The economic growth of Qatar has been almost exclusively based on its petrol and natural gas industry, which began in 1940. The country has experienced rapid growth over the last several years due to high oil prices, and in 2008 posted its eighth consecutive budget surplus. 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 one of the highest per-capita income countries, and one of the world's fastest growing. Proved oil reserves of 15 billion barrels should enable continued output at current levels for 37 years. Qatar's proved reserves of natural gas are nearly 26 trillion cubic metres, about 14% of the world total and the third largest in the world.
Before the discovery of oil, the economy of the Qatari region focused on fishing and pearl hunting. After the introduction of the Japanese cultured pearl onto the world market in the 1920s and 1930s, Qatar's pearling industry crashed. However, the discovery of oil, beginning in the 1940s, completely transformed the state's economy. Now, the country has a high standard of living, with many social services offered to its citizens and all the amenities of any modern state. It relies heavily on foreign labour to grow its economy, to the extent that 94% of its labour is carried out by foreigners. Labour laws in Qatar have improved over recent years, and Qatar is now the only state in the GCC to allow labour unions.
Qatar’s national income primarily derives from oil and natural gas exports. The country has oil reserves of 15 billion barrels, while gas reserves in the giant North Field (which straddles the border with Iran and is almost as large as the peninsula itself) are estimated to be between 80 trillion cubic feet to 800 trillion cubic feet (1 trillion cubic feet of gas is equivalent to about 180 million barrels).
Qataris’ wealth and standard of living compare well with those of Western European states; Qatar has the highest GDP per capita in the Arab World, according to the International Monetary Fund (2010). With no income tax, Qatar, along with Bahrain, is one of the countries with the lowest tax rates in the world. Qatar has been ranked as the world's richest country per capita in a new list compiled by US-based Forbes magazine. Blessed with the third-largest natural gas reserves in the world, the Persian Gulf emirate of 1.7 million people is benefiting from a rebound in oil prices. Adjusted for purchasing power (PPP), Qatar has an estimated gross domestic product per capita of $88,222.
While oil and gas will probably remain the backbone of Qatar’s economy for some time to come, the country seeks to stimulate the private sector and develop a “knowledge economy”. In 2004, it established the Qatar Science & Technology Park to attract and serve technology-based companies and entrepreneurs, from overseas and within Qatar. Qatar also established Education City, which consists of international colleges. For the 15th Asian Games in Doha, it established Doha Sports City, consisting of Khalifa Stadium, the Aspire Sports Academy, aquatic centres, exhibition centres and many other sports related buildings and centres. Following the success of the Asian Games, Doha kicked off an official bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics in October 2007. Its bid was finally eliminated from consideration in June 2008. Qatar also plans to build an "entertainment city" in the future.
The Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) provides financial institutions with world-class services in investment, margin and no-interest loans, and capital support. These platforms are situated in an economy founded on the development of its hydrocarbons resources, specifically its exportation of petroleum. It has been created with a long term perspective to support the development of Qatar and the wider region, develop local and regional markets, and strengthen the links between the energy based economies and global financial markets.
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