Venezuela, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, all fallen victim to the resource curse, when an abundance of resources leads to economic distortions and limited growth. No one has seemed to take advantage of oil and done as well with it as Qatar has, a small nation that has done everything to reinvest its energy money and diversify its economy. Together with a strong backbone supported by the U.S. as well as years and years of proven reserves, Qatar have always maintained an equilibrium, fostering stability.
It is no surprise that this small, almost tiny, peninsula has the highest per-capita GDP in the world at $98,800, a number that even understates the real wealth of Qatar’s 280,000 citizens. Here are photos that tell the incredible story of Qatar.
Qatar has been ruled by the Al-Thani family since the early 1900s when it became a British protectorate. On July 17, 1913, Shaikh Abdullah Bin Qassim Al-Thani (center-left) became the ruler of Qatar.
In 1939, oil was discovered at Dukhan. Development on the field was slow until 1949, because of World War II. While the oil discovery was significant, it was nothing compared to the natural gas reserves found 30 years later.
In 1951, Qatar produced 46,500 barrels of oil per day, amounting to $4.2 million in revenue. The discovery of off-shore oil fields and their development by Shell led to an increase in Qatar’s production to 233,000 barrels per day.
New revenue from oil exports flooded the pockets of the ruling family and Qatar began a slow modernization process. The country’s first school, hospital, power plant, desalination plant, and telephone exchange all opened in the 1950s.
In 1971, the world’s largest natural gas field, the South Pars/North Dome Gas-Condensate field, was discovered off the coast of Qatar. Petroleum production was still running high at the time, so the field was not developed.
Thanks to the North Field, Qatar has the largest natural gas reserves in the world after Russia and Iran. Qatar’s reserves are estimated to be 896 trillion cubic feet.
By 1995, the situation in Qatar had not improved. Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani took the throne in a bloodless coup from Emir Khalifa bin Hamad, while the emir was in Switzerland. Sheikh Hamad set a whole new direction for the country.
One of Sheikh Hamad’s first moves was to fast-track the development of the North Dome field. Production was ramped up and Qatar began exporting liquid natural gas for the first time.
In 1996, Qatar built the gigantic, billion-dollar al-Udeid air base, which has served as a logistics and command facility for the U.S. Military. The partnership with the U.S. military has given Qatar an unprecedented level of security.
Hoping to avoid the dreaded resource curse, Qatar has taken measures to diversify its economy. In 1998, the government built Education City, a massive campus that supports six American and two European universities, as well as research centers and think tanks.
In 2003, Qatar established the Qatar Investment Authority to recycle oil and gas income into other income streams. QIA has made big investments in Barclays Bank, Credit Suisse, Harrods, Porsche, Volkswagen, and a majority stake in the Paris Saint-Germain football team.
Qatar has become one of the largest holders of real estate in London through the QIA. Qatar owns The Shard, western Europe’s largest skyscraper, as well as large parts of Canary Wharf and other parts of the city.
In December 2010, Qatar was selected as host for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Qatar promised to build 12 state-of-the-art stadiums that would employ cooling technology so players could escape the heat. Qatar has positioned itself as a sporting hub for the region, hosting or planning to host numerous global sporting events.
The skyline has changed dramatically in recent years. Here’s what Doha looked like in 1977.
Here’s what it looks like now. Since 2000, 58 skyscrapers have been built, planned, or are under construction in Doha, along with museums, stadiums, giant infrastructure projects, and more.
Can Qatar become the Hong Kong of the Middle East or will it fail to escape the resource curse or get dragged down by regional instability? It’s one of the hottest questions in the world right now.
Original story appeared on Business Insider.