Qatar can look on its hosting of the recent Asian games as a job well done. But the Genesis of the nation’s rise to prominence from being a Gulf backwater is predicated on a vision in which it deliberately chose to differentiate itself from its glitzy neighbor Dubai and Singapore, with its thick seam of Asian diligence.
Where would be the value-added in duplicating a wining formula? Qatar finally chose education and excellence among its new set of core values. Sport and the locally-initiated Aspire campaign – launched through the prism of the Asian games – represents the latter of these values, while Doha is now a hub for foreign campuses of some of the finest international names in education like Cornell and Carnegie Mellon.
Elsewhere, the GCC real estate boom is in full swing and stretching its network across the region. This presents new challenges to those developers who are used to creating from scratch in desert expanses – a la the compound culture from which it could be argued this formula sprung. The nations of the Levant and North Africa are going concerns and any mega developments will need to embrace the cultural, social and ethnic mores of these countries. Citizens – like the SIMs in the SimCity computer game – cannot be imported like the eager westerners brought into the GCC.
But let us not forget that as the second anniversary of the assassination of Rafic Hariri draws near, that he was the granddaddy of these mega projects. Hariri, like the visionary gulf rulers, was weaned on the GCC experience and was imbued with the idea of developing a dream that he could export to Lebanon. The Beirut Central District, the Dbaye Marina and the now Rafic Hariri International Airport were the examples he set and now his template is being rolled out across Jordan and the UAE.
That Lebanon has fallen behind is more to do with its erractic political dynamic. The governments of North Africa, not to mention Syria and Jordan, can execute these projects because the central government can directly control their implementation, by fast tracking laws that directly affect the economic good.
Sadly, in the Middle East, you still need absolute power to get absolute results.