Qatar: Conciliators, Regional Superpower, or Simply Another Wealthy Arab Nation?

sheikh tamim bin hamad al-thani amir of qatar e-u. high representative for foreign and security policy and Vice president of the european commission catherine ashton in doha, qatar

sheikh tamim bin hamad al-thani amir of qatar e-u. high representative for foreign and security policy and Vice president of the european commission catherine ashton in doha, qatar

DOHA, Qatar - An internationally renowned nation which was once known only for its pearl-fishing has become a major global player. Pumping out nearly 2.3 millions of barrels of natural gas a day which gets shipped around the globe as LNG, it is in the top 25 producers of oil and gas. (Source: Forbes) 

Unfortunately, it is also currently at the center of the FIFA scandal that is reverberating around the world, yet this is not the topic of discussion here.

In the 1940s the nascent country’s oil and gas industry was developed by Western nations as they continued to implement colonization strategies that included primary control of natural resources. This all changed in the 1990s when Qatar exercised greater control of the profits from its oil and gas industry thus transforming it into one of richest countries in the Emirates.

The government recognizes that shifting from a major global supplier of oil and gas will be a long and somewhat protracted process. But, the proactive open-market policies being instituted by the government is helping Qatar to become both a major financial hub in additional to a luxury tourist destination. At the start of 2015, Qatar’s economy was ranked a score of 70.8 according to the data tracked, which means that it is the 32nd most investor friendly economies in the world. With this type of recognition comes the ability to not only exert influence, but also encourages criticism as in the case of allegations of impropriety with the award to host the 2022 World Cup soccer games to Qatar.

Owing to economic diversification, investors from different parts of the world have taken a keen interest in doing business with the country as well as establishing corporate headquarters. The ramping up of foreign investments in infrastructure, finance and banking, products and services, etc. being delivered by these foreign corporations prognosticates some excellent job opportunities in Qatar, and is one of the main reasons that it was chosen as a host country for the games.

Qatar is often regarded as a study in contradictions and is known to be significantly more liberal than many of its neighbors. Apart from Saudi Arabia, the state of Qatar is the only Middle Eastern nation to adopt Wahhabism as its official state religion. The religious demographics in Qatar seem to support both the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and the militant Hamas movement, and the internecine conflict between the two is quite complex and sometimes terrifying. At the moment the ‘tug of war’ raging inside the Muslim world consists of two sides. The Salafi jihadis―or hardcore Wahhabis, who are financed and supported by Saudi Arabia versus the Muslim Brotherhood who are supported by Qatar on the other.

For years Qatar has been supporting and propagating the Muslim Brotherhood's agenda in different parts of the Middle East and North Africa through its Al Jazeera television network. Though this may seem partisan at first glance, history reveals a more nuanced story, one in which Qatar has maintained a very diplomatic approach towards an increasingly global religious dilemma. Qatar's ability to act as arbiter and play the role of conciliator was demonstrated in its role in achieving the 2008 ceasefire in Lebanon according to the online news site Asharq Al-Awsat.

Unfortunately, the world’s eyes are trained upon Syria and the tragedies that are occurring within its borders, and though Qataris are working behind the political scene to help support Syrians to establish a post-Bashar Hafez al-Assad governance, these efforts toward stabilization are not obviously visible. As with much that occurs in negotiations, what is seen in the public eye is rarely what occurs behind the scenes, and in this context Qatar always positions itself to ensure that its interests are preserved. One of the main motives and interest in facilitating peace in Syria is the hope that a more moderate form of Islam will prevail in a new Syria, and if successful, may help to garner a bigger seat at the table of powerful Arab nations.

The initiatives taken thus far reflect Qatar’s desire to continue in its role as conciliator in the global economic and religious amphitheater. Qatar hopes that by making greater strides with this goal through an open job market, flexibility in accepting the customs of foreigners within limits of decorum, and negotiating for an air of tolerance, balance, and acceptance will ultimately serve to change external perceptions. From the highest levels of government to the ordinary Qataris, there exists a desire to be counted amongst the most developed and advanced countries in the world, and thus the nation hopes to break the stigma of mistrust and judgment that plagues almost every Muslim nation today.

