Qatar – Development


If development was measured only by money, Qatar would be the most developed, with a GDP/capita of US$106,000. 14% of citizens are millionaires; the government has so little need for money that there is a 0% tax rate. Qatar is a member of OPEC, and bases the economy almost entirely on oil. The Emir says he prioritises his citizen’s wellbeing, including in advanced health care and education and expanding infrastructure for the 2022 world cup.

Qatar has the highest life expectancy in the Middle East (82 years for men and 78 years for women)- no-one lives below the poverty line.

Qatar is a developing site for tourists, due to being so under-explored. It has gained a reputation for a luxurious destination with a feeling of authenticity. The capital has a large range of cultural attractions, and natural wonders.

Issues Holding Back Development

  • No political freedom, with no political parties
  • No war of asserting civil rights
  • Trade unions are not allowed
  • No transparency in governance
  • Sharia Law still implimented
  • Qatar is not a member of the ICJ
  • Significant gender inequality
  • Ranks 86th in the world for literacy
  • The population is only 330,000, so a small gene pool has lead to high occurence of genetic diseases
  • Wealth is leading to the highest growth of obesity and diabetes in the world
  • Qatar has the highest CO2 emissions per capita in the world.
  • They are the highest consumers of water/person/day – 400 liters
  • Petrol is cheaper than water
  • The ITUC rates Qatar as one of the worst places worldwide for workers. Migrants make up 54% of the workforce- 545,000 from India and 341,000 from Nepal. Sub-contractors recruit these workers and there are many reports of slave-like conditions. (In 2014, DLA Piper published 60 recommendations to improve conditions for workers and Qatar has promised to implement them, however, there is little evidence of anything having been done about this).

2022 Football World Cup Controversy

There is a lot of talk of getting the world cup away from Qatar, due to the stepping down of the president of FIFA – Sepp Blatter- and concerns about both the climate and the lack of football culture.

The Qataris say that their being chosen is proof that there’s nothing wrong and hint at a fall out if they were replaced. In total, the emirates host 1.5 million migrants who are working to produce the stadiums- those same workers who are almost in slavery.

The kafala system gets payments from various Southern Asian countries which give them permission to send workers to Qatar. Many of these migrants owe money to recruitment agents; desperate for money they are forced to work long hours in unsafe conditions. Employers withhold wages, confiscate passports or cram workers into horrendous quality accommodation.

The minister of labour and social affairs- Abdullah bun Saleh al-Khulaifi is confident that the system wil be replaced with a fairer system based on 5 year contracts, and giving them more freedom.

Qatar has improved their housing. Qatar is building 7 new cities to house 258,000 migrant workers. The largest- Labour City- would have universal air conditioning and a 24,000 seat cricket stadium. Housing inspectors are increasing, but so is the migrant worker population; which is expected to hit 2.5 million by 2020.

Maya Lands and Oil Dispute

In Belize, people who buy land only buy the surface (and the right to dig down to build surface-based projects, such as house foundations and planting fence posts).

This is because, in Belize, due to the predominant rock type being limestone, there are many branching cave networks carved out by underground rivers throughout the country. The blue hole, a popular diving site, was formed by one of these cave networks collapsing, and the sea water pouring in to fill the space left behind. On the main land, many of these caves were used by the Maya people before the European colonisation of Meso-America. The Maya believed that there were steps up to heaven and down to hell, and that the cave networks were linked into these steps. Thus, caves were very spiritually important to the Maya people. Many burial sites were made within the cave networks. They were also used for sacred rituals, including human sacrifices, on occasion.

When North American buyers came in to buy land, the government was concerned that, should they find a Maya cave, they would use it as a tourist attraction, disrespecting the original culture, possibly damaging it, and the money produced from this would be leaked out and not even help the local economy to thrive. To stop this happening, the Belizean government decided that land rights were only applicable to the surface of the land, and that should a greater depth be needed for something, the government had to be consulted.

The Maya in the South of the country, in Toledo district, claim right to the lands in their district, which was, largely, respected. However, the government decided to allow oil companies from outside to look for oil resources in the south of the country.

This has raised issues with Maya people, not just because of the lack of farmland. Maya generally practice a subsistence lifestyle, so that they only produce so much food as they need to survive, and they farm in the forest using slash-and-burn methods. Their practice has worked for hundreds, if not thousands, of years in the forests without any noticeable negative impacts to the overall environment. However, this is threatened by oil companies. Oil wells can often leave exposed, or more exposed, oil at the surface of the land. Oil, for obvious reasons, does not mix well with slash-and-burn farming. Oil wells mean large sections of Maya land cannot be used, threatening their livelihoods.

Other concerns are that the Maya will gain little financial benefit, as very few of them will actually be employed by the oil companies. The few who are employed are likely to only be so for the short term, and to have low wages while they are. Some say that no Belizean should be happy with the current format for exploiting oil, with the company taking 95% of the total profit, and nationals only gaining 5%. It could also impact organic cocoa farming, which is a substantial portion of the Belizean economy.

