Is Qatar really investing $10 billion in U.S. infrastructure?
Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohamed bin Saud al-Thani is the chief executive of the Qatar Investment Authority, the financial office through which Qatar is throwing a lot if its accumulated capital to try to grow the economy in the post-oil era. Reports this month show Abdullah indicating to U.S. State Department staffers that Qatar is in for $10 billion as President-elect Donald Trump, who has campaigned on big infrastructure spending, prepares to take office in January.
Press releases from earlier this month show it's not even clear whether the $10 billion in question will be part of a greater $35 billion investment package the Qataris suggested was earmarked for American investment months ago.
Spokespersons for the QIA aren't giving a timeline for these money moves either, and according to Bob Darvish, that could be a problem. Darvish is a cybersecurity expert and international business risk analyst and a board member of the Muslim American Leadership Association (MALA). Darvish recently spoke with the Gulf News Journal about the logistics of such investments.
“It depends on how it goes forward.” Darvish said. “If it's not through yet, it could be just a puff piece where they say they're going to give money just to sound good."
If the QIA does really want to provide that capital, Darvish said, the Trump administration will want to think carefully about how that will work.
“I don't think that Trump’s totally against it, but I think he will be extremely cautious.” Darvish said, explaining that the new president will have to consider his base and their opposition to a lot of foreign involvement in American affairs.
Americans, Darvish said, should be careful about accepting this type of financial largess in general.
“Everything that comes from that region has to be approached with caution.” Darvish said. “They (the Qataris) need to be as transparent as possible and open about their intent.”
Darvish cited a previous deal that involved the QIA purchasing a stake in the Empire State building, a move that, to some, seemed a bit ominous.
Contrasting different types of infrastructure spending, Darvish said it's one thing to routinely finance upgrades to bridges and highway systems, but it's something entirely different to start buying up partial ownership of key U.S. landmarks like the Empire State building or the Statue of Liberty.
“You have to analyze it,” Darvish said, adding that some financial partnerships also lead to influence in the major press, which could make it harder for Americans to get the real picture about what's going on in their country.
One interesting thing to consider in any sort of similar funding deal is remarks by Trump about the infrastructure in Qatar and Dubai, and elsewhere in the oil-rich OPEC/GCC region. Business Insider cites comments Trump made on the campaign trail, comparing aging U.S. airports to new, modern facilities in some GCC countries.
Time will tell how global investment will mesh with U.S. policy and whether the result will accommodate the types of spending now trumpeted by Qatar.