Qatar Economic Experts Shrug Off Car Bombing

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Fiona MacDonald, Agence France Presse

Published — Wednesday 23 March 2005

Last Update 23 March 2005 3:00 am

DOHA, 23 March 2005 — Economic experts in the Gulf state of Qatar, which is pouring billions of dollars into gas projects, yesterday shrugged off a car bomb attack in the capital which killed a Briton and wounded 12 other people.

Despite the shock waves from the weekend blast — the first such attack in Qatar — the experts said they saw it having little impact on the booming economy.

Beshir Al-Kahlut, a financial analyst with Qatar’s central bank, said there were no signs yet that the blast had economic repercussions. “Up to this moment, I can’t see any impact on the economy, though everyone is astonished at what happened. Qatar’s economy has expanded in a marvelous way in all fields,” said Kahlut.

Qatar achieved a GDP growth of 22 percent last year and has recorded a surplus budget for the past five years despite increased spending. “Qatar is not Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or Iraq. It’s a very strange incident which I don’t think will be easily repeated,” he said, adding that the lucrative gas sector would be unaffected.

“There are giant projects going on, billions are to be spent. I don’t think the incident will affect this,” particularly if the attack is an isolated one, said Kahlut. “We have a very good security system. Okay, this incident may have bypassed that but these things can happen anywhere.” His comments were echoed by Mohammed Khalid Al-Mana, chairman of Qatar’s Chamber of Commerce. “I don’t think there will be a major effect,” he said, adding: “Stock market prices are at a normal level. The shares of some companies have gone up and others have gone down, things are normal.” “Such a blast does not mean it’s not a secure place for investors,” Mana said, pointing out that “even in Iraq, where it’s not secure, investment is happening.”

Qatar has major investments, he added, which would not be affected by a sole blast, the first of its kind to hit the gas-rich state. “You can measure it from the stock market where there was no impact,” said Hussam Abu Issa, vice chairman of Salam International Investment Company, which is listed on the exchange. “People were not afraid.”

The bombing, which struck outside the Doha Players theater as a performance of a Shakespeare play was underway, shocked residents of the tiny Gulf emirate, which is determined to become the world’s top exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

In January, Qatar, with the world’s third largest proven gas reserves, announced investment plans worth $108 billion over five years, $50 billion of it for infrastructure projects and the rest on oil and gas ventures.

The country has signed several multi-billion-dollar deals with foreign majors to develop its LNG industry in keeping with its ambition to become a global energy giant.

Qatari businessman Mohammed Noor Al-Obaidly, commenting on the blast, said: “So far everything has continued as normal. But we hope this (attacks) won’t continue, this is very important.

The first day after the blast, the index of Qatar’s stock exchange, which will open up to foreigners next month, went down slightly, “and much less than on normal days,” said Saif Al-Mansuri, the exchange’s director. “It means that so far there has been no effect at all. We are sure that the authorities will confront this phenomenon,” Mansuri said.

The bomber has been named as Omar Ahmad Abdullah Ali, an Egyptian IT employee with state-run Qatar Petroleum. The television channel Al-Jazeera quoted Qatar’s Interior Ministry as saying the Saturday bombing was a suicide attack.

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