Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tiny Qatar Holds the Most Wealth

Here's a bona-fide newsflash:

While we've been dithering over FaceBook, foreclosures, and tax equity, tiny Qatar has eclipsed us.

And indeed, opened a new era in the chronicles of national wealth.

Sure, America is still the most powerful country in the world, but we're not the richest. Actually, we haven't been the richest nation in some time. That honorific has belonged to the tiny European nation of Luxembourg, a country barely big enough to qualify as a gated community in some American exurbs these days.

But last year, Qatar blew past even Luxembourg, and according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is on track to have twice the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capital as the US within five years.

Looking at the statistics, things don't appear terribly troublesome for the United States. Qatar, Luxembourg, and Singapore all trump us, but they're homogeneous, low-population countries which don't really manufacture anything and don't have the social policy and environmental overhead countries like America have. But if money is all that counts these days - and how many Americans believe that is true? - the fact that we're slipping down the GDP ladder can't be wonderful news.

Qatar, home to Islam's media sensation al-Jazeera, isn't known for its warm and fuzzy tolerance of equal rights. Granted, it's far from being a totalitarian terrorist state like Iran, Yemen, or Syria. After all, it owns London's famed Harrod's Department Store. But for all of the benefits we boast exist with freedom and civil rights, America and other Western democracies are handing the future to an energy-rich emirate whose economic and political clout only continues to expand.

Qatar may have built its wealth on oil, but it's banking on future income from natural gas, with the world's third-largest supply.  So even if the United States manages to wean itself from gasoline-powered automobiles, we may still end up beholden to a Middle Eastern fiefdom for at least some of our energy needs.

So what does any of this have to do with your life today? Maybe not a lot. But then again, if Americans have taught the world anything, it's to follow the money. And these days, for the first time since before the Renaissance, the world's money is washing over to the shores of a little Arab country with no historic allegiance whatsoever to the West.

Can you say, "Marhaba!"
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