Located in the Persian Gulf, Qatar is a country
with an area of little more than 10,000 square kilometers. Just to give you some idea of
just how small that it, it is nearly 40 times smaller than California. So, when this country got its independence
from the UK in 1971, Qatar was faraway, hostile and and very poor place. As a matter of fact, it was one of the poorest
territories of the United Kingdom. And that made a lot of sense… The Qatar Peninsula is a place where temperatures
can reach 50º Celsius in summer, it is almost completely covered by desert and it was certainly
one of the most uninhabitable places on Earth. But it didn’t stay that way forever and
today Qatar is the richest country on the planet. That´s right, the citizens of this tiny country
enjoy a per capita income of more than $125,000, which is almost three times the income in
France and five times that found in Chile… This is a country which was almost uninhabited,
a country that could hardly survive on its fishing industry, and today it looks something
like Scrooge McDuck’s safe. The government of Qatar has investments and
properties all around the world. It is the birthplace of Al Jazeera, the most important
Arabic media company and then there is Doha, the capital, which is a sea of skyscrapers,
malls and luxurious cars. “A mix of Monaco and Vegas, but without
the alcohol and gambling. There is no room for simplicity, everything is sumptuous, hugh
and sparkling in Doha”. Ángel Sastre, Conflict areas reporter. Qatar has gone from being a dark shelter for
wahhabist preachers and has become what might people might consider the most open country
in the middle east. (Other than Dubai, of course, but as you might know Dubai is an
emirate and not actually a country). In modern day Doha, we can find international
universities or the so-called “Church City”: a complex of protestant, orthodox and Catholic
churches… like the Church of Our Lady of Rosary. “The $20m Catholic church, which seats 2,700,
is located in the southern outskirts of the city on land donated by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa
al-Thani, Qatar’s emir”. So, now the question of course has to be:
How did Qatar achieve this remarkable transformation? Well, let’s take a look at that. THE LNG BLESSING: LIQUIFIED NATURAL GAS In other videos we have discussed some of
the keys why some countries are so rich. But in Qatar´s case it is much simpler and it
can be summarized by two things: Oil and, more importantly, natural gas…
a massive amount of natural gas. Yep, that is pretty much it… Disappointed? Well, hold on a second because
it is actually quite an interesting story… The first oil fields were found in the 1940s,
and by the 1960s exploitation was already consolidated. And things in the poor country
of Qatar changed… but not a huge amount. The thing is that it wasn’t until the beginning
of the 1970s that Shell found the biggest treasure of this country: “The North Field”, the largest gas field
in the world. But… at that time natural gas was not really
that profitable. You see, at that time, gas could only be transported
through gas pipes and Qatar was far too far away from anywhere where the gas could be
used. Even Shell soon forgot about  it… But, well, things they were about to change. In 1996, the old emir, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani
(who abdicated in 2013) staged a coup d’etat while his father was in Switzerland. This
emir reached power with a very clear idea: the future of Qatar was gas, they had to exploit
their huge fields. And so he did. The new emir decided to invest in an undeveloped
and rare technology: Liquefaction, which is the ability to carry
natural gas in a liquid form so it could be transported in large ships as if it were oil. In order to do this, the gas needs to cool
down and be kept at a temperature of -161º Celsius (-258 F). Which is just a touch inconvenient…
So Qatar decided to invest enormous quantities of resources to boost the development of this
technology so it could be used on a massive scale. Because of that investment Qatar is now the
world’s largest exporter of LNG. With this technology, Qatar is able to export its enormous
gas supplies to the rest of the world. In fact, last year, three quarters of Qatar’s
gas went to Asian countries like China, India, South Korea and Japan. And there is more: the industrial complex
Qatar has developed is so big, so large-scale, that the country has managed to have the cheapest
costs of extraction and liquefaction in the world. To illustrate this, a methane tanker of LNG
is four times cheaper in Qatar than it is in the United States! And this, dear viewer, is the big secret of
this small and wealthy country. Now, this is only a part of the equation.