This is what lead to a campaign by the Toledo Alcade’s Association and the Maya Leader’s Alliance to declare the Mayan people’s stance on oil exploitation in 2012. One MLA spokesperson said that they could not begin to discuss oil exploration without a proper acknowledgement of the Maya land rights, as, in law, their “free, prior and informed consent” is needed, as they are the owners of the land that US oil companies intend to extract from.

Siberian Oil

Oil has been exploited in Siberia since the 1970s, with some serious impacts

Environmental impacts

The impacts of petrol development are well known; pollution, disruption of nature, and destruction of wildlife and resources. Soil pollution is largely caused by oil settling pits and broken pipelines.

Economic and social impacts

These impacts are less visible in Siberia, but include:

  • Population redistribution- the Khanty population have had to move off of their hunting grounds
  • Economic dependency- oil companies have supplied resources such as snowmobiles, which local people have become reliant upon
  • Deteriorating physical and mental health- depression and alcoholism have increased due to the loss of traditional life styles and a lack of formal employment available
  • Oil- Responsible for politicising local Khanty people. Traditional authority figures have been replaced by the rich.

Cultural impacts

  • Reassasment by local Khanty people of the importance of their homelands
  • Destruction of components of native religions including sacred places

Alaskan proposals to extract oil to negate the effects of extracting oil

According to Bill Walker, governor of Alaska, searching for oil in Alaska is necessary to pay for the damage caused by climate change.

Climate change is having a huge effect on Alaska. 90% of the population lives in just the two largest cities, both of which are coastal. Villages are having to be moved because of rising sea levels. Erosion is threatening native communities along the coast.  The governor said coping with these changes is very expensive-true. However, he thinks that having to “urgently” drill in protected land within the Arctic National Wilderness Refuge is a good idea.

Alaska is the only state without sales or income tax, and 90% of it’s expenditure comes from levies on oil and gas. The price drops in oil have costed the Alaskan economy, only exacerbated by Shell pulling out of an oil deal on the north coast. This would have boosted the income from the Trans Alaskan Pipeline, that traverses 1300km from the north coast to Valdez on the south coast. It is currently carrying 25% of capacity.

“We are in a significant fiscal challenge. We have villages that are washing away because of changes in the climate.

“I don’t see anyone putting together contribution funds to help move Kivalina [A small coastal village facing rising seas]; that is out obligation, we stand by that- we need to figure out how to do that. But those are very expensive- we have about 12 villages in that situation.

This isn’t something we can put off for 10-20 years… We have to begin now- it’s an absolute urgency for Alaska. – Bill Walker

President Obama tried to increase protection for the Reserve only to be halted by congress- as all his good ideas are.

One of the main concerns (after how cyclical and therefore bad this idea looks to anyone) is that of the native people in the area. Caribou calve near where Bill Walker proposed developing. The Gwich’in people in the region depend on caribou for food and clothing, as well as their cultural importance.


(Source: BBC News, author; Matt McGrath)

Niger Delta Oil

Since the 1970s Nigeria has relied on oil to provide 95% of its exports and earning, 40% of the GDP and 80% of government revenue. Despite this it had also caused extensive environmental damage to the Niger Delta environment.

Poverty, Deprivation, social conflict, occupational dislocation and ill health are all identified as being related to thr use of oil.


Families living in oil fields have to breathe in large amounts of methane daily.

Oil is flammable (of course) and 10,000 barrles of oil can be spilt across the Niger Delta in a year.

Gas flares are a visible impact where oil is being extracted.

Dirty water is common in the area and less than 20% of the area is accessible by major roads.

Fishing and traditional livestyles are disrupted by the oil industry.

Pipes burst frequently and are often broken deliberately so pirates can steal the oil.

Forest is destroyed by fires and oil companies.

Money is leaked out of the economy as much of the oil extraction is being performed by TNCs based in other countries.


Nigeria is Africa’s primary oil producer. Nearly all of the country’s oil are offshore or in the Niger Delta.

In 2005, 131 million tons of oil were produced. All but 5 million tons of this were exported. Oil makes up 90% of Nigeria’s exports.

Nigeria has the largest third longest mangrove forest in the world along the Niger Delta. The area supports 150 species of fish. 60% of West Africa’s fish sticks spawn in swamps.

Economic development and the specific impact of the oil and gas industries have caused widespread environmental damage.

Over 4000 oil spills gave been recorded since 1958.

In 2006, the WWF described the Niger Delta as one of the top 5 polluted places. In total, 500 million tons of crude oil have been lost to spillages at a cost of $10 million a day.

Current conflicts in the Niger Delta started in the 1990s because of tensions between foreign oil companied and a number of ethnic minority groups who are being exploited. Unrest has continued since, even with a change in government in 1999. Competition for oil has also spawned violence between ethnic groups and vast militarisation through the area.