Qatar’s plan to grant some expats more stable footing in the country is drawing praise worldwide from people who see it as a “step in the right direction.”
The nation, which is under de facto siege by its neighbors, has been kicking around the idea of a permanent residency status for foreigners for years.
But draft legislation was finally approved by the Cabinet yesterday.
It’s possible that the Gulf crisis may have been just what Qatari officials needed to secure local support for the law.
It’s now been 60 days since Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut off trade and diplomatic ties with Qatar.
Since then, the country has formed new economic alliances and launched a PR push abroad to win support.
And inside of Qatar, the Emir has been stressing the importance of self sufficiency and economic diversification.
In this regard, the law is expected to held Qatar attract and retain top expat talent.
Currently, expats can usually only live in Qatar if they or their family members have work visas.
Nationalization is mostly out of the question because Qataris only comprise some 10 percent of the population and are sensitive about culture dilution.
However, many locals seem to support this new law.
It strikes a sort of compromise with foreigners by affording them more rights, such as free healthcare and education, without giving them Qatari citizenship.
On Twitter, applause for the legislation has been rolling in:
However, detractors have been quick to dismiss the draft law as a ploy for international sympathy and a desperate attempt to retain their employees.
This is despite the fact that both Saudi Arabia and Dubai have floated similar versions of the same idea in recent years.
Meanwhile, questions about who benefits from the law and when/how it will be implemented remain up in the air.
Still, analysts forecast that the legislation will make expats feel more invested in Qatar’s future.
Speaking to Bloomberg, Allison Wood, a Middle East and North Africa analyst with the Control Risks strategy firm in Dubai, added:
“The new law (also) provides an opportunity to put Qatar in the headlines as a more open, forward-thinking state when compared to its neighbors, which do not have similar residency programs.”