Not only does a country need to exploit the resources, but they also need to use the money
it generates well, or they are going to end up like Angola or Venezuela… So besides this innovative process, Qatar
has some other keys to their success. QATAR’S POWER Since Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani reached power
in 1995, things have changed significantly. In his 18 years leading the country, Qatar´s
population has multiplied by 5, while at the same time becoming richest country on Earth. So, the old emir has plenty of reasons to
feel proud of himself. But, let’s move on… Qatar started to generate
a lot of economic resources and, well, what do you think they are doing with this money? Well, despite what it may look like, they
have mainly invested it (both nationally and internationally). Qatar has created the “Qatar
Investment Authority”, a huge fund to invest money all around the world. It is known as “Qatar’s Power” because
they can have in their hands, more than $330 billion!! And hey, the population of Qatar is less than
3 million, but of these 3 million people… only 300,000 are Qatari citizens, so, well,
you can do the math. This fund has made significant real estate
investments all over the world… In London, a big part of the city belongs
to Qatar, including hotels, offices, apartments…and in the United States, Qatar was, in 2016,
the fourth largest office investor in the country. In Manhattan alone, this fund has
invested $5 billion in the last two years. And it is not just real estate, this fund
also has major shares in many multinationals: Qatar is, for instance, one of the largest
shareholder of companies like Volkswagen, Iberdrola, Barclays Bank, Tiffany & co, Shell
or even the giant Rosneft, the oil company of the Russian government. In the image we are about to show you can
see how foreign investment has increased as the production of gas and oil has grown:
And it’s not just international investment – they are also investing lots of resources
inside the country: Tens of billions has been spent on highways,
ports, airports, research centres, financial centres… and so on. And, well, what’s the goal of all of this?
Well, that’s to be able to, in the future, replace with the income they get from oil
and gas, with the income from these investments… But the moment when the gas business runs
out is still too far away to really be a problem. “There are no analysts who can say when demand
for gas will wane. For oil, there are people who see peak demand in 2030, others in 2042,
but for gas, demand is constantly growing.” This idea they have in investing, instead
of spending the money, from natural resources might be one of the most important differences
between Qatar and other countries who are also rich in natural resources. Most of them find it too easy to spend the
money today, and not think too much about the future…
TOWARDS EFFECTIVE INDEPENDENCE When Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani reached power,
he also had another thing in mind: Qatar had to gain international influence. You see, for years, Qatar was controlled,
de facto, by Saudi Arabia and the new emir just couldn’t forget about Iraq’s invasion
of Kuwait. If Qatar wanted to survive they needed to
claim their identity and gain international influence. Otherwise, any conflict with Riyadh
could compromise the independence of the country. Besides, natural gas could pay the bills now…
So, in 2003, when Saudi Arabia “requested” that the US take American troops out of their
country, Qatar didn’t hesitate to offer itself as a destination for those troops.
They didn’t even blink when it came to spending about a billion dollars to build the military
bases… “The sprawling base 20 miles southwest of
the Qatari capital of Doha is home to some 11,000 US military personnel”.
Indeed, it could be said that Qatar has taken out a very comprehensive insurance policy… And then we have the founding of Al Jazeera.
This has the objective of obtaining global influence, and they succeeded – something
we actually covered in a previous video! They also developed a foreign policy driving
towards international influence. THE BLOCKADE All this political strategy made both the
United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia very angry. In June of 2017, they announced a blockade,
accusing Qatar of supporting fundamentalist groups and terrorists. Pot calling the kettle black Saudi Arabia?
Hmmm? Now, it is true Qatar has some dark secrets,
it is an absolute monarchy after all… But the country is a good ally for the West, especially
the US, and it is one of the most open countries in the region. The truth is the boycott had a different target:
to cut down Qatar’s strategy of international influence and to essentially put them in their
place… However, the blockade has been a total failure… First, Riyadh’s position is not that strong…
Very few countries have supported it, not even Kuwait or Oman. Also, Qatar has developed better relationships
with Turkey and even Iran… Qatar has simply proved they are strong enough to weather the
storm. “Qatar defies Saudi Arabia by restoring
diplomatic ties with Iran”. And finally, something does need to be made
clear: There are plenty of grey areas in Qatar: labour
conditions that are more consistent with the ones of a poor country, the situation of women,
and the lack of democracy. Furthermore, the system needs to prove it
can work without the government, because, unlike Dubai, the lead has been taken by public
initiative, not private. And this is one of the reasons why Dubai is
still above Qatar in pretty much all aspects. But, hey, it wouldn’t be fair to acknowledge
what they are doing right, like their saving capacity, their productive investment, and
their openness. And now is your turn, who do you think will
win this battle of the countries in the Persian Gulf? Saudi Arabia or will it be Qatar? Leave your answer in the comments below, as
well as in this survey. Also don’t forget to subscribe to our channel
for brand new videos every Monday and Thursday. Also, don’t forget to check out our friends
at the Reconsider Media Podcast – they provided the vocals in this episode that were not mine!
And as always, thanks for watching!