Key facts about Qatar: Wealthy kingdom in the Gulf diplomatic storm

A shop with a picture of Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani is seen in Doha.
A shop with a picture of Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani is seen in Doha.PHOTO: REUTERS

DOHA (AFP) - Several Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, on Monday (June 5) cut ties with Qatar, a small Gulf state which burst onto the diplomatic scene thanks to its rich energy resources.

Here are some key facts about the kingdom, now facing what is potentially its worst diplomatic crisis.

TINY ARAB STATE

Qatar is one of the smallest Arab states with a population of 2.4 million, 90 per cent of whom are foreigners, and a total area of 11,437 sq km.

The country was a British protectorate for 55 years until 1971, when it refused to join the United Arab Emirates and emerged as an independent kingdom.

Qatar has been ruled by a monarchy, the Al-Thani family, since the mid-19th century.

The current emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, rose to power in 2013 after his father Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani abdicated the throne.

Qatar's Constitution has been in place since 2005. The Constitution does not authorise political parties.

An as yet implemented article in its Constitution stipulates that two-thirds of the country's 45-seat consultative council be elected by popular vote.

ONE OF THE LARGEST PER CAPITA INCOMES IN THE WORLD

Gas-rich Qatar has an annual per capita income of US$138,480 (S$191,301), one of the highest in the world, according to the World Bank.

The kingdom since last year has posted a budget deficit, as the state adapts to lower hydrocarbon prices.

Qatar's economy is now projected to grow at a slower pace and it posted 2.7 per cent growth in 2016, down from 4.4 per cent three years ago.

A member of Opec, Qatar is the No. 1 producer and exporter of liquefied natural gas and holds the world's third-largest reserves.

HARRODS AND SAINSBURY ARE AMONG ITS BIG BRITISH INVESTMENTS

It is also a prime investor in international stocks, with a 17 per cent share in Volkswagen and 10 per cent of the Empire State Building.

Qatar has invested nearly £40 billion pounds (S$71 billion) in Britain in recent years, including the purchase of high-end retailer Harrods and Sainsbury, the country's second-largest supermarket chain.

The state owns France's Paris Saint-Germain football club and sports channel beIN, a subsidiary of Al-Jazeera satellite television.

It is also the main shareholder of top French media group Lagardere, and Qatari investors own France's Printemps department store.

HOST OF 2022 FIFA WORLD CUP

Qatar is to host the 2022 World Cup and has invested in massive infrastructure construction estimated to top US$200 billion (S$276.2 billion) in costs.

The controversial 2010 decision by world football's governing body FIFA to grant Doha the honour sparked corruption investigations by Swiss and US courts.

International rights groups have also raised concern around working conditions for labourers building Qatar's World Cup facilities.

 

Related Stories: