The blockade has had adverse effects, from a fall in real estate prices to losses suffered by Qatar Airways and a drop in the number of tourists from Persian Gulf countries. But 18 months into the row, Qatar seems to have bounced back. In December the International Monetary Fund said Qatar has continued to grow. A month later global ratings agency S&P revised Qatar's outlook from negative to stable.
New business opportunities
Ibrahim al-Emadi is a member of the second-richest family in Qatar and the cousin of the country's finance minister. He pulled out a dusty blue vase engraved with Arabic calligraphy and claimed it to be centuries old. "Antiques," he said, are his side business. Emadi runs a range of other businesses, dealing in hospital equipment, cybersecurity and real estate.
"We are doing great. Nothing better could have happened to us," he said of the blockade. "I am no more a distributor: I am the agency for our imports." Emadi said that by cutting out the Saudi and Emirati middlemen, his businesses have earned 40 percent more profit.
He didn't show his balance sheet but insisted: "We have complete backing of our government. They say, 'You want to do business, here, we help you with money and everything, go do it.'"
As Qatar asked its businessmen to take the initiative, the state cut out a hefty task for itself and strengthened its defence capabilities. It has decided to spend tens of billions of dollars on advanced weapon systems and announced purchases of 36 American F-15s, 12 French Rafale fighters and 24 Eurofighter Typhoon combat jets. Qatar will also commence construction of a new naval base this year and plans to double its naval forces by 2025.
Filling up the stores and coughing up billions to buy weapons is one thing, building the defence forces another. Qatar has all of 300,000 Qatari citizens, a severe limitation if it wishes to enlarge its armed forces. Thus far, Doha has banked largely on soldiers recruited from other countries, such as Sudan and Pakistan.