Global HotSpots, Global Pairings

Qatar: A Pariah?

Unlike its neighbors, Qatar has continued to do well ranked by perceived corruption.

Credit: www.flickr.com

Takeaways


  • Qatar has used its mineral wealth to support cultural projects that none of its Arab brethren have considered.
  • Qatar continues to do well ranked by perceived corruption, though its relative position has declined somewhat.
  • Almost all Qatar’ adversaries are perceived as much more corrupt, notably Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Qatar has a history of standing out. It has used its mineral wealth to support cultural projects that none of its Arab brethren have considered — notably museums and independent media.

Qatar also has stood out when assessments are undertaken of countries’ political-economic conditions.

In 2011, I looked at the record of individual countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI).

In that survey, of the 153 countries with at least six years of CPI ranking, I noted that:

Qatar has achieved a quite exceptionally rapid decline in perceived corruption. Since its entry to the survey in 2003, Qatar has passed not only every country above it in the ranking from the Mediterranean region (France, Spain, Cyprus and Israel), but the United States and United Kingdom as well.

What about today?

In light of the attack on Qatar by its Arab neighbors, I wonder, where does Qatar stand today in the CPI rankings?

Qatar has continued to do very well ranked by perceived corruption, though its relative position has declined somewhat.

Tied for 31st in the 2016 rankings of 176 countries, Qatar now stands below the UK (10th), the USA (18th), France (23rd) and Israel (28th). However, it still outranks all the countries of the Mediterranean, except for France and Israel in perceived lack of corruption.

The Mediterranean countries it outranks include, among others, Spain, Italy, Greece, and Turkey.

In fact, above Qatar in the rankings, there are few surprises – Uruguay, Chile, and Poland, perhaps – in a crowd of highly developed countries. The United Arab Emirates also ranks slightly better than Qatar in 2016.

Double standards

More to the point of the accusations and counteraccusations that have marked the conflict between Qatar and its neighbors, almost all Qatar’ adversaries are perceived as much more corrupt than Qatar itself, notably Saudi Arabia (ranked 62nd) and Egypt (108th).

Qatar stands accused of supporting terrorism as well as other acts hostile to its neighbors. The country responds to these accusations claiming that they are a smoke screen, and that support of free media, notably Al Jazeera, is the real irritant.

Transparency International’s index is hardly a means to determine the motives of Qatar’s enemies.

But like the World Economic Forum’s Executive Opinion Survey, and the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Country Ratings, Transparency Internationals CPI places Qatar at or near the top of the rankings among this group of countries, far above Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Perhaps Qatar offers exceptional support for such enemies of the West as ISIS and Hezbollah. Perhaps it produces as many terrorists, per capita, as its neighbors did for 9/11.

But I take very seriously the claim that Qatar is under attack because it supports relatively free media that constrain its neighbors’ ability to spin their own narrative.

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About Bernard Wasow

Bernard Wasow is Mexico based and a former professor of economics at New York University.

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