Middle East Correspondent:  @Vinita Tiwari

Qatar's Strategy for Post-Oil Economy | FIFA World Cup 2022

qatar-national-day-photo-by-erick-espinosa.jpg

Vinita Tiwari, Middle East CorrespondentLast Modified: 22:50 p.m. DST, 12 June 2014

Qatar Airways, Photo by Erick Espinosa

DOHA -- Qatar will be the hosting the FIFA World Cup 2022. The event is huge and the results expected out of it are anticipated to be equally impressive. Let us unfold the significance of the event for Qatar and how it can improve the fortunes for all the emirates.

United Nations' Study on the Correlation between Sport Events & Economy

There are certain facts that never lose its authenticity and keep on backing the instances even for years. Sports events produce an incredible number of economic and social benefits for the country in which a globally followed and prestigious event such as the World Cup.

Research conducted by the United Nations, which was later published in a number of known papers on this economic, strongly supports the correlation between sport events and the capacity for a country to leverage revenue to effect social change.

In the case of Qatar, it is looking toward a post-oil boom economy to other revenue streams. Though, a sporting event and the revenue generated cannot compare to that generated by oil sales, it does indicate a trend toward seizing opportunities that provide the initial entree into alternate streams of income.

Below are some of the facts shared in the study

An important wing of the United Nations Organization and one of the top contributors in the research, Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), mentioned that:

  1. Sport and physical education can effectively contribute to economic and  social growth;
  2. That hosting World Sports events contribute towards promoting good will which facilitates the development of substantive dialogue;
  3. Sporting events transcend the barriers of religion, culture, and nationalism, thus giving rise to an equitable society and thereby a more prosperous nation.

The study asserts its position based upon historical evidence of past cross-cultural promotional efforts and the positive benefits that were the result of these interactions. In fact, recognized organizations and personalities from known sport teams like Italian National Workers Compensation Authority (INAIL), veterans associated with Brazilian soccer team, World Sports Alliance, to name few, agreed with the premise that sports events engender participation and joie de vivre.

FIFA World Cup: Why Qatar?

Since most emirates in the Gulf region are brimming with economic success, some may question why the World Sports Alliances chose Doha, a city in Qatar to host the FIFA 2022? Here are some of the reasons that made Qatar the ‘hot’ choice:

  • Huge Cost Incurred in ‘Green’ Efforts: According to Zawya, Qatar has proposed to spend a whopping $50 billion on infrastructure;
  •  Use of Solar Power: The proposal is loaded with other positive points; one of them is that the air-cooled stadiums will be powered by solar power and there will be inputs to make use of renewable energies to host the game in a safe environment;
  •  The Efforts Met the Fate: The efforts brought in a lot of applaud from the spectators who were keeping a strict watch on the countries that were a part of the race. Qatar left behind economically strong countries like the United States of America and earned 14 plus votes.

Consequently, according to the United Nations research revealed above, Qatar will receive a good boost to the already flourishing economy.

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The Foreseen Economic Benefits

Any event happening within a country assures a lot of fiscal benefits as well as encouraging foreign investments and visitors to explore a region of the world that they might otherwise choose. The investments received would be directed towards upgrading the infrastructure and hospitality domain. The economy and the job market share inter-dependencies that require that each grows in portion to the other to balance out the macro benefits.

  1. A Bright Example

South Africa is a prime example of this phenomenon. 2010 proved to be a fortunate year for the country when it hosted the World Cup games, which helped the country to realize an increase in foreign trade, investments as well as boost the tourism market sector. Per the hard data, the total awareness factor of South Africa as a leisure destination increased by an estimated 9% after the event. Though the return on investment was not as high, the event still gave rise to a lot of employment opportunities pertaining to the tourism and hospitality jobs.

