Special Report – Qatar: An Example to the World

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Once one of the poorest Gulf nations, is now one of the richest in the region, given to the exploration of large oil and gas fields since the 1940s. Wealth is not the only factor that has kept Qatar on the top.

Qatar was named the most innovative economy in the GCC, in a listing by INSEAD, a leading business school. The Global Innovation Index 2011 saw Qatar in the 26th position, going up 9 places from the 35th position it held in 2010.

The small Gulf state sits on some of the worlds largest natural gas reserves, which has given it massive budget surpluses and average GDP of approximately US $30,000 per head, one of the worlds highest.

Currently, the nation is undergoing an infrastructural transformation, with huge plans outlined for the construction of an international airport, an education city, an independent coastal city, and nine new football stadiums, to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

2010 rebound

In 2010,Qatar had the world’s highest growth rate. Qatari authorities throughout the crisis sought to protect the local banking sector with direct investments into domestic banks. GDP rebounded in 2010 largely due to the increase in oil prices.

Economic policy is focused on developing Qatar’s non-associated natural gas reserves and increasing private and foreign investment in non-energy sectors, but oil and gas still account for more than 50% of GDP, roughly 85% of export earnings, and 70% of government revenues. Oil and gas have made Qatar the second highest per-capita income country – following Liechtenstein- and likely the country with the lowest unemployment.

Managing Director and Member of theQatar Financial CentreBoard of Directors Abdul Rahman Al Sheibi has underlined Qatar’s ability to achieve exceptional performance during the global financial crisis, which in turn contributed to strengthening its role within the GCC states after the crisis.

Infrastructural development

Qatar has long been one of the top markets in the Middle East, a view underlined by the level of activity in the market, and the governments commitment to infrastructure and the focus of regional construction companies on the sector.

Governments commitment to infrastructure projects presents optimism for a number of large flagship infrastructure projects currently planned to eventuate over the medium term.

Qatar is investing heavily in transport infrastructure, with a $22 billion national rail network planned, a new port and airport and the longest marine suspension bridge, which will link to Bahrain. In the energy and utilities sector, investments are ongoing into the power and water capacity build up.

The rapid expansion of Qatar’s construction sector, along with foreign-investor-friendly laws and regulations, including generous financial incentives and tax breaks, as well as foreign real estate ownership rights, are attracting powerful international investment from renowned global development companies. In the years to come,Qatar is set to be a magnet for leading international construction sector investors.

The New Doha International Airport is a key project in Qatar’s national development strategy.

The Bahrain-Qatar suspension bridge will be the longest marine causeway. The 40km road will link Qatar and Bahrain over a total of 18km of embankments and 22km of viaducts and bridges.

Besides these, there are plans to build nine new state-of-the-art football stadiums, which would be ready just in time to host the biggest football extravaganza.

FIFA winning bid

Qatar’s successful bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and their consequent major infrastructural development plans, has shown their capability and willingness to come up with innovative and intricate plans to host the game.

The blueprints of these stadiums, expected to be completed in the planned period of 10 years, is impressive.

Qatar 2022 Chief Executive, Hassan Abdulla Al Thawadi, said: All our state-of-the-art stadia will be linked to a brand new metro system and totally integrated with a comprehensive shuttle bus network, allowing fans to travel to games by public transport. Fans will be able to watch more than one game in a day while staying in the same accommodation throughout the tournament. We have also designed our new stadia with legacy front of mind and, with their modular design, can be reduced in size after the World Cup to fit local football and community requirements and, in some cases, transported abroad for permanent use. What we have unveiled today is just a foretaste of the much wider plans we will be unveiling in the coming weeks.

The construction of nine new stadiums and the major renovation of three existing stadiums have been started on full scale. The new stadiums to be built areDoha Port Stadium, Al Shamal Stadium, Al Khor Stadium, Umm Slal Stadium, Education City Stadium, Al Wakrah stadium, Al Rayyan stadium, Sports city stadium Doha, and Lusail iconic stadium. These are spread all around Qatar, in Doha, Al Rayyan, Al Khor, Al Wakhra, Umm Slal, Al Shamal, and Al Daayen.

Among the stadiums undergoing renovation are Al Gharrafa stadium, Khalifa International Stadium and Qatar University Stadium.

Being the first Middle Eastern nation to win the bid, Qatar took a ‘bold gamble’ by taking the World Cup to a region where football is popular and is beginning to emerge as world player in global sport.

Aviation leadership

In the aviation sector, Qatar Airways, the national airline of Qatar, has won numerous awards in the international aviation arena. Most recently, it was coveted with the title of the ‘World’s Best Airline’, at the 2011 World Airline Awards, held at the French Air and Space Museum.

In January this year, Qatar Airways announced capacity increases to an array of destinations across its global network to support growing passenger demand. With the arrival of additional aircraft, the airline is continuing its aggressive expansion strategy boosting frequencies and introducing larger aircraft on many of its existing routes.

Since its relaunch in 1997, Qatar Airways has achieved staggering growth in destinations served, fleet size and passenger numbers.

From its hub in Doha, capital of Qatar, the airline has developed a global network of destinations, covering Europe, Middle East, Africa, South Asia,North America and Asia-Pacific. By the beginning of 2005, Qatar Airways flew to 56 cities, rising to 94 by November 2010 with 10 new destinations being added in 2010 alone including Qatar Airways first foray into South America.

In line with the companys philosophy to be innovative, the airline operates the worlds only dedicated commercial passenger terminal for its First and Business Class passengers at Doha International Airport.

The airline has grown under the leadership of Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker, appointed CEO in 1996, who has been instrumental in turning Qatar Airways into an award-winning carrier and among the best in the world. Under his stewardship, Qatar Airways has matured into a leading force in regional and global aviation, earning many admirers around the world for its excellent standards of service.

The New Doha International Airport is scheduled to open by 2012 at a cost of US $14.5 billion with an initial capacity of 24 million passengers a year. Once fully developed beyond 2015, the airport is expected to handle up to 50 million passengers a year. One of the projects key features is that 60 per cent of the site is built on reclaimed land from the Arabian Gulf.

Qatar Airways will manage the new airport, designed to help shape Doha as a key regional and global aviation hub.

GII ranking

According to the GII, Five input pillars capture elements of the national economy that enable innovative activities are: (1) Institutions, (2) Human capital and research, (3) Infrastructure, (4) Market sophistication, and (5) Business sophistication. Two output pillars capture actual evidence of innovation outputs: (6) Scientific outputs and (7) Creative outputs.

Looking at Qatar’s advancement in all these pillars shows that it is deserving of the 25th place in the rankings.

Institutions, the first pillar, comprises of the political and business environment.Qatar is largely free from political violence, is a politically stable nation and has a prosperous economy.

Keeping sights on the undergoing in the education sector, there have been earnest efforts by the Qatar Foundation to advance in this direction. The setting up of an Education City, which houses universities from the U.S.,UK, and France, speaks volumes in itself.

The infrastructural advancements initiated by the government need little mentioning. With a favorable business environment, many foreign investors look to Qatar as an opportune nation.

Qatar has come a long way from its humble beginnings and it sure is poised to become a crucial player in the international platform.

Sources: Bbc, indexmundi, zawya, Saudi gazette, ifpqatar, worldarchitecturenews, ndqatar

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