According to The Peninsula newspaper quoting the Qatar National Bank, the current rich-ranking in the Arab world goes like this:
The countryâ€™s per capita income is projected to hit a whopping $63,262 (QR230,000) this year as per estimates issued by Qatar National Bank (QNB), which in turn was quoting figures given by the General Secretariat for Development Planning (GSDP).
The $63,262 figure is all the more eye-catching considering per capita income was around $40,000 as recently as 2004.
The UAE trailed Qatar by some distance with an estimated $42,427 in per capita income. Kuwait was the third-richest followed by Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Oman. Outside the GGC region, the pace-setters were Libya, Algeria, Lebanon and Jordan.
Qatar’s GDP is set to grow by another 16% this year according to the report.
At a glance then, we surpass both Saudi and Oman! Right on. Seeing the various huge projects on the island certainly gives credence to these numbers; the story though is much more complex, I should imagine. For instance, the vast majority of projects announced and in progress in Bahrain promise revenues not to be seen by the normal Bahraini on the street. In fact, judging by the new census statistics by the august CIO which puts the number of souls on these islands to more than a million [translation], the first time in history, and which state that half of the population are actually foreign workers, then it doesn’t take an Einstein to determine that a huge chunk of that money being created gets sent abroad, while the even larger chunks of profits are pocketed by very very few people at the top of the pyramid.
True, it should be easy to make money in this burgeoning environment. The fact remains; however, that we are not equal regardless of the level of tenacity and creativity we possess. Even if we are fortunate enough to make some money, judging by the astronomic property prices and the ever rising cost of living, it is only a select few who will be able to afford even a moderately sized comfortable accommodation; thus, by definition, shrinking the middle class even further.
So being the fourth richest of 22 countries and very highly ranked in the world as well, is not an indication of contentment. In fact, the widening gap between the rich and the poor coupled with the shrinking middle class will continue to sustain the feelings of resentment between these layers as we have already been experiencing over the last few years.
I think that the only way to redress the balance is for the government itself to take a real initiative in which it promotes inclusiveness and fairness in the distribution of wealth. Without societal justice as a basis, conflicts and demonstrations will unfortunately become the norm.