Qatar is set to benefit from the expected global economic recovery, post-pandemic in 2021, which will drive demand for energy commodities, says Dr Abdulbasit Ahmed al-Shaibei, chief executive officer of leading Islamic bank QIIB.

“2021 looks promising with Covid-19 vaccine development finally meeting with some successes and global pharmaceutical companies gearing up to deliver vaccines worldwide. We are now talking about post-pandemic; so God willing, we might be able to put Covid-19 behind us,” Dr al-Shaibei said in an interview with Gulf Times.

Many economists expect that the “wheel will start rolling in large economies” next year, he said but noted that “equitable distribution of vaccines is key to sustainable global recovery.”

“All the key indicators show that big economies such as the US, China and India will recover in 2021. They are all badly hit because of Covid-19. Signs of recovery are already visible in China,” Dr al-Shaibei said and noted the recovery in big economies will have a “positive impact” on oil and gas among other major commodities.

He said, “The global economy is very much inter-connected now. What this means is that if a big economy suffers, the medium and small economies will suffer too. The inverse is true as well.”

Qatar’s economy, the veteran banker said, is “very dynamic”.

“Still, we are having some huge projects in the pipeline. This will have a positive impact on all sectors, especially banking.”

The prominent Qatari banker, however, stressed that in order to meet the huge domestic demand for liquidity, banks’ need to have a “solid” balance sheet.

And then there are few other things the Qatari banks should be ready for – in terms of technology, al-Shaibei stressed.

“With the competition and pricing, Qatari banks should be ready in terms of cost efficiency and risks. The markets are getting very complicated everywhere. Competition is also very high – so risks are a big element here.

“The banks should have a solid platform for risk mitigation. Good human resources also play a key role. If you don’t have these elements, you cannot capture the market.”

While Qatar market is very promising and provides numerous opportunities, al-Shaibei noted, “We should also be aware of the competition in the market. The market is not just for the local banks – international banks can come in and compete in everything including pricing.

“So, it emphasises how significant it is to be cost effective by enhancing technology,” al-Shaibei said.

Asked whether the real estate sector poses risks to the local banks, the QIIB chief executive officer said, “I believe the real estate market has already hit the bottom…it cannot go down any further.

“One must also not forget some very positive moves by the Government (through the Housing Department) to acquire vacant units in preparation for the FIFA World Cup 2022. Which again is a big help for banks, who are lending money for the real estate, even if they are not investing in the sector,” al-Shaibei said.

He said the local banks have adequate safeguards for real estate lending.

“The good thing about the local banks is that their balance sheet- whether quarterly or yearly- clearly reflect the exposure to the real estate sector. All investments in real estate undergo proper evaluation as well. That’s why I am comfortable with the approach the banks are taking in terms of investing in or financing the real estate sector.

“Also, land in Qatar is very limited. We don’t have that huge holdings of land. You may hear about real estate prices coming down- but when actually you go to the market – you don’t find that kind of price. I believe prices are holding. Because, owners know that if they part with a land, they may not find another suitable one, honestly,” al-Shaibei said.