Qatar is a peninsular Arab country whose terrain comprises arid desert and a long Persian (Arabian) Gulf shoreline of beaches and dunes. Also on the coast is the capital, Doha, known for its futuristic skyscrapers and other ultramodern architecture inspired by ancient Islamic design, such as the limestone Museum of Islamic Art. The museum sits on the city’s Corniche waterfront promenade. A
Until recent decades, the Qatar peninsula was an undeveloped, impoverished area, with a scant living provided by the traditional occupations of pearl diving, fishing, and nomadic herding. In 1940, a major oil discovery was made at Dukhan and, in the ensuing decades, oil has been the dominant factor in the Qatari economy. Oil revenues have provided Qataris with per capita incomes comparable those of the industrialized nations of the West. In 1996, oil revenues accounted for more than 30% of gross domestic product (GDP), 70% of export earnings, and 66% of government revenues.
Other economic activities remain limited. Agriculture has received considerable attention in recent years, but most food is still imported. The state encourages free enterprise, provided it does not conflict with the public interest. Real property, however, may be acquired only by Qatari nationals. The discovery of a vast field of natural gas unassociated with Qatar’s oil fields promises to add a new dimension to the economy. In 1987, work on the first phase of the North Gas Field project, with a production capacity of 800 million cu ft per day, began and was inaugurated in 1991. While Phase I production is meant for domestic consumption, the Phase II development envisages the production of at least an additional 800 million cu ft per day for export to Japan as liquefied natural gas. The first shipments to Japan began in January 1997. The project was heavily financed by Japanese banks under terms that limit Qatar’s revenues for the next decade. Qatar has 300 trillion cu ft of proven natural gas reserves—third in the world behind Russia and Iran. Production of natural gas reached 690 billion cu ft in 1998.
The economy performed sluggishly during the first half of the 1990s but recovered somewhat in 1995 because of a surge in international oil prices and slightly higher rates of oil production. It is estimated that GDP grew by 1.9% in 1995. The government that took over after the coup of 1995 implemented economic reforms that updated the financial sector. In 1998, a temporary drop in international oil prices brought GDP down by 9.2%. However, the recovery of oil prices in the second half of 1999 brought a jump in GDP of 18.9% for the year and 34.9% in 2000. Per capita income rose from $20,038 in 1998 to $24,000 in 2001. Inflation, at 2.9% in 1998, dropped to 2.2% in 1999 and -1.0% in 2000.
The GDP growth rate in 2004 was an astonishing 8.7%, up from 3.3% in 2003; in 2005, Qatar was expected to continue to be one of the best-performing countries in the region, with an economic expansion rate of 8.8%. As a result of this impressive growth, Qatar is now one of the countries with the highest GDP per capita in the world—$39,292 in 2004 and an estimated $44,087 in 2005. Inflation, although on the rise (it was 6.8% in 2004), does not pose a problem for the domestic economy and is very beneficial for the export sector. Unemployment remains stable at 0.4%. The massive growth registered in previous years was mainly fueled by high oil prices, the diversification of the energy sector, an increase in foreign investments, and a boom in construction, infrastructure and real estate development.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Qatar’s gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $22.5 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $26,000. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 8.8%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 7.8%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 0.2% of GDP, industry 81%, and services 18.8%.
Approximately 22% of household consumption was spent on food, 11% on fuel, 5% on health care, and 13% on education.
As elsewhere in the Persian Gulf, wholesale and retail operations in Qatar are frequently combined in the same enterprise. A relatively small number of large companies controls most of the retail market, particularly in food imports and distribution. Consumer cooperative societies have also been established for food retail sales. Local laws require that commercial agents be of Qatari nationality; however, a 2000 law opened up more possibilities for foreign investors. Consumer advertising can be displayed in motion
|Korea, Republic of||1,737.1||145.1||1,592.0|
|United Arab Emirates||436.1||285.6||150.5|
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picture theaters, in the press, and on billboards. Radio and television services do not accept advertising.
Normal business hours are from 7:30 am to 12 noon and from 3:30 pm to 6 pm. Government offices are open from 7 am to 2 pm, Saturday through Wednesday. Banks are open from 8 to 12:30 am. Private-sector business hours are usually 8 am to 12:30 pm and 4 pm to 7:30 am, Saturday through Thursday. Most businesses are closed on Friday.