Browsing 'Opinion' News

The oft-repeated advice of Machiavelli, the 15th century Italian diplomat, politician and philosopher, “Never waste the opportunities offered by a good crisis,” appears to be taking effect in Qatar.

At a time when Qatar is facing some sort of a hardship in meeting the optimum requirement of food supply in the local market, thanks to the blockade imposed by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, various countries have expressed willingness to set up food manufacturing units in the country. Qatar has been largely reliant on its now hostile neighbours for food products since decades. Almost 80% of food requirements were sourced from UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Qatar has tried to ease the blow of the embargo by turning to Turkey and Iran for food imports, but a long-term, sustainable solution lies only in making itself self-reliant.

Many leading food manufacturers from India, Iran and Turkey want to make the most of Qatar’s growing image as a prime destination for investment in food industry. The Government has promised full support in a bid to diversify the economy.

The International Fairs and Promotions (IFP) general manager in Doha, George Ayache, informed the media on the sidelines of ‘Hospitality Qatar’ exhibition that a Turkish company specialising in yoghurt production will likely open soon. An Indian food processing and packaging materials and technology company is already in the process of finalising the deal. Some Iranian firms are keen, too.

‘Food Qatar’ is an important addition to the exhibition. Over 153 companies from 16 nations are said to attend the three-day event, which includes Turkey, Spain, India and Iran. This new section will operate as a platform for local, regional and international food suppliers and manufacturers to keep in touch with buyers and traders in Qatar’s market, which is predicted to rise to $1.6 billion by 2020.

Reliance on others for the most basic necessity, food, meant that the country was at the mercy of others. The Arab bloc attempted to exploit this advantage by making 13 demands, by choking food supply, by cutting off all connection with Doha. It accused Doha of supporting terrorism, a charge that Qatar has denied. It has not been a good situation to be in for Qatar, but adversity opens new doors.

In many ways, the blockade could prove to be a boon. The intention of foreign food manufactures to ‘produce in Qatar’ is expected to act as a cue for many others to join the bandwagon, a phenomenon that will ultimately solve Qatar’s one of the biggest tight spots.

Qatar is not only securing itself on the matter of food supply, it has opened alternative channels on different fronts. It has already started new direct shipping routes to deal with the crisis and port officials have said before that the new geo-political scenario is helping the nation close new transport contracts, which will end its reliance on its Gulf neighbours.

A ship on a new direct weekly service from India’s Mundra Port is already operational. World’s biggest container line, Maersk of Denmark, accepted fresh bookings for container shipments to Qatar from the port of Salalah in Oman.

It’s a difficult phase that Qatar will have to go through, but will eventually lead to a fresh period of new alliances and friendships. This new direction, of moving towards producing its own food, has the potential to be a game-changer in the region.

 

Twitter gets paid for promoting content, but the massive presence of propaganda ads on the social media platform could potentially jeopardize its credibility. If this loophole is not soon plugged, it will eventually alienate large number of users.

The anti-Qatar advertisements being promoted by faceless accounts are beginning to annoy twitter users, with ads condemning Qatar appearing on their feeds regularly. The expat community in Qatar is unlikely to get influenced by this spiteful drive, though. This development comes in the middle of a blockade imposed on Qatar by Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt. They claim Qatar supports terrorism, a charge Doha strongly denies.

Twitter users across the world are raising questions about this vulnerability and wondering how unidentified people are able to push unverified matter. Twitter’s Ian Plunkett, in light of such activities, told media that they will “offer everyone visibility into who is advertising on Twitter, details behind those ads, and tools to share your feedback with us.” It’s a good start.

There is no evidence to suggest that the blockading countries are behind this smear twitter campaign, but Saudi Prince, Al Waleed Bin Talal, reportedly owns nearly five percent of Twitter Inc.

Expats live life as usual

Remarkably, the five-month long ongoing siege imposed on Qatar has not impacted the lives of the almost 2.2 million blue collar expats from South and South-East Asia. Life and services have not come to a standstill. Expatriates from different nationalities and cultures have resisted the siege and rejected external dictations with dignity. Most importantly, the standoff has brought the Qataris and the expats closer to each other than ever before.

Any initial anxiety and fear of scarcity of daily supplies, price rise and prospects of job loss lasted for only a short period. Many are still bringing their families to Qatar by seeking residence visas.