  1. Qatari Economy: Expected Good Things!

Already riding high with high expat rate, enviable per capita income figures, and a free economy; Qatar is one of the richest and leading oil exporters. Apart from this, the employment market is picking up the pace and is even more ‘hotter’ in the recent times.

The return on investment” is expected sky rocket and the job market will exponentially expand to accommodate the infrastructure, service, technology, and tourism sectors.  Some of the obvious economic benefits are:

  • The world cup will be viewed by millions of people and the wealth and economic stature of Qatar will be staged globally. This digital twist will definitely lure the investors from different countries to seek opportunities to partner in business ventures;
  •  The tourism domain will receive positivity as people will be attracted to be a part of the grand event and thus temporary migration is expected;
  •  In order to be the best host around, the construction domain will be more active as it initiates the building of roads, subway systems, and other infrastructure required to effectively host the event;
  1. “Where There is Good, There is Bad!”

The fact can’t be ignored that good things come with shades of darkness. Qatar is definitely going to benefit economically from the opportunity to host the FIFA World Cup 2022; but there are certain facts that we just can’t ignore. Here are some of the factors arranged as a series of events that can create minor issues for the host state:

  • Since Qatar houses rich citizens, the import of poor workers from foreign countries to build the roads, stadiums, and the subway system that will be necessary to host the World Cup may cause socioeconomic tensions because of the disparity of wealth and opportunity;

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Published: 12 June 2014 (Page 3 of 3)

  • The potential for large numbers of immigrants to remain in the country after the event, may cause an unanticipated drain on the economy as Qatar struggles to deal equitably with this immigrant population, a problem with which many other nations wrestle with. However, one strategy is to incentivize the laborers to return to their countries of origin through generous allotment of wages;
  •  The economic and job opportunities provided by this event can be leveraged by these temporary workers to improve their lives and perhaps provide them with skills that they might not otherwise have obtained in their own countries, but it may not be enough to encourage them to return to their homeland;
  •  Finally, the job opportunities for Qatar residents will increase since new jobs will be created to maintain and service all areas of infrastructure improvements or development once the event has concluded; but an equally great chance exists that Qataris may end up competing with skill immigrates for the same jobs in the future.

Whatever the challenges, Qatar is set to be the FIFA 2022 host and is leaving no stone unturned in making the event spectacular, enjoyable, and economically beneficial for all people.

Qatar Opening Up To a Green Perspective

The state of Qatar is known for its wealth-creating Oil reserves; however, with government initiatives to diversify the economy, the emirate is looking forward to engaging in non-Oil based private sector ventures which will initiate job creation. A little known fact is that Qatar has not forgotten its social responsibilities and is striving to provide Eco-friendly environment, and economy driven by companies that value and support employee satisfaction, and incentivizing workers by providing some of the best paying jobs in the region. Thus, Qatar has set forth the following goals and objectives;

  1. Companies based out in Qatar are implementing occupational safety policies designed to protect employees, and are urging the government bodies to legislate these improvements so that these improvements will also benefit post-FIFA World Cup 2022 workers;
  2. FIFA 2022 itself represents a great initiative for Solar Energy which will be used to power the stadiums and air-conditioning where the games will be held;
  3. Then, there are councils and operating bodies based in Qatar, such as IOSH, Qatar Branch, that focuses on business development and ensuring that companies who decide to do business in Qatar can be assured that their workers will be safe both inside and outside of the workplace.

The Verdict

The benefits of hosting a FIFA World Cup are indisputable, and certainly the economic drivers are crucial to the desire for a country to be awarded such an honor. However, it is not only about monetary gain, it is also about the reputation, profile, brand of any country. If the elements are targeted correctly then a lot of positive global attention can be focused on both the games and the country, thus encouraging people to hopefully dispel any preconceived notions and just have fun!

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Follow Vinita on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Middle East Correspondent: @vinita1204