Qatar economic outlook downgraded hours before crunch Gulf meeting
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- Ratings agency Moody’s has downgraded Qatar’s economic outlook as political uncertainty swirled ahead of a crunch meeting between Arab nations on Wednesday in Cairo.
- Early on Wednesday it said “the likelihood of a prolonged period of uncertainty extending into 2018 has increased and a quick resolution of the dispute is unlikely over the next few months”. The turmoil “carries the risk that Qatar’s sovereign credit fundamentals could be negatively affected”, it added.
- So far, Qatar’s exports of natural gas have yet to be affected, the agency said. Those exports make the small country’s citizens have the biggest per capita incomes in the world.
- Later on Wednesday, foreign ministers from the four Arab countries will meet in Cairo to discuss their next move. Late Tuesday, Egypt’s state-run Mena news agency reported intelligence agency chiefs from those countries had met in Cairo, likely discussing the crisis.
- The crisis has become a global concern because neither side appears to be backing down. Qatar, the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas, hosts some 10,000 American troops at its sprawling al-Udeid air base. US secretary of state Rex Tillerson has been trying to ease tensions, while President Donald Trump’s comments on Qatar funding extremist groups back the Saudi-led countries’ position.
- Some Arab media outlets have suggested a military confrontation or a change of leadership in Qatar could be in the offing, but officials have said those options are not on the table.
- On Tuesday, German foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, visited officials in both the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. He said Germany supported the UAE’s efforts at confronting those who funded extremists.
- Though Qatar Airways’ routes over its neighbours have been cut, along with the country’s sole land border with Saudi Arabia, the country has been able to source food from other countries. Its economy, fuelled by its natural gas exports, continues to hum along though there has been pressure on its stock market and currency.