The Pearl of the Middle East
by William Ryan
Qatar is changing, but is it for the better?
Qatar is a major oil exporter and holds the world's third largest natural gas reserves. Funded by oil revenues, modernization began in the 1950s, which unleashed rapid, unprecedented growth. The end of World War II marked the beginning of Middle Eastern domination of global energy sources because these countries comprise the world's major oil-producing nations. Qatar joined the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and transformed itself into one of the world's wealthiest countries with an annual per capita income of US$90,000. In 2005, Qatar began construction of the world's largest liquefied natural gas plant, in partnership with the US. Two years later, along with Dubai, Qatar became one of the two largest shareholders on the London Stock Exchange (LSE). However, oil prices unexpectedly crashed in response to the 2007 financial crisis, putting an abrupt end to Qatar's construction and economic boom years. However, a second construction boom is currently underway in Qatar.
The country is now spending massively to expand and further modernize the capital ahead of the 2022 World Cup. A new metro, airport, seaport, and new roads are all in the works and will cost an estimated US$150 billion. The rapid influx of foreign companies and workers is causing understandable concern among the local population about how these changes will affect their society. They fear Western values will have a strong, negative impact on the Islamic nation. The government's challenge in the coming years will be to successfully navigate the competing necessities of facilitating business interests and preserving the will of the citizenry in a socially conservative atmosphere.
卡达是主要的石油输出国，拥有全世界第三大的天然气储存量。有了石油收益的资助，该国于 1950 年代走向现代化，并引发了迅速且前所未有的成长。第二次世界大战的结束为中东国家在全球能源的主导地位写下了开端，因为这些国家组成了全世界主要的石油生产国。卡达加入了石油输出国组织，并转型成为世界最富有的国家之一，其每年的人平均收入为九万美元。2005 年，卡达开始与美国合作建造全世界规模最大的液化天然气工厂。两年之后，卡达和杜拜成为伦敦证券交易所的前两大股东。然而，2007 年的金融危机造成油价无预警地崩盘，这使得卡达的建设与经济繁荣时期戛然而止。不过，卡达如今正吹起第二波的建筑热潮。
在 2022 年的世界杯来临之前，卡达目前正砸下重金扩展其首都，并使其更加现代化。新的地铁、机场、海港以及道路的建造工程都在进行中，这些工程预估会花费一千五百亿美元。外国公司和员工的急速涌入引起了当地人民担心这些改变不知将会对他们的社会产生什么样的影响，而这些担忧是可以理解的。他们害怕西方的价值观将会为这个回教国家带来强烈而负面的影响。该国政府未来这几年的挑战将会是如何在民风保守的氛围之下成功地处理在促进商业利益和保持人民的意愿之间所必然产生的对抗。