Guess the country…

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The UK-based Telegraph newspaper today has a story on what will be the one of the world’s biggest mosques. The start of building on the 115,000-capacity building closely follows the official launch of the world’s tallest flagpole in the same country.

Can you guess where?

A further clue: the mosque, 70% funded by Qatar, has a budget of US$100m, whilst the flagpole is estimated to have cost around US$30m.

Have you guessed yet?

It must be some rich country, right? So perhaps it’s Kazakhstan, the most affluent of the Central Asian countries.

No.

Or maybe it’s closed-to-the-world-Turkmenistan, which has a fine tradition of building grand budget-busting monuments, such a revolving gold statue of the former President.

No again. OK, I’ll put you out of your misery.

It’s Tajikistan, a country where 47% of the population live in poverty (2009, source: World Bank) and where the GDP per capita is $820 (2010, source: World Bank).

Those statistics are so stark compared to the expenditure against the two enormous building projects that it’s almost impossible to know how to try and reconcile them.

But surely a good start for the government would be to pump as much funding into developing the country’s people and resources through improved education, health care, infrastructure, industrial investment – and not into wild constructions that serve only to grab international headlines for a second or two.

What do you think?

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