Located in the Persian Gulf, Qatar is a country with an AR of little more than 10,000 square kilometers. Just to give you some ideas of how small that is. It's nearly 40 times smaller than California. So, when the country got it's independence from the UK in 1971, Qatar was faraway, hostile and very poor place. As a matter of fact, it was one of the poorest territories of the United Kingdom. And that made a lot of sense...
The Qatar Peninsula is a place where temperatures can reach 50 degree Celsius in summer, it is almost completely covered by dessert and it was certainly one of the most uninhabitable place on earth. But it didn't stay that way forever and today Qatar is the richest country on the planet. That's right, the citizens of this tiny country enjoys a per capital income of more than $125,000, which is three times the income in France and five times that found in Chile. This is a country which was almost uninhabited, a country that could hardly survive on it's fishing industry, and today it looks something like Scrooge McDuck's safe. The government of Qatar has investments and properties all around the world. It is the birthplace of Al Jazeera, the most important Arabic media company and then there is Doha, the capital, which is a sea of skyscrapers, malls and luxuries cars. A mix of Monaco and Vegas, but without the alcohol and gambling. There is no room for simplicity, everything is captious, Hugh and sparkling in Doha. Angel Sastre, Conflict areas supporter. Qatar has gone from being a dark shelter for wahabist preachers and has become what people might consider the open country in the middle east. (Other than Dubai, of course, but as you might know Dubai is an emirate and non actually a country).
In modern day Doha, we can find international universities or the so-called "Church City": a complex of protestant, orthodox and Catholic churches, like Church of Our Lady ROSARY. A $20m Catholic church, which seats 2,700, is located in the southern outskirts of the city on lab donated by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-thani, Qatar's emir. So, now the question of course has to be: How did Qatar achieve this remarkable transformation? Well, let's take a look at that.
In other videos, we've discussed some of the keys why some countries are so rich. But in Qatar's case, it's much simpler and it can be summarized by two things: Oil and more importantly, natural gas... A massive amount of natural gas
The first oil fields were found in 1940s, and by the 1960s exploitation was already consolidated. And things in poor countries of Qatar changed,but not a huge amount. The thing is that it wasn't until the beginning of the 1970s that Shell found the biggest treasure of this country. "The North Field", the largest gas field in the world. But, at that time natural gas was not really that possible. Gas could only be transported through pipes and Qatar was far from places where gas can be used. Even Shell soon forget about it. In 1996, the old emir, Hamad bin Khalifa al-thani (who abdicated in 2013) staged a coup Qatar while his father was in Switzerland. This emir reached power with a veer clear idea: the future of Qatar was gas, they had to exploit their huge gas fields. The new emir decided to invest in an undeveloped and rare technology: Liquefaction, which is the ability to carry natural gas in a liquid form so it could be transported in large ships as if it were oil. In other to do this, the gas needs to cool down and be kept at a temperature of -161 degree Celsius (-258F) which is a touch inconvenient. So Qatar decided to invest enormous qualities of resources to boost the development of this technology so it could be used on a massive scale. Because of that investment, Qatar is now the world largest exporter of LNG. With this technology, Qatar is able to export it's enormous gas supplies to the rest of the world. Infact, last year, three quarters of Qatar's gas went to Asian countries like china, India, South Korea and Japan. And this is more: the industrial complex Qatar has developed is so big, so large-scale, that the country has managed to have the cheapest cost of extraction and liquefaction in the entire world. To illustrate this, a methane tanker of LNG is four times cheaper in Qatar than it is in the United states! And this is the secret of this small and wealthy country. But, this is only part of the equation. Not only does a country needs to exploit the resources they have, but they also need to use the money it generates another money, or they are going to end up like Angola or Venezuela. So besides this innovative process, Qatar has some other keys to their success.
Since Hamad bin Khalifa al-thani reached power in 1995, things have changed significantly. In his 18 years leading the country, Qatar's population has multiplied by 5, while at the same time becoming richest country on earth. The old emir has plenty of reasons to feel proud of himself. But, let's move on... Qatar started to generate a lot of economic resources and, the question is what are they doing with this money. Well, despite what it may look like, they have mainly invested it (both nationally and internationally). Qatar has created the "Qatar Investment Authority", a huge fund to invest money all around the world. It is known as "Qatar's Power" because they can have their hands, more than $330 billion!! The population of Qatar is less than 3 million people but out that 3 million, only 300,000 are Qatari citizens, so, well, you can do the math. This fund has made significant real estate investments all over the world. In London, a big part of the city belongs to Qatar, including hotels, offices, apartments and as well as in the united states, Qatar was in 2016, the fourth largest office investors in the country. In Manhattan alone, this fund has invested $5 billion in the last two years. And it is not just real estate, this fund also has majority shares in many multinationals.
Qatar is, for instance, one of the largest shareholder of companies like Volkswagen, Iberdrola, Barclays Bank, Tiffany & co, Shell or even the giant Rosneft, the oil company of the Russian government. And it's not just international investment here, they are also investing lots of resources inside the country. Tens of billions has been spent on highways, ports, airports, research centers, financial centers e.t.c You might be asking, what is the goal of all of this? Well, that's to be able to, in the future, replace with the income they get from oil and gas, with the income from these investments. But the moment when the gas business runs out is still too far away to really be a problem. There are no analyst who can say when demand for gas will wane. For oil, there are people who see peak demand in 2030, others in 2042, but for gas, demand is constantly growing. This idea they have in investing, instead of spending the money, from natural resources might be one of the most important differences between Qatar and other countries who are also rich in natural resources. Most of them find it too easy to spend the money today and not think too much about the future.
When Hamad bin khalifa al-thani reach power, he also had another thing in mind. Qatar had to gain international influence. For years, Qatar was controlled, defector by Saudi Arabia and the new emir just couldn't forget about Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. If Qatar wanted to survive, they needed to claim their identity and gain international influence. Otherwise, any conflict with Riyadh could compromise the independence of the country. Besides, natural gas could pay the bills now. So in 2003, when Saudi Arabia requested that the US take American troops out of their country, Qatar didn't hesitate to offer itself as a destination for those troops. They didn't even blink when it came to spending about a billion dollars to build the military base that will be needed. The sprawling base 20 miles southwest of the Qatari capital of Doha is home to some 11,000 US military personnel. Indeed, it could be said that Qatar has taken out a eve comprehensive insurance policy. Then we have the founding of Al Jazeera. This has the objective of obtaining global influence, and they succeeded. They also developed a foreign policy driving towards international influence.
All these political strategies made both in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia very angry. In June of 2017, they announced a blockade, accusing Qatar of supporting fundamentalist group and terrorists. Now, its true Qatar has some dark secrets, it is an absolute monachy after all. But the country is a good ally for the west, especially the US, and it is one of the most open countries in the region. The truth is the boycott had a different target, to cut down Qatar's strategy of international influence and to essentially put them back in their place. However, the blockade has been a total failure. First, Riyadh's position is not that strong. Very few countries have supported it, not even Kuwait or Oman. Also Qatar has developed better relationship with Turkey and even Iran. Qatar has simply proved that they are strong enough to weather the storm. It also defines Saudi Arabia by restoring diplomatic ties with Iran. There are plenty of grey areas in Qatar, labor condition that are more consistent with the ones of a country, the situation of women, and the lack of democracy.
Furthermore, the system needs to prove it can work without the government, because, unlike Dubai, the lead has been taken by public initiative, not private. And this is one of the reasons why Dubai is still above Qatar in pretty much all aspects. It wouldn't be fair to acknowledge what they are doing right, like their saving capacity, productive investment and their openness.