The discovery of oil in Qatar in 1939, and its commercial exportation which began in 1949, were turning points in Qatar's development, heralding a new era of accelerated progress in a wide range of fields, including administration, infrastructure and the economy, together with associated improvements in the social and cultural arenas.
This new oil-age helped to transform Qatar's economy from its reliance on traditional marine oriented activities such as pearling and fishing, together with some small scale farming into a modern and much more diversified industrial economy. The flow of oil revenues created a more affluent society and one in which rapid increases in living standards, education and health care services was possible. Along with this came a significant population increase, from an estimated 30,000 in the 1950's to, according to recent census figures, more than half a million people today.
Throughout this period of rapid growth, which commenced in the late 1950s, Qatar has made great strides towards establishing its modern status and independent character. The country's impressive modernisation programme is continuing under its present leader, HH Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who has expressed a special interest in consolidating the valuable steps that have already been taken within the framework of its Arab and Islamic identity. Plans are now in place to build a modern, strong and promising state which can continue to play a worthwhile role, regionally, within the Arab world as a whole, and within the global environment.