18.5 C
Doha
Friday, February 26, 2021

Emir’s accession, one year on: What’s changed & what’s stayed the same

-

emir tamim

On June 25, 2013, Qatar saw its leader of nearly 18 years, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, transfer power to his 33-year-old son, Sheikh Tamim.

That transition was widely lauded as being one of the most peaceful and seamless government handovers in the Middle East, a region where leaders typically rule until they die, or are ousted from power.

In his opening address to the nation last June, Sheikh Tamim, who is now 34, pledged to cut the fat in government, to reduce duplication and to ensure that only qualified people serve in posts.

He has also promised to keep inflation down and acknowledged a future without gas wealth, stressing that Qatar’s youth must remember “the values of work, humility, and good manners, and treating others with respect” to succeed.

One year on, Qatar has become different in many ways, but continues to tread water in other arenas. Here’s a look at what’s changed over the past 12 months, and what’s stayed the same.

What’s changed

Kafala reform attempt

Qatari officials have been talking about changing the nation’s restrictive sponsorship system for years. But under Sheikh Tamim’s rule, Qatar appears to be closer than ever to making reforms.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

New proposed changes include making it easier for expats here to change jobs and leave the country, but stop short of abolishing the exit permit system, disappointing many. The labor law reform has yet to be officially passed by the Cabinet, but officials have promised the changes are “drawing near.”

Leadership shakeup

During last year’s power transition, Qatar saw the exit of its outspoken Prime Minister/Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, who resigned from his posts after nearly two decades by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa’s side.

Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani

He has since expressed support for the new Emir, but voiced no plans to return to politics.

Meanwhile, the new Cabinet includes a female minister – only the third in Qatar’s history – and several more officials with postgraduate qualifications, as well as job experience.

In addition to changing up the leadership, the Emir also has significantly revamped Qatar’s ministries and councils in the past year. The Public Works Authority (Ashghal) is now under the control of the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning (MMUP), and the much-criticized Supreme Education Council has some new board members.

Opening up of courts

In the past, journalists were prohibited from reporting on court hearings without prior permission from a judge. Now, however, the courts have apparently been instructed to allow reporters into hearings, and journalists at Arab and English-language newspaper here have told Doha News that they can now more easily report on court happenings.

Doha court

However, journalists are usually asked not to report on witness testimony so as to not influence other witnesses. Still, they have not in the past few months been banned from reporting on any trials, regardless of sensitivity, including the Villaggio fire and the Filipino spy cases.

Conscription

Under the Emir’s watch, Qatar has implemented a mandatory draft for its male citizens, requiring 18- to 35-year-old Qatari men to serve three to four months in the Armed Forces.

qatar military

The move has been embraced by many citizens, and the first conscripts began training earlier this year. Females are expected to serve in the military starting next year, but in a different capacity.

The UAE has followed suit with its own conscription requirements, and other GCC nations are working on similar proposals.

Infrastructure projects move forward

With only eight years to go before the 2022 World Cup, Qatar is finally moving full-speed ahead with several infrastructure projects.

Al Khor Stadium

Those include the conversion of roundabouts into signalized intersections on the Corniche and elsewhere, construction of the Doha Metro (which was held up by several stalled tenders), the opening of the new Hamad International Airport and the refurbishment and construction of tournament stadiums.

Budget cuts

As part of a pledge to cut fat in government and increase efficiencies, several state-backed organizations have announced layoffs over the past year.

edward_dolman

The most notable ones included QF Radio, the Doha Film Institute and the Qatar Museums Authority, now called Qatar Museums, which saw the exit of executive director Edward Dolman, former head of Christie’s International.

Open data

Qatar’s 2030 National Vision extols the ideas of accountability and transparency, and the new administration appears to be working toward that by establishing an open data policy.

computer mouse

If adopted, all government ministries would be required to release data relevant to the public, including a business register, crime stats, information about the national budget and pollution levels. The policy is expected to be accepted sometime this year, state telecom regulator ictQatar has said.

Historic IPO

Qatar launched its first initial public offering in four years in January, with Qatar Petroleum subsidiary Mesaieed Petrochemical Holding Co. The wildly successful IPO was oversubscribed and brought a windfall of returns to mainly Qatari investors.

Though additional incentives were offered to shareholders who retained their stock for a longer period of time, many investors opted to turn a quick profit. The government, however, appeared to be hoping that more Qataris would use the IPO as a savings tool. Meanwhile, QP has said that several other IPOs are in the pipeline.

What’s stayed the same

No elections

Despite a pledge to hold legislative elections in 2013, the former Emir postponed that idea for another three years by extending the Advisory (Shura) Council’s term before exiting office.

