DOHA, Qatar — On July 14, the Pentagon announced Hamad bin Ali al-Attiyah, Qatar’s Minister of State for Defense Affairs, agreed to purchase Apache helicopters and Patriot and Javelin defense systems for $11 billion from the United States. For the two countries, the deal bolstered an already long-standing strategic military partnership, but the military systems will most likely gather dust in some bunker or hangar, as the last time the nation was militarily involved in any real conflict was the Gulf War in 1991.
Qatar is a member of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, a six-nation organization, and has maintained a strong military and diplomatic relations with the United States for decades. With the already impressive arsenal of Qatar’s military, it’s difficult to imagine the country desperately needed additional military weaponry for any purposes, defensive or offensive.
Nevertheless, $11 billion dollars is being spent on Qatar’s military, and that kind of money can have profound social implications in the hands of the poor.
According to a 2013 Gallup poll, 22 percent of the world’s population still live on $1.25 per day or less, and 34 percent live on less than $2 per day. That’s well over a billion individuals in the world today. Over a billion people who, because of their economic position or lack thereof cannot use the same time, effort and resources that the developed world has to gain income and produce goods.
Moreover, the shortfall to end world hunger, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is $30 billion. The money procured from the recent arms deal between the U.S. and Qatar would not realistically end world hunger, solve global poverty or act as a panacea for global health issues. Rather, the capital would be able to make a sizeable difference in reducing global levels of poverty and thereby contribute to the future of the world’s poor.
For Qatar, this large sum of cash is undoubtedly an investment in the security of the nation. But for the Qatari people, conflict is an unlikely reality in the near future whereas sharp economic contraction isn’t. As Qatar’s Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics recently observed, “Qatar’s economy is expected to expand by 5.3 percent in 2013 and by 4.5 percent in 2014,” a continuation of a downward economic trend in recent years.
While the country’s supply of oil and gas remains abundant, demand for Qatar’s black gold coupled with the low global price of oil means the country will not experience the same economic growth it saw under a decade ago.
Investments in the world’s poor are undeniable catalysts in the rising middle classes in developing countries like India, which is why billionaires like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet donate their wealth to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to providing capital to the world’s poor.
If Qatar wanted to help spur demand for its greatest economic commodity, it would follow the likes of Gates and Buffet in funding the world’s poor and creating a larger middle class abroad, a group of individuals who have the capital to go on to purchase oil for their vehicles.
– Joseph McAdams