London- Qatar’s government may reduce its capital spending on economic projects and infrastructure if damage to its economy from sanctions intensifies, Fitch Ratings said on Monday as it cut the country’s credit rating.
Fitch lowered Qatar by one notch to AA-minus with a negative outlook. That brought it into line with the other two major rating agencies, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s (S&P), which assess Qatar at the same level and also have negative outlooks for it.
It predicted the Qatari government’s net foreign assets would fall to 146 percent of gross domestic product this year from 185 percent last year as the government moves money into local banks to offset outflows due to the sanctions.
Outflows are likely to slow in coming months because a large proportion of deposits from the Gulf Cooperation Council countries sanctioning Qatar have already been withdrawn, Fitch said.
But it added: “Much non-GCC external funding is being rolled over at a higher cost, but the escalation of tensions in the region could see it flee.”
Fitch predicted Qatar’s economic growth would slow to 2.0 percent in 2017 and 1.3 percent in 2018, from 2.2 percent in 2016.
The sanctions will hurt Qatar’s tourism and transport sectors in particular, Fitch said, estimating that Qatar Airways had lost about 10 percent of its passenger flow.
A prolonged rupture in the GCC could undermine the prospects for many of Qatar’s private sector investments, it added.
Many analysts now expect the crisis from the sanctions to linger into 2018 as the chances of a mediated settlement have diminished.
Fitch’s rating action comes a day after S&P’s affirmed the negative outlook on Qatar’s credit rating.
S&P was the first to lower its long-term rating on the State of Qatar to AA- from AA and placed the rating on creditwatch with negative implications.
In its latest update, S&P affirmed the negative outlook and has hinted that it could potentially lower the ratings if the economic boycott is tightened and or prolonged.
According to rating agency Moody’s, the likelihood of a prolonged period of uncertainty extending into 2018 has increased, which carries the risk that Qatar’s sovereign credit fundamentals could deteriorate further impacting overall investor risk appetite cost of funding.
In its last rating review, Moody’s kept Qatar’s rating at Aa3 with negative outlook.
The rating agency has noted that depending on the duration and potential further escalation of tensions, the dispute could negatively affect Qatar’s economic and fiscal strength.