Qatar has one of the highest GDP per capita rates of any country in the world. So it’s little wonder the conservative Arabian Peninsula state is a magnet for the tens of thousands of expats from the UK and elsewhere who live and work there.
Wealth created through its vast proven reserves of oil and natural gas enables this tiny country of just under 1.9 million people to enjoy a standard of living few other countries are able to match. The evidence for this is everywhere, not least in its theme parks, markets, art galleries, restaurants and incredible shopping malls. Qatar’s banking system, too, is as sophisticated as any in the West, with HSBC and many other recognizable multinationals offering expats the sorts of services they’d expect back home.
Then there’s the football, the FIFA 2022 World Cup to be exact, which Qatar has been chosen to host. Given football is the most popular sport in Qatar, it’s no surprise everything appears geared towards the much-anticipated event. Indeed, there’s rarely a week passes by without some billion-dollar infrastructure project announcement, some directly connected to 2022. At least it appears that way!
Some of the major projects announced so far include Doha’s new $5.5bn deep-sea port, the first phase of which is expected to be operational in 2014; the new $17.5bn airport for the capital, scheduled to open in April 2013; various road projects worth in the region of $20bn; and a $36bn Doha Metro system which aims to link stadiums involved in the World Cup. The Doha Metro is expected to be completed by 2016.
One thing is for sure, with such stratospheric levels of spending in the country, Qatar’s growth can only go one way, and that’s up. Not bad for a country which until a few decades ago was considered little else but an economic basket case.
Back then, Qatari income depended in the main on fishing and pearl hunting. And, in common with other countries in the region, the economy suffered following the introduction of the Japanese cultured pearl onto the market. Pearl prices fell and the industry nose-dived.
However, Qatar’s fortunes changed dramatically with the discovery of oil in 1940. The country has literally not looked back since. Since 2005, the economy has almost tripled in size, growing by almost 19% in 2011, and by around 5% last year, despite the worldwide economic downturn.
With plenty of money sloshing around in the Qatari economy, it’s little wonder hard-up expats from around the world have made a bee line for the country in a bid to grab a little bit of the wealth for themselves. Many make use of the excellent retail banking facilities available throughout the country, including current account and other services provided by the myriad branches of both national and international banks.
And with the excellent salaries paid, banks are much more willing nowadays to offer home loans and other financial products to expats. The Qatari government certainly encourages this although home ownership for foreigners is limited to certain areas. Obviously, documentation – residency permit, proof of income, property valuation report, building insurance, copy of the title deed – will be required to support any mortgage application.
Find out more about life in Qatar by visiting the Qatar Living online forum here.