.
(editing by John Stonestreet)