That means the earliest that the long-awaited elections may not happen until 2016 – unless the new Emir decides to postpone them further.

Key foreign affairs player

Several observers predicted that the new Emir would focus more attention on domestic issues in comparison to his predecessor, who led the country to be an active player in the affairs of other countries in the region.

GCC

However, Qatar continued to be vocal in its support for the ousted Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt – earning its ambassador in Cairo a public rebuke – which further strained its relations with several GCC states that support Egypt’s new president, Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

In March, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE withdrew their ambassadors from Doha – ostensibly because Qatar violated a GCC pact not to interfere in the affairs of other members.

While GCC officials publicly say the dispute has been resolved, the ambassadors have yet to resume their posts in Doha.

Separately, Qatar continued to play the role of interlocutor between deeply divided parties by agreeing to host five Taliban prisoners that the US freed this month in exchange for the release of an American soldier.

However, one observer argues that Qatar was thrust into the role due to its previous decisions and positioning. According to David Roberts, a lecturer at King’s College London and author of the soon-to-be released book, Qatar: Securing the Global Ambitions of a City-state:

“The Taliban fun and games recently are a legacy policy more than the current administration seeking out these foreign issues. Indeed, the foreign policy shenanigans … are far more the result of incident and circumstance foisted upon Qatar than Qatar, as before, actively searching out ways to involve itself.”

No new media law

Though the new Cabinet has occasionally discussed the issue of a new media law and a new cyber crimes law over the past year, little movement has been made on either bill.

free speech online

Both pieces of legislation would significantly affect how journalists work in Qatar, and how residents use social media here.

25 COMMENTS

Subscribe
Notify of
25 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago

“pledged to cut the fat in government, reduce redundancies and ensure that only qualified people serve in posts”???

In theory, this is perfect. In practise, the situation is different. Even though many expats do very little and get relatively fat salaries in return, there are also many Qataris in the same situation. If you want to increase productivity and cut fat, then you need also to find a solution for all those Qataris doing basic tasks and spending the whole day reading newspapers, as well as for those Qataris who are directors and who know little about their departments. Those directors will end up hiring specialists and consultants to do the job they are supposed to do, and this defies the purpose of cutting fat and improving efficiency.

Unless this is tackled in the right way (and not necessarily by firing everyone), improving productivity and efficiency will be very challenging if not impossible to implement.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

It is a situation many governments find themselves in, cutting government jobs is never easy especially for citizens. They may not vote for their leader in Qatar but they can express their displeasure in other ways, so best to keep people in jobs even if they are not productive. Its the deal that keeps them in power.

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

As I mentioned, they do not have to fire people necessarily, but there are plenty of other mesaures to push productivity, reward those who work hard and penalize those who spend their time reading newspapers. For top positions, only those who deserve them will get them, even if this means that most of them will be filled by expats.

dubious
dubious
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Government jobs are like social security – at least here you’re made to turn up at the office rather than sit at home playing on your xbox/ps and fancy new plasma TV like so many people on the dole seem to!

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Any Qatari that has a half decent University Education and speaks good English with some ambition goes to the O&G industry or Finance. The money is better and the working enviroment generally more professional and testing for them.

Unfortunatley government jobs, (and this goes world over) tend to attract either the do gooders or the people that want an easy life.

sadam
sadam
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Careful now. “Those directors will end up hiring specialists and consultants to do the job they are supposed to do” providing brainpower & manpower is how we expats earn a living my friend.. by doing all the dirty work. We should all be thankful for the hospitality and generosity of this State 🙂

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  sadam

Sorry but I think you got all my message wrong 🙂

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

I think the summary is so far, so good. Qatar has remained stable and he enjoys the support of the citizens.

One point to note, elections were first promised in 2005 and have been delayed ever since. (2013 was just another pledge)

SullyofDoha
SullyofDoha
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

This is the region of the pledge…

osamaalassiry
osamaalassiry
6 years ago
Reply to  SullyofDoha

(people are not asking for elections)…

ChaTo
6 years ago
Reply to  osamaalassiry

Things tend to get very messy when you get to the point when they do.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  osamaalassiry

Very true, they seem very happy with the current situation and worry what elections will bring. Some talk of the conservative religious getting elected and taking the country backwards. Maybe they have a point.

Scarletti
Scarletti
6 years ago
Reply to  osamaalassiry

someone once said to me that such is their lot, “any Qatari protesting on the street for change should not be criminalised, but sent to a mental institution”… its a view, but the case for change is based upon a desire to live in a more rounded and fair society. In this respect I would love to live in a fairer Qatar and one which is consequently less the focus of international sniping and condemnation..