Samir Dahal, a Nepalese migrant worker who recently married, is planning to bring his wife to Doha soon. “I don’t read newspapers much and I am not really overly concerned about the current crisis. I am only focusing on working hard and earning enough money to raise our future child.”

Shamim Mahmood, who hails from Dhaka and has been working in Doha as a construction worker at the Al-Bayt Stadium in Al-Khor, says it’s unfortunate that the problem continues but his life remains unchanged. “Of course we want Qatar and its neighbours to live in peace and harmony, but as far as my daily livelihood is concerned, it’s just fine. I was fearful initially but everything has settled down now.”

Indians continue to come in hordes, too, seeking new opportunities that keep arising.

The conflict is in nobody’s interest, though. If all stakeholders don’t sit together soon and resolve their differences through dialogue and consensus, everybody will stand to lose in the long run.

India clinched the deciding match against New Zealand in the final ball of the final over in Kanpur recently. It was a moment that made Ramesh Yadav jump up with joy. He became almost hysterical. I was sitting alongside him in the stadium. Ramesh, who belongs to U.P., works as an electrician in Doha and is on a one-month leave.

We got talking and he shared how much he misses playing cricket in Doha. There are places to play, but it’s mostly make-shift. He wishes for a proper cricket ground with all the related facilities where he and his fellow workers from all parts of the Indian sub-continent can play a professional game of cricket after work.

For Qatar to become a center of sports in the real sense, it must move beyond football now. Basketball, handball and motor-racing are also quite popular, with the State providing enough impetus. But cricket is a game that Qatar must re-focus on. Build more public infrastructures, facilities, academies and cricket grounds, especially because close to two million-strong workforce from India, Bangladesh and Nepal enjoy cricket more than any other sport. Playing on well-manicured green grass with pads and helmets in a cricket park is a different feeling from playing on hard turf. And a happy worker is a productive worker.

Equal attention ought to be paid to the development of the national cricket team, which is not doing so well.

Cricket has been a part of Qatar’s sports culture for long, but has fallen by the wayside. It made its international debut in 1979, at an invitational tournament that also featured Bahrain, Kuwait, and Sharjah. For a period during the 2000s, Qatar was one of the top-ranked non-Test teams in Asia, standing fourth in the 2004 Asian Cricket Council Trophy. However, it has since been relegated to the lower divisions of the ACC system, and has failed to qualify for any World Cricket League events.

In the 2017 ICC World Cricket League Division Five, held in September in South Africa, Qatar won the third-place playoff to remain in Division Five. Not a happy place to be in. The tournament was part of the World Cricket League(WCL) which determines the qualification for the 2023 Cricket World Cup.

The team may be at an ebb, but there are ways to improve the ranking and stature.

Get India on board

Cricket Coaching by Certified Coaches.

Qatar is already in talks with Dav Whatmore, the Sri Lanka-born Australian coach, who will be providing guidance to Doha-based cricket academies as part of the “Trucoach – CSS Whatmore Centre for Cricket” initiative. But he will not be a permanent fixture and will only be providing coaching lessons now and then. Even that much would benefit cricket in Qatar immensely, but difficult situations require long-term measures.

India has seasoned coaches even at the academy level and they possess the wherewithal to reverse the fortunes of the tailspinning national team. They can be spread across academies in Qatar, playing a major role in shaping budding cricketers. Like John Wright, the former India coach, says, ‘coaching is just moulding a group that has the skills and the attitude to win’. The men in maroon have the character and the potential to win, which they showed when they won the seven-nation International Cricket Council’s (ICC) World Cricket League Asia Division 1 event in Thailand with a heroic run chase. They defeated Saudi Arabia, who had stayed unbeaten in the tournament coming into the finals.

Whether from India or elsewhere, Qatar needs a top-class full-time international coach who can get them some really tough playing opportunities to bridge the gap. Instilling belief will be the starting point. It can be developed with time, like a win here and a win there.

The critical question is whether the Qatar Cricket Association will take the initiative and approach cricketing greats for coaching assignments in a manner it has not done before. Like a revolution that has made football so popular today. If the development of cricket is not taken upon on a war footing, public interest will further diminish, ultimately resulting in the shrinking of the talent pool. Merely surviving on the fringes could prove fatal for cricket in Qatar.