It is an autocracy where women are discriminated against, migrant workers are exploited and free speech is curtailed. But according to the World Economic Forum (WEF), Qatar is a model of efficient government.
The oil-rich Gulf state, which is currently at the centre of a major Swiss corruption investigation into Fifa’s decision to award it the 2022 football World Cup, finished top of a league table compiled by the organisation which compared the “efficiency” of governments in 144 countries.
The WEF is best known for its annual winter meeting in Davos. To reach their surprising finding, WEF researchers used data taken from the group’s most recent Global Competitiveness Report. Measures such as wasteful spending, the burden of regulation on business and the transparency of policymaking were considered to calculate the overall efficiency of each country’s rulers.
WEF Top 5 most efficient states
Qatar was ranked just ahead of Singapore, followed by Finland, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates and New Zealand. Rwanda had the seventh most efficient government in the world, with the blog explaining that this “strong showing” was thanks to the country’s “low level of waste in government spending”. The UK came 14th.
On Monday, Swiss federal prosecutors announced they had uncovered evidence of 28 acts of possible money laundering linked to the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, won by Russia and Qatar respectively. The investigation into how the tournaments were awarded is ongoing, with both countries denying any wrongdoing.
Qatar’s ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani came to power in 2013. Amnesty International’s recent report on the country stated that migrant workers were still regularly being “exploited and abused”, while women faced “discrimination and violence”.
“Freedom of expression remained strictly controlled and the press routinely exercised self-censorship,” it added, raising concern about new “cybercrimes” law which made it illegal to disseminate “false” news online – or information deemed harmful to Qatar’s social values.
Dr David Roberts, an expert in Gulf international relations and security at King’s College London who lived in Qatar for more than four years, said the country’s strong showing in the table was “hard to fathom” even if its questionable human rights record was set aside.
“I don’t know what they were trying to measure, but in no meaningful sense have they derived a sensible conclusion that Qatar is the most efficient government in the world. I don’t care how solid their methodology is, most people who work in Qatar would not recognise this study’s findings.”
He added that when he lived in Qatar he dealt with government officials who suffered from a “general lack of capability” and were “plagued” with bureaucracy. “I’m not one of these people who puts the boot into Qatar – it’s just a young state which doesn’t have the right procedures in place.”
The WEF’s lead economist Margareta Drzeniek-Hanouz insisted that Qatar was worthy of its ranking as it had scored well across the different indicators.
WEF Top 10
Most efficient states
4 Hong Kong
5 United Arab Emirates
6 New Zealand
14 United Kingdom