By Osama Ali
The global economy is starting to see the first tentative signs of a rebound from Covid-19, and Qatar is well-positioned not just to recover itself, but to benefit from helping others to recover. We’re strong, we’re well-funded, and we have concrete plans – literally and figuratively – that turn out to be perfectly aligned to the shape of the emerging post-Covid recovery.
The global recovery is patchy, and in many places two-steps-forward-one-step-back, but some broad trends are becoming apparent. Many of the countries of East Asia and Australasia went into the pandemic first, acted aggressively to limit its spread and are emerging first. Qatar fits into this pattern: initially we had a high number of positive results relative to the size of the population, but effecting testing, tracking and quarantine measures, combined with a world-class health system, meant that our recovery rates are amongst the highest in the world and our mortality rates amongst the lowest.
Our pandemic response has established a solid foundation for our recovery. We are ready to re-open and to grasp the opportunities that will emerge as countries like China, South Korea and Australia start to rebound and look for new economic partners, new markets and new funding while their long-established partners in Europe and the Americas remain mired in a medical emergency.
Most of the foundations of our good fortune were put in train even before Covid-19 struck. Good planning in the form of the Qatar National Vision 2030, combined with a drop of good luck – the magic ingredient which can transform solid strategy into visionary foresight – has put Qatar in the driving seat for recovery.
Three elements have come together to boost the momentum of our recovery. The first was the decision to host the FIFA World Cup 2022. This kicked off one of the most ambitious domestic infrastructure build-ups in the region. Now, less than 30 months away, the country is already in an advanced stage of construction and other related projects in readiness for the event. Even in the uncertain of Post-Covid sports events, the possibility of normalisation before the 2022 deadline for Qatar remains high, and finishing the preparations will provide a key channel for monetary stimulus which will keep the rest of the economy humming.
The second element is the newly created Qatar Free Zone Authority, which is making it easier for local businesses to expand globally, and for global businesses to create a new node. The establishment of the QFZA comes just as global supply chains are re-configuring, encouraged by growing geopolitical volatility and the desire to ensure that supply chains are better at withstanding political, economic and climate shocks. Qatar has an historic opportunity to grab some of the throughput, leveraging its strategic position between Asia – the factory of the world – and markets in Africa, Europe and the eastern Mediterranean.
The third element is Qatar Petroleum’s decision to boost Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) production capacity by 15% just as the world turns to more environmentally responsible solutions as part of a policy of “build back better” in the wake of Covid.
But we should not limit our vision to Qatar’s shores. Our economic strength gives us an almost unique opportunity to buy in to the recovery elsewhere. This is a long-term play – as recognised by the Qatar National Vision 2030, which is to be driven by investing in developing human capital, environmental protection, social stability and economic diversification.
In practical terms, this looks very like the decision by Nebras Power, a State of Qatar outbound investment vehicle in the renewables sector, to invest in a wind farm in Australia, but we should not stop there. Asia is increasingly looking westwards to find the funds for its next stage of growth. Connectivity has never been more important, but it has also never been easier. The world has conquered the tyranny of distance by embracing virtual meetings, virtual strategy planning, and virtual business relationships. This opportunity is ours to take.
Covid has provided a reset button. People, companies and countries are looking for reliable new partners to build a better connected, greener future with more robust supply chains. Qatar is uniquely positioned to take advantage of this trend: our future is in our own hands.
* The author is managing director and head of global banking at HSBC Bank Middle East Limited, Qatar.
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