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You are here: Home / Blog / Foreign Affairs / Qatar
Qatar is one of a number of small Arab kingdoms which border the southern part of the Persian (Iranian) Gulf. Like Bahrain and Kuwait upstream and the Emirates (Trucial States) and Oman downstream, it is one in which the UK had a vested interest but as ever strangled its growth and development for a century or so.

Coastal kingdoms depended on the sea for their livelihoods - fishing, trade and pearls - and the desert for their recreation - camel racing and falconry. Today none of them have water, food or manufacturing (except large quatities of liquid cash). of course, many have large deposits of oil and gas, and since 1974 have become fabulously wealthy. Dubai and Sharjah have no dpeosits of either oil or gas and depend on their brothers in Abu Dhabi or Saudi to fund them (especially in a recession). Bahrain produces about 14,000 barrels of oil a day and she again has to be careful in managing her economic development.

There is a sense amongst some leading Arabs and Arabists that just as the pearl industry was virtually ended once the Japanese had been able to produce a cultured equivalent at the end of the 19th century, that oil and gas may go the same way as hydrogen, solar and nuclear compete to replace them over the next three decades. Hence some gulf states are keen to sell their oil and gas more quickly or commit countries like the UK to longer contracts. And therefore, at some stage in the near future the Sovereign Funds in the Mid East will rival those in Europe and China.

Qatar like other Gulf states has seen the most phenemonal transformation of its landscape over the past 20 years. Mini Manhattan's can be see dotted across the sands accompanied by museums, galleries, an opera house and a theatre. There is no public transport as petrol is 20p a litre (or less) and so the place is full of luxury end cars and 4x4s. Only the working immigrant populations - always bigger than the indigenous Arab population - struggles to enjoy what we would call a civilised life. Denied passports and rights, they live in poor housing areas, are bussed to building sites and hotels. They may provide the engine of growth but share little of it. This cannot continue for ever.

In Bahrain, there is a plan to welcome more and more Pakistanis to shore up the kingdom (but inherently dangerous if they are not screened carefully) and to give them some kind of citizenship but details are sketchy. As it is, the main police are mainly drawn from Pakistan. 

I think under the current Amir, Qatar has done amazingly well. Its main problem is a shortgage of Qatari executive managers especially in the male population. The desperate state of the Government's administration means invoices are unpaid for months at a time. There needs to be a renewal in the schools system - especially the quality of teachers, a way of making education more interesting to the young male adolescents and an acceptance of its importance. 



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