A REALM OF RICHES
An overview of one of the world's richest countries
Apopulation of over 2.4 million live on 12,000 sq km of land, making Qatar the smallest member country of the prestigious Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). It shares a border with oil-rich Saudi Arabia to its south; the Persian Gulf surrounds the rest of the country.
Don’t be fooled by its size. Despite showing a deceleration in economic growth in the last two years, Qatar remains a high-income economy, owing much of its success to oil and gas. They make up 55 per cent of the country’s GDP. As for petroleum alone, in 2015 OPEC valued exports of this product from Qatar at US$28,303 million.
The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) also has a role to play in making it the world’s richest country by GDP per capita. QIA was established in 2005 and has since collected assets worth US$335 billion worldwide for Qatar.
Let’s look at the latter half of 2016 alone. In a joint venture with Brazilian food processor BRF SA (60 per cent), QIA (40 per cent) bought Turkey’s poultry giant Banvit that is valued at US$470 million. In the same year, the Russian government’s 19.5 per cent stake in Russian oil giant Rosneft was acquired by QIA and Glencore for US$11.3 billion. Interestingly, QIA is one of the biggest investors in Glencore, an Anglo–Swiss multinational commodity trading company. Also in the latter half of 2016, QIA invested in UK gas company National Grid.
Earlier successful financial undertakings by the country have resulted in QIA being the biggest shareholder in German carmaker, Volkswagen. Qatar Sports Investments bought Paris Saint-Germain Football Club in 2011 and has won four French soccer league titles. In 2012, Mayhoola for Investments SPC that is backed by Qatari investors bought Italian luxury brand Valentino Fashion Group SpA for about €700 million/US$745 million.
Investments seem to be an intrinsic part of being a Qatari, or so it can be speculated. For example, Qataris today own property that together is valued at over £1 billion in London’s Mayfair alone. These aren’t just members of Qatar’s royal family, but investors include the nation’s “ordinary” denizens too. In March 2016, British online newspaper,
The Independent reported in March 2016: “Almost a quarter of Mayfair’s 279 acres and over 4,300 residential properties are now owned by Qatari investors, making the Gulf state the largest buyer and tenant group for luxury property in this area.”
According to the 2014 Gulf Business Salary Survey, living in Qatar could mean earning an average of US$11,473 monthly. It also means never having to get out of your car to fill fuel, have someone fill up your shopping bags when paying for groceries, have a housemaid, and paying someone to clean your car every day. While this sounds normal to most of us in India, the luxuries are more commonly enjoyed amongst the upper middle class and higher strata of society. In Qatar, it is more widespread.
Weekends mean a day out or an excursion to neighbouring towns. Like most Islamic states, Friday and Saturday are weekly offs in Qatar. Restaurants are filled with families and parks are crowded with picnickers. Everything is a grand affair and if you’re a guest of a local, be assured that the picnic basket is likely large enough to last an entire weekend.
Victoria Scott, a journalist who happens to be an expat in Qatar once asked her Twitter followers “what living in Qatar – the world’s richest country by GDP per capita – means to them”. Some replied that buying a new iPhone is not something that needs much deliberation because of its price. Fashion brands are a regular feature in daily dressing. Others say booking anything less than a 5-star hotel wouldn’t feel right to them. Needless to say, budget holidays aren’t common amongst Qataris. This is also why, in Qatar, the ratio of hotel categories upward of 4-star, to 3-star and below is grossly imbalanced. The former makes up about 88 per cent of the accommodation inventory in the emirate.
It doesn’t matter what category you choose; being treated like a special guest is part of the Qatari hospitality. For lack of better words and an attempt at punning: it is a warm welcome to Qatar. It isn’t uncommon for hotel staff to bend over backwards to please you should you require a fairly reasonable service or facility outside of their menu.
At the beginning of 2016, Qatar Tourism Authority reported having approximately 20,700 keys between hotels and hotel apartments. Of course, the number is higher today. Last year, about 14 hotels launched here.
In preparation for the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2022, as host country, Qatar’s hospitality industry is gearing up for the anticipated high demand. Room numbers are estimated to reach 46,000 by 2022, although FIFA mandates hosts to have an inventory of 60,000 rooms. Qatar promises to fill the gap with Bedouin-style desert camps and cruise ships. These too will be carried out in style, true to the lush Qatari way of life.
Qatar National Vision 2030
Qatar’s General Secretariat for Development Planning defines the nation simply as: “The State of Qatar is enjoying a period of unparalleled prosperity, with exceptional economic progress being evident in the increasing standard of living of its people.”
Vision 2030 encompasses rapid development for Qatar’s economic and social growth that includes world-class infrastructure amongst other things. The plan is conscious of its impact on the environment, not to mention its age-old values and customs. In short, it is a well-planned structure that balances modernisation and preservation of traditions. The vision rests on four pillars: +uman development: “development of all its people to enable them to sustain a prosperous society”. Social development: “development of a just and caring society based on high moral standards, and capable of playing a significant role in the global partnership for development.” Economic development: “development of a competitive and diversified economy capable of meeting the needs of, and securing a high standard of living for all its people both for the present and for the future”. Environmental development: “management of the environment such that there is harmony between economic growth, social development and environmental protection”.
Visit Qatar at any time and the capital looks like it is under rapid development, especially readying itself in time for FIFA 2022. Even though work is progressing in full swing, the nation is often compared to the glitz of Dubai. It would be safe to expect an equally glamorous emirate, if not more, with a classy and worldly appeal to it.
In the pages to follow, read about restaurants where you can enjoy international cuisines by acclaimed chefs and explore Qatar’s local culture.
Taxis are your best mode of transport. Karwa taxis start their meters at QAR 4 (`71.5); advance booking involves an additional fee of QAR 4.
It isn’t uncommon for hotel staff to bend over backwards to please you should you require a fairly reasonable service or facility outside of their menu.