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Counting the Cost

Aviation: Flights of finance

In a century of commercial air transport, we look at the economics of charting the sky.

Last updated: 05 Jul 2014 14:03
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We hop on planes these days the way we do cars or buses - it is commonplace, routine, part of our everyday lives. But we only do so because way back in 1914, four visionaries teamed up to complete the first scheduled commercial passenger flight - a 23 minute trip across Tampa Bay in Florida.

One hundred years later, there are up to 100,000 flights a day, 40,000 different routes, over 3 billion passengers and 50 million tonnes of cargo a year. And while it is important for getting us around, what we perhaps forget is that with that sheer volume of traffic, aviation is a major catalyst for worldwide economic development.

Faced with those extraordinary numbers, we spoke to Brian Pearce, the chief economist of IATA, the International Air Transport Association, which held its annual meeting here in Doha recently.

We also spoke to German Efromovich, the Bolivian-born, Polish-Brazilian-Columbian entrepreneur who owns AVIANCA, the national carrier of Colombia, and the second oldest airline in the world still in operation.

The ABC of OFID

OPEC is a familiar acronym, the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. But what about OFID? 

It is OPEC's Fund for International Development and has been around for nearly 40 years. OPEC provides the financing so that OFID can fund infrastructure, social services, health projects, and trade. It focuses a lot on projects that meet basic needs: food, energy, clean water, sanitation, healthcare, and education.

Those goals have taken OFID to 134 countries: 53 of them in Africa; the rest in Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. And yet the fund is not nearly as well-known as comparable institutions like the World Bank or the Asia Development Bank. 

During OFID's recent ministerial meeting in Doha, we sat down with its director-general Suleiman Al-Herbish to talk about what OFID does, and why no one has heard of it.

The Art of Qatar

Finally, people outside of Qatar have often asked: "What is that building in the backdrop on Counting the Cost?"

Well, it is actually a symbol of the local skyline - the Museum of Islamic Art, which opened back in 2008, and in some ways it is the public face; the shop-front to Qatar's extraordinary level of investment in art.

How extraordinary are we talking? Around $25bn worth!

To get a bit more of an idea about the thinking behind and the effect of all this investment, we went wandering around the artistic sights of Doha, with Laura Hamilton - deputy editor of regional arts magazine Sur La Terre Arabia.

Watch each week at the following times GMT: Friday: 2230; Saturday: 0930; Sunday: 0330; Monday: 1630.  Click here  for more  Counting the Cost .   

Follow Kamahl Santamaria  @KamahlAJE  and business editor Abid Ali  @abidoliverali .

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