Greetings from the Al Mourjan Business Lounge at Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar. I cannot help but marvel at how internationally diverse Qatar has become and at how much investment has been made to improve the customer experience for travelers.
Qatar is an Arab state sitting on a peninsula in the Persian Gulf. It borders the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia about 295 miles, or 475 kilometers, from Riyadh. Despite being a country of just 4,473 square miles, 11,586 square kilometers, Qatar is one of the richest economies in the world. With a population of just 2.4 million, Qatar boasts a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) 501% the world average at $63,222 per capita.
Like most Gulf Arab states, Qatar become wealthy because of oil and natural gas resources within its territory. It is the second largest exporter of natural gas and has the third largest proven reserves in the world. Over 70% of government revenues come from the energy sector.
Despite the fortunes of geography Qatar’s reliance on resource extraction cannot last forever. Developing industrial capacity in steel, construction materials, petrochemicals, fertilizers, and refinery technology, along with the financial sector, indicate efforts to diversify.
Qatar also has magnificent, and exquisitely manicured, beaches along its 350 miles, 563 kilometers, of coastline. Significant investments have been made to boost tourism with transportation improvements and hosting of international sporting events.
"Travel is the best education"
Just transiting through Hamad International reveals much about how things in Qatar really work. This is one of the reasons why a colleague of mine used to say that travel is the best education.
Qatar is becoming, by necessity, quite the international hub. It must import labor in order to supply its industry. For instance, my security screeners were from Kenya and Uganda. There was one Qatari wearing a traditional long white thawb shirt and ghutra headdress overseeing the Malaysian security supervisor. However, the work was all being done by imported workers.
The staff in the lounge are Thai, Philippine, and Indonesian. There may have been some bussing staff from India or Nepal but I didn’t get the chance to talk with them.
I’d prefer routing through Doha than Istanbul, any day. It's cleaner, more orderly, and has much newer infrastructure.
Qatar will continue to diversify and look for ways to continue its momentum toward securing a future less reliant upon resource extraction than its previous trajectory. The Gulf Cooperation Council can be a fickle alliance. The Gulf states do not always get along or share the same goals, or at least with the same preference scales.
The lessons of political-economy are all around. Using the analytical tools of an economist in even the mundane task of transferring through an airport can be insightful.
How do you use the principles of political-economy in your daily life?
Qatar will also look for ways to distinguish itself in order to attract international partners. Forecasting what that might look like is a task for another day. However, thinking about the future of Qatar from inside the lounge sparks at least some curiosity of how those prospects might unfold.