Expat Girl
Expat Girl
6 years ago
Reply to  osamaalassiry

If the people are not asking for elections, then why have them? As much as I love democratic principles, if the people of Qatar don’t want them then why force the issue! Heck, that is the election right there! Do you elect to have the ability to elect or no? The answer appears to be no, therefore the election has occurred and there will be no more elections.

Win
Win
6 years ago

I will be among the many people who will say Qatar has many more areas that need improving but name me one nation that is perfect. Whether effort is channeled to improve these shortcomings is debatable and another topic. Realistically, Qatar has to concentrate on developing the local talents that are about to graduate from University or are currently pursuing their higher education. The few locals that are now educated and experienced fall short of what Qatar needs. The expat labour will be needed by Qatar for at least another decade or more and this is not something Qatar should not be embarrassed about. Positioning locals for the sake of Qatarization will only have a negative impact on Qatar in the long run and continued recruitment of foreign experts to do the job the locals are suppose to perform. HH Sheikh Tamim has inherited a nation that is growing not at a natural pace but like a bodybuilder on steroids. There are past mistakes which he had no control over and 1 year is too short of a time to judge what he has accomplished and for the results to appear apparent. . A nation that has been an absolute monarchy with little democratic rights for her people; but also a nation who’s people have the highest GDP in the world is not bad to say the least. Democracy is fantastic but is it for every nation ? Introducing democracy in this region has failed for many. The democracy as we western nations know will not work in this region where tribal alliances and not votes play a pivotal role in maintaining peace. The previous Emir has proven that even under absolute monarchy; Qataris have enjoyed a huge share of the nations gas profits….what is fair is debatable but no one can deny that the Qataris have a good life. This is a nation where cultural sensitivity has dictated its administration of the country. HH Sheikh Tamim will need much more time to change the mindsets of his people to be receptive to change. Adapting to change is the hardest for anyone and everyone; Qatar should not be singled out.

صـقـر الأسـود
صـقـر الأسـود
6 years ago
Reply to  Win

Very well said. Qatar is growing at an enormous pace and things are bound to be difficult-to-manage but eventually, things will start to settle and we shouldn’t pre-judge it!

Desert Witch
Desert Witch
6 years ago
Reply to  Win

Totally agree re your comment on democracy. It is not the be all and end all of all political systems. The US and UK tend to hold up democracy as the perfect ideology to attain. It’s not and it doesn’t work for every country. Better a benign dictatorship or autocracy than a half hearted democracy.
Democracy does not automatically mean equality for all. The west ( hate that phrase) has had democracy for hundreds of years in some countries yet ordinary working classes did not get the vote till the late 1800 s and women didn’t get the vote in the two biggest advocates of democracy (UK and US) until 1918/ 1920 although still not on the same basis as men.

ngourlay
ngourlay
6 years ago

“Qatar appears to be closer than ever to making reforms”

If you talk to long-term expats, you’ll get a pretty tired cynicism about reforms. The promised reforms never appear. Sheikh Hamad removed censorship when he took office, and yet censorship carried on. Just because today’s Emir says something will happen, doesn’t actually mean that thing will happen.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  ngourlay

but they are closer than they were, its all about the journey not the destination….

cdninqtr
cdninqtr
6 years ago

Why hasn’t Doha News reported on the massive budget cuts at College of the North-Atlantic – Qatar? More than 60 teachers have been let go.

Shabina921
Shabina921
6 years ago
Reply to  cdninqtr

We have not been able to confirm that. If you know more, please do email us at editor@dohanews.co (not com).

BBCA
BBCA
6 years ago

Some good things some bad things. Progress is evident. My wish is that there is more progress and outcry for the elimination of this ancient Kafala system!

Opoku Jude
Opoku Jude
6 years ago
Reply to  BBCA

We are pleading with the government and the good people of the beautiful state of Qatar to kindly make the changes that was annouced some time ago concerning the Kafala System to take immediate effect because God Almight is not happy with the tears of the Migrant workers in a peacefull and developing country like Qatar.

BBCA
BBCA
6 years ago
Reply to  Opoku Jude

Cheers and good luck. I wish I could participate in the efforts

GCC Visitor
6 years ago

With due respect to all local circumstances, my simple recommendation for our Qatari friends is to look what Dubai did/does. Learn from their success and avoid their mistakes. Some things should adapted while many could be adopted.

And let’s stop offering empty excuses to justify delay.

Related Articles

- Advertisment -

Most Read

Student scammed for QR 6,000 while ordering pizza online

0
With scam attacks on the rise, it's essential to protect yourself from fraudsters.  A Qatar University student who ordered a pizza worth QR 31 was...

Subscribe to Doha News below!

To be updated with all the latest news, offers and special announcements.