A country that is acquiring increasing value in the Middle East, despite its size, is Qatar. Like a skilled octopus, Qatar is slowly extending Its “tentacles” and sphere of influence all over the world. Some of its main tentacles are the economic power (supported mainly by the petrol revenues) and on the other side, its means of communication and religion (which supports islamist groups in various countries, including old members associated with Al Qaeda).
Despite the fact that the economic policy of the country is attempting to develop non associated natural gas reserves and increasing foreign and private investment in sectors other than that of energy, oil and gas still make up more than 50% of its GDP. These two sources of energy have made Qatar a nation with one of the lowest unemployment and one of the highest per-capita income countries. The economic power it possesses and that is responsible for financially fueling many uprisings in the Middle East.
Let’s not forget the military tentacle. Despite the fact that their military is relatively small, it has been reported that the country has supplied arms and men to Libya and Syria.
Another of the tentacles of Qatar is education. The monarchies of the country are extremely wealthy, the population is rather small (1,870,041) and their liberties are limited under Shari’a law (at least Western standards) but they have an extremely high quality of life and level of welfare. Many North American universities such as Georgetown are installing themselves in Qatar, which also shows the close bond between the country and the US, and promoting exchange between the students of both countries.
These relations are also linked to the Qatar Foundation, founded by His Royal Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, Amir of the State of Qatar to promote social, economic and human development of Qatar through research, science and education. In other words, they have the resources and the means to employ the best teachers from all over the world and provide the best education for their population. The Foundation initiated, under Her Highness Sheikha Moza hint Nasser, the World Innovation Summit for Education , a multi-sectoral platform for debate, innovation, technology and creative thinking. The Qatar Foundation is also involved in areas such as sports and it currently sponsors FC Barcelona, which is another sign of their wealth.
Lastly, another extremely important tentacle is that of media and communication… Did you know that Al Jazeera has its base in Doha? And yes, it is also financed by Qatar.
Slowly but surely Qatar is spreading its tentacles all over the place. Only time will tell what it will bring, but I have a feeling we are going to be hearing more and more about it.
Chiara Romano Bosch.