Country Profiles FMCG
With more than 1,000 insight-rich pages covering 81
countries and territories, Country Profiles offer
current and comprehensive business information, from
local laws and taxes to political and market
conditions Make them part of your smart trade
Country profile: Qatar
language: Arabic Emir: Sheikh Hamad bin
The State of Qatar
Agriculture The government,
which owns all agricultural land, has attempted
to encourage agricultural production, accounting
for only 1 percent of GDP. Given the scarcity of
fresh surface water, however, most agricultural
activity is dependent on wells. The government
has also attempted to increase the number of
small farms. As a result, the number of farms
has increased from 338 in 1975 to 891 in 1995.
Most farmers are absentee landlords, who are
relatively uninterested in investing in
agriculture, and the land is mostly cultivated
by foreign workers.
Qatar's agricultural products are consumed
locally, providing 70 percent and 40 percent of
the consumption of summer and winter vegetables,
respectively. In addition to vegetables, Qatar
produces cereals, fruits and dates, eggs,
poultry, and dairy products. Despite a
noticeable increase in agricultural production
in the course of the past 20 years, however,
Qatar continues to rely on food imports,
especially foodstuffs and live animals, which
account for roughly 10 percent of total imports.
Qatar, a former pearl-fishing centre and once one of the poorest Gulf states, is now one of the richest countries in the region, thanks to the exploitation of large oil and gas fields since the 1940s.
Dominated by the Al-Thani family for almost 150 years, the mainly barren country was a British protectorate until 1971, when it declared its independence after following suit with Bahrain and refusing to join the United Arab Emirates.
Press freedom has been extended and the Qatari satellite TV station Al Jazeera has become one of the most important broadcasters in the Arab world.
Elections in 1999 for a 29-member municipal council were the first in which Qatari women were allowed to vote and stand for office.
A constitution, providing for democratic reforms, came into force in 2005. On its heels, voting for a partially-elected parliament is expected to take place by 2007.
The population is small. Foreigners - including labourers attracted by a construction boom - outnumber natives. Oil money funds an all-embracing welfare state, with many services being free or heavily subsidised.
Possessing more than 15% of the world's proven gas reserves, Qatar has ambitions to become a global energy giant.
The launch of 24-hour satellite TV news channel Al-Jazeera in late 1996 raised Qatar's international profile. The station claims an Arabic-speaking audience of 40m.
Al-Jazeera is owned by the Qatari government. It can be outspoken on subjects deemed as sensitive in the Arab world, but it is careful not to criticise Qatar and its Gulf allies, specifically Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, it has had its bureaus closed in several Arab countries.
Al-Jazeera TV is known for its forthright style
The station became known worldwide after becoming the only channel allowed to report from Afghanistan - and the first to air recorded video statements by Osama Bin Laden - following the start of US aerial attacks in Afghanistan in October 2001. It is noted for its graphic coverage of the Iraq conflict.
A sister network, Al-Jazeera English, launched in November 2006. The news and current affairs network touts itself as the first Middle East-based English-language channel. It says it is available to one billion potential viewers via satellite and cable.
Qatar's domestic broadcast media are state-controlled. Leading newspapers have links to the royal family and other notables.
Qatar formally lifted censorship of the media in 1995 and since then the press has been essentially free from government interference. However, social and political constraints make self-censorship commonplace.
BBC World Service radio in Arabic, Radio France Internationale, France's Arabic-language radio service Monte Carlo Doualiya, UAE-based MBC and Radio Sawa from the US are available on FM in Doha.