This study compares the rapid evolution of Qatar to that of the disproportionally influential small states of Switzerland, Lebanon and Singapore. Though set apart by history and circumstance, these states share a set of common traits, including a limited size, high vulnerability to external shocks, diplomatic dexterity, a salient presence in conflict mediation, high reliance on imported migrant labor, export-led growth, as well as a drive to maintain an efficient infrastructure and a skilled human capital base in highly competitive economies. As of 2009, Switzerland ranked as the world's most competitive economy, Singapore towered as Asia's number one, while Qatar topped the Middle East and North Africa.

Sources of success and vulnerability were two sides of the same coin. Openness to global trade and diplomacy allowed each state to market its skills and products beyond its size. At the same time, the paper contends that rapid global integration could lead to domestic dislocation, triggering compensatory governmental measures in response. The paper examines the respective responses of each state to the global credit crunch, spreading consumerism and geopolitical instabilities. The recent 2008 global recession acutely highlighted both the predicament of vulnerability, and the potential for superior resilience exhibited by these small states. The paper argues that while each state departed from country-specific comparative advantages (i.e. Qatar's hydrocarbon reserves, Singapore's port and high-tech industries, Switzerland's quality manufacturing and banking, Lebanon's financial services, education and tourism), the respective political leaders have espoused a similar paradigm of comprehensive social development. This study identifies the potential perils emanating from both within and without its borders, which, if averted, may allow Qatar to dispel the ‘rentier curse’ by establishing itself as a proactive leader in the fields of good governance and human development, further closing the gap with global frontrunners such as Switzerland and Singapore.


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  1. M. Farha, Success strategies of small states: the State of Qatar comparedto Switzerland, Singapore and Lebanon, QFARF Proceedings, 2010, AHO1.
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