Qatar, a small nation on the Arabian peninsula, became a major news story Monday after six Arab nations, among them Saudi Arabia and Egypt, suspended diplomatic relations with that country, claiming Qatar is abetting terrorism. The actions by these nations complicate matters for the United States, which has large military installations in Qatar, and the United States has launched air strikes against terrorist targets in the region from Qatar.
The nation, with a population of 2.25 million people, has been ruled by the Al Thani family since the mid-1800s, according to the CIA Factbook. The current amir, Tamim bin Hamad, succeeded his father, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, in a peaceful handover of power in 2013 that is rare in the Middle East. The former amir had ascended to power in a bloodless coup that unseated his father in 1995.
Unlike its neighbors, Qatar has escaped domestic unrest and violence. Under the former amir, Qatar embarked on sweeping political reforms that have tamped down unrest. The result has been a surge in foreign economic investment that has propelled Qatar into a regional leadership role including mediation of regional border disputes. Qatar is also the home to Al Jazeera, a state-funded broadcaster that has become an influential player in the industry. The nation, 67% of whom are Muslim, has also supported popular revolutions in Libya and Syria.
Qatar ranks 14th in the world in proven oil reserves. Qatar’s gross domestic product, at $334.5 billion, is powered by the oil and gas sector, though manufacturing, construction and financial services are playing are a larger role in the economy. Oil and gas account for about 92% of Qatar’s export earnings and 56% of government revenue, according to the CIA Factbook.
Oil and gas have helped make Qatar the world’s highest per-capita income country that has lowered unemployment to 1.1%. Proved oil reserves are more than 25 billion barrels. Proved reserves for natural gas exceed 25 trillion cubic meters, 13% of the world total and the third-largest.
The country produced $64.6 billion in exports last year. It biggest trading partners were Japan (25.4%), India (14.6%), China (8.4%), the United Arab Emirates (6.8%) and Singapore (5.6%).
The life expectancy in the country is estimated at 78.7 years, comprised of an average of 76.7 years for men and 80.8 years for women. The median age for the nation is 33 years old. Health expenditures are 2.2% of the nation’s gross domestic product.
The nation devotes 3.5% of its GDP to education and 97% of its population is literate.
In February, Qatar Airlines laid claim to the world’s longest flight when a Boeing left the nation’s capital of Doha and touched down the next day in Auckland, New Zealand, after flying 9,031 miles.