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Saturday, 18 February 2012

Business : Gas buoys Qatar plans

Five years ago, half a dozen cars at a traffic light in Qatar’s capital Doha would lead to mutterings about how crowded the city was becoming. Now bumper-to-bumper traffic often clogs a seafront dominated by gleaming skyscrapers. At night, tastefully lit buildings exude opulence, and wooden dhows plying the water are the only obvious sign of the past.
But this change is nothing compared with the transformation that the country’s rulers plan over the next decade. Throw in its aspirations to be a regional peacebroker, and it is no exaggeration to call Qatar the world’s most ambitious country.

The gas-rich Gulf state has a population of just 1.7 million people, of which only about 250,000 are Qatari citizens; most of the rest are foreign workers. So as it spends $150 billion on a metro, airport, seaport, roads and an urban makeover in preparation to host the 2022 soccer World Cup, the inevitable question is being asked: has a country a quarter the size of Switzerland bitten off more than it can chew?