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Qatar forum warns of economic downturn, shift in cryptocurrency

One Qatar Economic Forum participant says it will take at least a generation to reach a point where the world can depend on clean power.
Qatar Economic Forum

DUBAI — The final day of the Qatar Economic Forum on Thursday saw global heads of companies and governments stress the need for more cooperation in an increasingly polarized world across traditional and novel industries to find tangible solutions for goals such as reducing emissions, transitioning to clean energy and stabilizing financial markets. 

Doha’s three-day global business and investment event saw a reported 1,000 CEOs and heads of state gather to discuss critical economic issues faced in boardrooms globally.  

Robert Friedland, the founder and executive co-chairman of the Canadian mining company Ivanhoe Mines, said Thursday that one resounding topic was the debate over effective energy transition. 

“We can’t get to a new world in energy without depending on hydrocarbon or nuclear power,” he said, explaining that incumbent energy sources such as liquified natural gas are still needed to develop metals like copper that the world needs to build electric vehicles and evolve into using cleaner energy. 

He said it would take at least a generation to reach a point where the world can depend on clean power, and traditional energy leaders like some countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council will play an important role. 

Qatari Energy Minister Saad al-Kaabi warned governments that the massive push for energy transition policies is negatively affecting the stability of the fossil fuel industry, which will critically affect many regions, including Europe. 

“There’s going to be a big shortage in gas in the future, predominantly because of the energy-transition push that we’d say is very aggressive,” he said, reported Bloomberg from the forum on Tuesday.

“Economic stability and environmental responsibility are not mutually exclusive. You have to have both," he added. 

State of economy 

The state of the world economy was another major topic at the Doha event, with an anticipated slowdown in global gross domestic product growth — expected to fall from 3.4% in 2022 to 2.8% in 2023, according to the International Monetary Fund — and a potential US default.

However, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said at the event on Wednesday that she was confident the United States would avoid a default. 

“History tells us that the US would wrestle with this notion of default … but come the 11th hour, it gets resolved and I have confidence we will see that play again,” she said. 

On the same day at the event, Qatar’s Central Bank Governor Sheikh Bandar bin Mohammed bin Saoud Al-Thani said it's still convenient for his country to peg its currency to the US dollar. 

“We believe this policy is appropriate for Qatar’s economy and we don’t see an immediate need to change that policy,” he said. 

Future finance 

Peter Smith, co-founder and CEO of the Europe-based, said at the event on Thursday that he’s witnessed major changes in the evolution of the cryptocurrency market. 

“Over the last six to seven months, we've seen a huge surge in onboarding because people want to be trading opposite a regulated trusted institution that was able to survive the last 12 [months],” he said.

In January 2022, the crypto market was valued at more than $2 trillion, and by the end of December it hit a year low of about $800 billion, according to the tracking website CoinMarketCap. 

The crypto price platform said regulation, frequent theft from cyberattacks and speculative sentiment erratically driving price movements contributed to investor distrust and a drastic devaluation of the global crypto market. 

Smith said that the result is that many crypto exchanges have gone under and there are now fewer places to trade and onboard customers. He added that the most growth is now on the consumer side of world markets and in more reliable types of cryptocurrency. 

“We’re growing very quickly in Nigeria, Ghana, Colombia, Argentina. We also grow a lot in Ukraine,” he added, explaining that has made its services entirely free there amid the war. 

He said these markets are predominantly driven by stable coins, which have their price tied to a more reliable currency or commodity. 

The Qatar Economic Forum addressed a variety of issues that are resonating with global leaders in the business and political space. On the first day of the event, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew called the US state of Montana's ban on its application “unconstitutional” on Tuesday after filing a lawsuit the day before. Montana made the decision based on allegations that TikTok was answering to the Chinese government and gathering intelligence on Americans. 

On the same day, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker shared that it was “difficult” for his airline to ramp up its business in China in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic due to labor shortages, a result of the country’s strict lockdown measures that only recently ended in January 2023. 

This problem along with supply chain issues slowing aircraft deliveries led his airline to face a “massive shortage” in capacity to meet the monumental post-pandemic travel demand, he added. 

Baker also expressed pessimism about meeting emissions goals set by the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming growth to less than 2 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels. 

"I don't think that we will be able to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Everybody's talking about it, but let us be realistic — there is not enough production of sustainable aviation fuel," he said.

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