Just published (online) in Political Research Quarterly is a coauthored paper that assesses the effects of perceived inequalities in distribution of welfare benefits in rentier states. That is, does it matter that some rentier citizens receive more financial patronage than others, so long as everyone is rich in absolute terms? The answer, as one might expect but contrary to classical rentier theory, is yes. We use data from a 2013 national survey of Qatari citizens conducted by my institute, SESRI, to show that perceived unfairness in distribution—both among citizens and between citizens and expatriates—dampens satisfaction with the rentier subsidies that people do receive. More specifically, Qataris who perceive high levels of distributional unfairness report substantially lower satisfaction with state benefits, irrespective of their objective wealth (household income).
The article uses rare nationally-representative public opinion data collected just prior to and after June 2017 to assess the effect of the embargo on Qatari views toward the GCC, foreign affairs, and domestic politics. The findings help shed light on the reasons why Qatari public opinion remained supportive of the (non-democratic) political status quo despite concerted efforts by the blockading countries to delegitimize the Qatari leadership and sow internal political discord during the now largely forgotten early stages of the crisis.
I have published a policy piece in Al-Monitor titled "Concerns Over Finances, Not Iran, Will End Qatar Crisis." It argues, as the title implies, that economic considerations in the blockading countries are likely to be the primary motivator of the (perhaps impending) end to the Qatar embargo, rather than common Arab Gulf fear of an increasingly belligerent Iran.
This is because the Qatar blockade has created a split in the GCC fiscal reform agenda, with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain moving forward with unpopular austerity measures -- especially direct taxation -- while Qatar, Kuwait, and Oman have deferred structural changes to the rentier state. The result is a sort of "good cop/bad cop" dichotomy in the Gulf, where some GCC citizens continue to live under the previous, relatively more generous economic regime while others do not. The close GCC fiscal policy coordination of 2015-2017, which was meant precisely to avoid such discrepancies that could lead to …