A REALM OF RICHES

An overview of one of the world's rich­est coun­tries

Business Traveller (India) - - CONTENTS -

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.

AS­SETS

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.”

LIFE­STYLE

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.

HOSPI­TAL­ITY

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.

GET­TING AROUND

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.

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