19 January, 2007

The Rising Star

That is what Qatar is: the rising star in the Middle East! Just a decade ago, how many knew of this tiny gulf nation of about 11,437 sq km and a population of about 885,359 (July 2006 est.)? Very few indeed. But since 1995, when the present Amir took over, Qatar has had an incredible, meteoric growth - both economically and politically. With its vast oil and gas reserves; and revenues from these, Qatar now has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. And it seems to be using its enormous resources, effectively and wisely.

When other nations in the region are mainly thinking of and focusing on weapons of all kinds; when other nations around, are mainly stuck in old fashioned ways of running a nation - tiny Qatar, has shown that there are other ways to make positive and meaningful contributions in our region here. Not only is Qatar rapidly becoming a major international economic and business center; not only has it 'put on the best Asian Games ever, the biggest Asian Games ever, the most widely reported Asian Games ever, the highest standard of Asian Games'; which 'never before had a Middle Eastern country and region staged anything' like on that scale. But Qatar too, has the most noticeable and most talked about creation in the region: Al Jazeera TV and news channel. And what a powerful creation it is!

For the last ten years, it has only been in Arabic and been watched by millions of Arabic speakers around the world. But a month ago, Aljazeera launched its English channel in high-definition television: airing - news features and analysis, documentaries, live debates, current affairs, business and sport. The channel had expected to reach around 40 million households, but it has so far exceeded that launch target, reaching more than twice as many households. With its main slogan - "setting the news agenda" - Al Jazeera is both very refreshing and eye opening and is now one of the three biggest global English language 24 hour news channels, right there on top with the BBC and CNN; but unlike the latter two - it gives viewers a completely different and unique perspective on news around us. And unlike the latter two, which are controlled by entities from two of the richest and most powerful nations of the world, Al Jazeera is from tiny but very wise Qatar.