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Qatar Should Consider More Flexible Exchange Rate – Central Banker

Qatar Central Bank

As the World Cup draws closer, Qatar's fiscal spending, its only policy tool, may become difficult to restrict.

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May 21, 2013 4:23 by



Qatar and other Gulf states should consider moving to a more flexible exchange rate from long-entrenched pegs to the U.S. dollar, to better manage inflation risk in the next decade, a senior Qatar central bank official said on Tuesday.

He cited Singapore’s currency regime as an example that Gulf states could adopt.

Gulf Arab monarchies embraced fixed exchange rate regimes to stabilise their currencies and import low inflation from overseas. But their economic cycles have diverged from the United States in recent years as Asiabecame the Gulf’s dominant trade partner.

“We in the GCC need more than an outdated four-decade old simple uni-instrument, uni-tool macroeconomic policy framework,” Khalid Alkhater, Central Bank (QCB) Director of Research and Monetary Policy, said in a prepared speech seen by Reuters.

“This framework was suitable for the earlier stages of development. However, the world has changed,” said Alkhater, who has recently completed a scientific research study on the topic, adding it did not necessarily reflect the QCB’s official view.

Alkhater is due to speak at the Doha Forum later on Tuesday.

Any change to currency pegs to the dollar would be a sensitive issue in the Gulf Arab region, which has strong political and economic ties with the United States. Comments diverging from the official line are very rare.

Qatar adopted a currency peg after gaining independence from Britain in 1971. It has kept the riyal pegged at 3.64 riyals to the dollar since 2001, when it replaced pegging it to special drawing rights (SDR) used in 1975-2001.

A more active monetary policy may now be needed as Qatar plans to spend $140 billion on infrastructure, partly to prepare for hosting the 2022 World Cup soccer tournament.

As the World Cup draws closer, Qatar’s fiscal spending, its only policy tool, may become difficult to restrict due to the tournament building commitments and pre-planned diversification programmes, Alkhater said.

“We could potentially face a threat of a buildup of inflationary pressures over the next 10 years. Hence, we need additional macroeconomic stabilization instruments, namely monetary policy and exchange rate,” Alkhater said.

Inflation in Qatar climbed to 3.7 percent on an annual basis in April, the highest level since at least 2009, fuelled by rising rental costs. Bank credit expanded by 32 percent on average last year, the fastest rate since the global crisis started in 2007/8.



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