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Qatar Remains Resilient in Spite of Regional Tension

Since the imposition of an air, land, and sea blockade, Qatar continues to be resilient despite hardships. Saudi Arabia initially spearheaded the embargo, and was later joined by the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt, along with several other nations that have downgraded ties since the onset of the diplomatic crisis in June 2017. Qatar certainly felt the effects of the embargo at first, with crippling food shortages and calls for Qatar Airways employees working in the four nations to leave, as the airline’s offices were shut down. Notably, Qatar Airways is entirely owned by the Qatari government, thereby explaining the direct attack on the company. 11% of the entire network maintained by Qatar Airways had been lost, meaning that the airline suffered a loss of more than a dozen important flights. Consequently, the airline was forced to lose 20% of its overall revenue. The blockade, naturally, affected flight routes as well, since Qatar Airways flights must avoid the airspace over all four nations, leading to delays and heightened fuel costs.

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Even so, Qatar identified solutions that allowed it to temper the damage that the Saudi-led blockade sought to inflict. Particularly, the blockade initially hindered access to 40% of the nation’s food supply, as this segment of the total food imports came from the Saudi border. In response, Qatar Airways increased airfreight capacity to counteract the effects of the food blockade that spawned shortages. With this addition, more food could be brought  into the nation. In addition to solving that issue, the airline has been able to maintain the payroll of those newly unemployed individuals, who were jobless as a result of the embargo. Many affected employees appear to have been employed by other airlines as well. Interestingly, oil and gas exports, which account for more than half of the nation’s GDP, have remained relatively stable. Such stability has played a key role in helping Qatar weather the blockade.

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The Qatari government has also opened its economy to other regional markets. A Newsweek article written by the Qatari Minister of Finance highlights that an agreement has been made to export liquefied natural gas from Qatar to Bangladesh, over the next 15 years. The article additionally highlights ways in which other nations are seemingly accommodating Qatar, bolstering the nation as it resists the effects of the embargo. Notably, Indian food suppliers have adopted new flight routes that allow for food to be delivered directly to Qatar, circumventing traditional routes that included stops in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Such phenomenon demonstrates how the nation has successfully expanded its economic ties to create more opportunities to counteract losses incurred by the diplomatic crisis. This economic diversification will arguably benefit the nation in the long run, showing how the four nations that implemented the embargo did not properly account for the flexibility in one of the world’s richest countries.