US dollars are in short supply at many foreign exchange houses in Qatar, due to increased customer demand and disrupted shipments, employees said.
Last week, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain severed diplomatic ties with Qatar and closed their air, land and sea borders with the neighboring peninsula state.
The uncertainty over the situation has spurred some residents to exchange their riyals for US dollars in recent days.
This, combined with disrupted transportation to Qatar, has left some currency exchange centers with little or no stock of USD.
To mitigate the problem, some houses are imposing limits on the amount of dollars individuals can exchange.
No cause for concern
The run on US dollars appears to have been a knee-jerk reaction by some residents to the past week’s events.
However, Qatar’s Riyal has been pegged at around 3.64 to the dollar for years and analysts say this is unlikely to change.
Even if the situation deteriorates, Qatar can use its massive reserves of foreign assets to support their currency.
Additionally, Qatar’s Finance Minister said in an interview with CNBC yesterday that there is no reason for concern, and that he was “extremely comfortable” with the country’s economic position.
Out of stock
Doha News spoke to 11 branches of seven different exchange companies across the city about their stock of US currency this week.
Seven outlets had no dollars, including Trust Exchange in Al Messila, Al Jazeera Exchange in Al Sadd and in Bin Mahmoud, and the City Exchange in Bin Mahmoud.
Al Mana Exchange in Al Muntazah was also out of all currency, a staffer told Doha News.
“We have no stock, and we’re not getting anything tomorrow. There’s no availability in the market,” he said.
Meanwhile, long queues could be seen this week outside the Landmark Mall branch of Al Dar Exchange Works, as residents sought to send money to families back home.
This is not unusual given summer and Eid holidays are when many people travel.
But one of the booths had posted a sign advising customer that it had no dollars for exchange.
In comparison, all the exchanges had a good supply of Euros and UK pounds. And there were no limits for customers exchanging to these currencies, staff said.
Three exchanges said they had small amounts and were limiting customers to between $500 and $2,000 per person. Just one said it had an adequate supply of dollars.
Al Zaman Exchange in Al Mamoura had a limited supply of dollars, and customers were only allowed up to $500 per person, a dealer there said.
Meanwhile, a staffer at the Qatar-UAE Exchange in City Center mall said they were limiting customers to $2,000 per person.
“Lots of people have come in recently wanting dollars – they’re taking all our stock,” the dealer said.
The Qatar-UAE Exchange branch on Airport Road also had a small supply, and was imposing a $1,000 limit per customer.
“You should come early, as we will run out, and we don’t know when we will get more in. Maybe tomorrow, Insha’Allah (God-willing),” an employee said.
The Dar Al Salam mall branch of the same exchange company had no dollars and an employee there said they did not know when they might get more.
However, Sudhir Kumar Shetty added that the dollar supply was not meeting demand in Qatar, partly due to flows of the US currency from other Gulf countries being disrupted.
“Everywhere, all the banks and exchange houses, there are no dollars. All the exchange houses are trying to get currencies from other countries,” he said, adding that his firm was hoping for a shipment from Hong Kong.
Notably, the shortage does not appear to have affected all exchange houses.
Residents who need to stock up on dollars ahead of their summer travels may have better luck waiting until they arrive at the airport.
Travelex branches airside and landside at Hamad International Airport (HIA) had dollars in stock.
And they are not imposing any exchange limits on customers, an employee told Doha News.
Have you had any trouble changing your money? Thoughts?
Note: Stock levels at money houses change frequently and residents who wish to change currency should call ahead to confirm availability.