Risk Management Report: Qatar
Politics: Al-Thanis have ruled since the mid-19th century, reinforced by British recognition of the family’s right to govern; independence was declared in 1971. In recent decades, the peninsula has gained hugely in power, confidence and wealth, thanks to ‘Father Emir’ Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani’s drive to develop gas reserves. The population has boomed, from around 111,000 in 1970 to 2.2m-plus today (85%-90% expatriate), almost exclusively concentrated in Doha. Between 1995 and 2013, Sheikh Hamad and prime minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim remodelled Qatar as an ultra-modern city state, with a multi-facted foreign policy, funded by extreme wealth. Relations with Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) members deteriorated as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain took umbrage at Doha’s support for Islamists, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood. When Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad took over in June 2013, his age alone broke the region’s gerontocratic mould, which several senior GCC heads hardly appreciated (GSN 950/1). He has worked to return to the GCC fold, while further modernising Qatari governance. Tamim’s January 2016 cabinet reorganisation was aimed at injecting vigour into a slimmed down government. Tamim is reputed for a canny understanding of his people and Qatar’s potential, but in many respects he remains an enigma; GSN has described his government as “less activist, still active”.