GCC Politics and Economics: the Visionary and the Petty and the Corrupt, the ‘Nahasa’ Mindset………….


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                                Neck of the woods

“Indications of Qatar’s influence continued to surface after the fall of the regime. In March 2011, Khairat al-Shater—then the Muslim Brotherhood’s nominee for president—visited Qatar for several days to discuss “coordination between the Brotherhood, the Freedom and Justice Party, and Qatar in the upcoming period,” according to the Egyptian Independent, implying that Doha had vested interests in the outcome of Egypt’s democratic elections. Additionally, a popular Al Jazeera television host—Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a Qatari national of Egyptian origin—is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood……….. In Tunisia, too—the birthplace of the Arab Awakening—many have attributed the Islamist Ennahda party’s success to an infusion of Qatari petro-dollars. The fact that Prime Minister Rashid al-Ghannouchi’s first post-election international visit was to Qatar—and that his son-in-law, formerly a researcher for Al Jazeera in Doha, became his Foreign Minister—has further stoked suspicions about ties between the Gulf emirate and the Ennahda party. The speculation has even led to protests in Tunisia against Qatari interference in Tunisia’s affairs. By contrast, Ghannouchi is not even allowed in Saudi Arabia………..”

The Qatari rulers can finance all the Muslim Brotherhood movements they want: they have a lot of money and only a few hundred thousand people who never question them. Financially, Qatar is the super-power on the Arab side of the Gulf now.

Qatar is like Kuwait used to promise to be a few decades ago, but never delivered. Except much more so. The Kuwaiti elite (both the political elite and economic elite, both private and public sectors) were always “small” and “petty” and have always thought small and petty. They were never generous with ideas, never bold and never visionary and were stingy with development projects. The local term for this ubiquitous “smallness and pettiness” is “Nahasa“. The political classes are still short on vision and boldness: in fact it may be worse now than decades ago. To this day Kuwait City, my birthplace, is full of huge vacant tracts of undeveloped land and hardly anyone lives in the center. Unfortunate for a country with financial resources and a large educated class.

Saudi Arabia has the size and the population but Qatar has a huge money advantage over Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are hard pressed to meet the needs of their 14-15 million citizens (the rest of the 24 million are temporary expatriates). The Saudis have too many princes, thousands of them, who have first call on the country’s resources, whether oil revenues or land. There is little left to save for the post-oil era and to satisfy the people’s needs and satisfy the greed of the many princes. (Do I need to refer you to my post on the example of the fortune left by the late Prince Sultan Bin Self-Made?). Hence the Saudi hands in spending money abroad are restricted by their fear of domestic unrest. They need to spend more on the people and less on the princes, but who is brave enough to propose that to the elderly king? Who will “bell the cat”? Personne! They keep spending on the increasing number of princes and princesses and they keep spending on their Salafi outposts in the Middle East and around the world.
At some point things will boil over, the people will explode. There are already signs of rebellion, and not just in the Eastern Province (Qatif, Awamiya). It is a matter of time: the fear is receding in the Arabian Peninsula. People will feel free to speak  again, just as Arabs were for thousands of years in the Peninsula before this theocratic monarchy took over less than a century ago.

Both the Qataris and Emiratis are claimed by some Arab autocrats have one “advantage” over a place like Kuwait (it is also a disadvantage): the Saudi king and the Qatari Emir are truly absolute monarchs. They can decide whatever they please. They can vote on their own projects and approve them. They can also screw up royally and steal (which they do) without anyone questioning them. Nice racket, no?