QATAR - A MODEL OF SOCIAL & ECONOMIC TRANSFORMATION
Mar 22 - 28, 2010
Qatar, one of the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries has a fascinating history that has seen it rising from a nation dependent on fishing and pearl hunting to the status of an economic giant with the second highest per capita GDP in the world after Liechtenstein, and sizeable oil and natural gas reserves.
The peninsular land mass of Qatar on the Persian Gulf coast of Arabia has supported human sustenance for centuries, yet its arid climate afforded little economic interest to the host of nations that came into contact with this land. Even the British in their quest for colonial supremacy regarded Qatar as a passing vantage point en route to their larger military and economic expeditions. It wasn't until the early twentieth century - when oil and other hydrocarbons were discovered - that the British got a reason to get economically interested in this mass of land.
Those were the times when the Al Khalifas of Bahrain ruled the northern peninsular side of Qatar. Atrocities committed by Al Khalifas sowed seeds of resentment in the hearts of Qataris. In 1867, Al Khalifas' naval attack to punish the Qatari rebels took a historic turn when the British declared this Bahrain act in contravention to the Anglo Bahrain Treaty and forced Al Khalifas to negotiate a political settlement with Qatar. Muhammad Bin Thani, a Doha resident and entrepreneur was chosen by the Qataris as their representative. This later on resulted in Al Thanis becoming a politically significant segment of Qatari society. These developments gave Qataris a sense of political selfhood and the British response to Bahrain aggression culminated in Qatar becoming a distinct and separate entity from Bahrain.
December 18, 1878, when Qatar found the status of an independent state, is celebrated as Qatar's national day. The official status of a British protectorate was, however, not conferred on Qatar until 1916.
In 1968, the British announced its political disengagement from the Persian Gulf within a period of three years. Qatar joined a coalition of seven other Trucial states in a federation to prepare for the forthcoming independence but soon parted its way from the federation after developing some disputes. Eventually, Qatar got the status of an independent sovereign nation on September 03, 1971. The Al Thani Khalifa who ruled the country from 1972 till 1995 did little good for the country's economy as he kept siphoning off petroleum revenues to the western banks. It was his son, the present Emir Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani who, after peacefully dethroning his father in 1995, took the economic destiny of Qatar in his hands and transformed this oil and gas rich country into a world socioeconomic model. The sociopolitical reforms including the endorsement of voting right for women, drafting of a constitution, launch of Aljazeera news channel etc. show the vision of a true leader in command of the affairs of his nation.
Qatar is a moderately liberal country with its leadership focus on accelerated modernization and controlled liberalization. The laws are a well thought out mix of civil and religious codes, with Sharia retaining its central place. To an observer, Qatar may not be as strict as Saudi Arabia and not as liberal as Dubai. The population which has now grown from 22,000 in 1908 to 1,309,000 in 2009 mainly consists of expatriates who have migrated from South Asian and non-oil Arabian countries. The ethnic Arab population is in minority. Ninety eight percent of the total population is Sunni and follows Hunbali Fiqah. Qatar's social and political standing among the world communities is evident from the rankings assigned to it by the various global surveys.
QATAR'S RANKS IN VARIOUS GLOBAL SURVEYS
ORGANIZATION SURVEY RANKING Institute for Economic & Peace Global Peace Index 16 out of 144 United Nations Development Program Human Development Index 33 out of 182 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 22 out of 180 World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report 22 out of 133
Like any forward looking nation, Qatar has education as the focal point of its national policy design. Government-provided education from KG through high school level forms the cornerstone of the government educational programs. All citizens are required to attend this government sponsored basic education program. Besides Qatar University, founded in 1972, there are eight more universities and 567 public and private sector schools to cater to the demand for education in the country. In November 2007, Emir Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani formed Supreme Educational Council entrusting to it the responsibility of planning, organizing, directing and controlling the educational program systems for all citizens of Qatar.
The establishment of Qatar Science and Technological Park in Education City in 2004 became yet another educational landmark. This Park serves as a linkage between the higher educational institutions and the industry providing technological and financial support to the entrepreneurial ventures.
In 2009, Qatar Foundation launched an innovative educational program WISE - World International Summit for Education. The program hosted the world opinion leaders, decision makers, social icons and educational experts to an interface that generated discussion on the present day social and educational issues. Qatar Foundation is the frontline higher education provider to the local as well as regional students. The founder Emir Hamad Bin Khalifa and his second wife Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned take keen interest in the affairs of the Foundation. Her Highness chairs the Qatar Foundation besides sitting on the board of Qatar Supreme Educational Council. She is believed to spearhead the educational offensive. Qatar has resorted to in the recent years. The Qatar Foundation spells out its mission in the following words:
"Qatar Foundation is using innovative strategies and programs focusing on capacity building and character development at Education City. This unique form of education involves a select few institutions known for the quality of their programs."
The Education City boasts of having the campuses of the following six international universities: Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, Texas A&M University at Qatar, Virginia, Commonwealth University in Qatar, Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, and Northwestern University in Qatar.