The State of Qatar

The State of Qatar

Seyfettin Erdoğan (İstanbul Medeniyet University, Turkey) and Ayfer Gedikli (İstanbul Medeniyet University, Turkey)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2939-2.ch012
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Abstract

Since 1990s, with its improving economy and its wise international strategies, Qatar has been a growing power of MENA. Although Qatar is a tiny peninsula country with a very little population, the country refused to be a rentier monarchy. Today, as one of the greatest Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) suppliers, Qatar became one of the wealthiest countries of the world. However, since the economy is heavily dependent on hydrocarbon products, the country has been dealing with diversifying the economy. Besides, there has been great infrastructure investments to modernize the country. However, since the country is located at a very hot point of the Middle East, the country has to follow fine tuning political strategies due to great conflicts in its neighbors. Besides, Qatar needs to improve not only economical but also political relations with the region countries. Below, macroeconomic performance of Qatar and international relations of the country will be explained.
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Introduction

As one of the smallest (national area of only 11.610 square kilometer) and the wealthiest countries in the world, Qatar is located in the Persian Gulf. Qatar is a peninsula, surrounded by Saudi Arabia in the west, and by the United Arab Emirates in the south. As a high income country, the State of Qatar has 2.4 million people, including foreign labor (Australian Government, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2015). Qatar has a strong economic growth combined with free education and advanced and extensive welfare level. The human development index of Qatar is the highest in the Middle East, despite the fact that the country ranks 36th in the world (Vieira, 2014).

The rise of Qatar is actually mostly related to the rise of Al Thani family. The family took a great support from the Great Britain. Although the Great Britain did not colonize Qatar, the UK had a hegemonic and dominant effect in the Gulf between 1820-1971. In 1995, Hamad bin Khalifah Al Thani took the power from his father with a bloodless coup. In mid-2013, the Sheikh transferred his power to his 33-year-old son Amir Tamim bin Hamad.

Before 1990s, the literature used to categorize the states according to their population. In this context, states were categorized as “Great Power”, “Medium Power” and “Small Power”. From this point of view, states below 1-1.5 million population were often called as “Microstates”. Qatar had just 750.000 population in the second half of 2000s which deserved to be a “Microstate”. However, “Big Influence of Small Allies” strategy was applied by Qatar very well. Today, Qatar has been playing a unique diplomatic role in the Middle East as a regional mediator and a powerful actor, balancing the nationalist Arab expectations while extending a hand to Israel. Besides, Qatar’s magnificent economic improvement brought the country in a very privilege position in the global arena (Cooper and Momani, 2011:115). Namely, with its robust economic growth and the highest income per capita across the world, combining with well-designed monetary and fiscal policies, with fast growing foreign trade, and surplus in balance of payments, Qatar shows a brilliant improvement in 2000’s. In recent years, Qatar showed one of the highest economic growth in the world with the average of 8.7% (In that period, China showed 9.5%, USA 3.4% and France 2.3% growth) (Boniface and Matelly, 2016:7-8).

Although Qatar has a very little population, due to foreign workers, there are different ethnic groups such as Arab, Indian, Pakistani, Iranian and others. The population is mostly Wahhabi Muslim, but there are Christian, Hindu and Indian minorities. Official language is Arabic, and English is the second language which is commonly used.

The country gained prominence both in the Middle East and globally since 2000s. Because of improving power of Qatar, the country will host FIFA World Cup 2022 which is surprising for many countries around the world. World Cup 2022-Qatar will be the first international sportive activity to be held in a Middle East and Islamic country where football is the most popular sport. Besides, an international media giant, Al Jazeera is a very important soft power of Qatar.

These improvements brought Qatar at the center of global attention. Not only remarkable high income and economic growth but also a number of sociopolitical maneuvers of Qatar made the country one of the most important players of Middle East. However, although the Sheikh expressed on “democratization”, Arab Spring movements are still carrying a potential risk on Qatari youth, problems with Israel and heavy reliance on the US military forces for national security, problems in Syria and Iraq are some of the most important local and international problems of Qatar (Anzawa, 2011:2). In Table 1, the general economic condition of Qatar is illustrated. Later, all these parameters will be explained.

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