Bomb attack fails to disrupt Qatar

QATAR’S vigorous economic growth is set to continue despite a suicide car bomb attack in the capital, Doha. Economic experts claim the Gulf state can shrug off the effects of the blast, which killed a Briton and wounded 12 others at a theatre popular with Westerners.

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By  Rhys Jones Published  March 27, 2005

QATAR’S vigorous economic growth is set to continue despite a suicide car bomb attack in the capital, Doha. Economic experts claim the Gulf state can shrug off the effects of the blast, which killed a Briton and wounded 12 others at a theatre popular with Westerners. In spite of shock waves from the blast last weekend — the first terrorist attack in Qatar — experts believe it will have little impact on the country's booming economy. “I would be surprised if this knocks Qatar off track,” said Simon Williams, senior economist, Middle East and North Africa, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). “There is a lot of momentum built up in the economy and we [EIU] are unlikely to cut our forecast of 8% real economic growth for the country in 2005 because of this attack,” he added. Qatar achieved a GDP growth of 22% last year and has recorded a surplus budget for the past five years despite increased spending. Furthermore, the country’s economy grew 8.7% in real terms in 2004, driven by higher oil and gas prices and increased output from the country’s gas-based industries. Qatar has the world’s third largest gas reserves after Russia and Iran. Qatar’s stock market barely moved in the days following the attack. The Doha Securities Market index eased just 31 points, or 0.3%, to close at about 11,225 points. The bourse has risen 73% this year, setting new records, ahead of a partial opening to foreign investors. Energy companies are used to operating in turbulent countries and are unlikely to be unaffected by the Qatar attack. Late last month, Qatar signed around US$10 billion-worth of gas-related investment deals with Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch/Shell and Total. “This attack may lead some international companies to take a second look at their operations in Qatar, but I think that after that second look, they will go ahead pretty much as planned,” said the EIU’s Williams. “You are still talking about a political system that is very stable, and its finances are in very good shape,” he added. The attack has been claimed by an Islamist group calling itself the Jund Al Sham Organisation, (Organisation of Soldiers of the Levant) and was carried out by an Egyptian resident, Omar Ahmad Abdullah Ali. However, with stable political and financial systems in place it is unlikely that Qatar will suffer like other countries in the region. “Qatar is not Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or Iraq. It’s a very strange incident which I don’t think will be easily repeated,” said Bashir Al Kahlut, a financial analyst with Qatar’s Central Bank. “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,” he added.

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