Riyadh Summit

Qatar has formally been invited to attend this year’s Arab League summit, set to be held in Riyadh on April 15. Saudi Arabia had earlier postponed the summit to April, saying the original date in late March clashed with Egypt’s presidential election. According to Lulwa al-Khater, a spokesperson for Qatar’s foreign ministry, Qatar will take part but has yet to decide on the level of participation.

Maybe, just maybe, the upcoming summit could lead to the thawing of the bitter relationship between Qatar and the Arab bloc, although going by the attitude of Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, who categorically pointed out earlier in March that he would not tolerate outside mediation in the resolution to the Gulf crisis, the possibilities are remote.

But going by the historical role the League has played, there may be some hope of at least a start of reconciliation.

After all, the League’s prime objective is to draw closer the relations between member States and co-ordinate collaboration between them, to safeguard their independence and sovereignty, and to consider in a general way the affairs and interests of the Arab countries. It facilitates political, economic, cultural, scientific, and social programmes designed to promote the interests of the Arab world.

In the past, it has served as a forum for the member states to coordinate their policy positions, to deliberate on matters of common concern, to settle some Arab disputes and to limit conflicts such as the 1958 Lebanon crisis.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates imposed a sea, land and air blockade on Qatar on June 5, 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorism and destabilising the region. Doha has consistently denied these charges.

Starting with only six members in 1945, the Arab League now has 22 members. Qatar joined in 1971. One of the significant agendas will be to seek to prevent Israel from gaining a rotating seat on the U.N. Security Council in 2019.

 

Qatar is not diversifying its economy because it is, unlike its Gulf neighbours, running out of its oil and gas reserves any time soon. They have the third largest gas reserves in the world, following Russia and Iran, with an estimated 872 trillion cubic feet – the equivalent of 188 billion barrels of oil. At the current production rate, it is estimated these reserves will last for approximately 156 years.

The country is branching out because there is more to Qatar than oil and gas. The country has embarked on a wide-ranging investment programme to enhance the economic diversity ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The programme includes investing oil and gas revenues into major infrastructure projects, industrial manufacturing and to strengthen and develop financial and government services. The diversification also includes the transportation services and the tourism sector. The investment aims to diversify national revenue sources, rebalancing Qatar’s economy to focus on knowledge sectors that is in line with Qatar’s National Vision 2030.

The inaugural Qatar Self Sufficiency Exhibition 2018, which just concluded in Doha (April 1-3), was one such impactful declaration outlining the country’s expansion plan. The expo provided the perfect platform to showcase latest production lines for food, healthcare, industrial and environmental sectors. Apart from local manufacturers, the trade fair caught the fancy of exhibitors from Kuwait, Lebanon, UK, Turkey, Spain, USA, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Iran, China and more, who congregated at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre to network and share ideas for growth and development. Deals worth QR 15 Million were signed.

Abdulrahman Saleh Al Obaidly, Chairman of HiSky for Tourism and Exhibitions, the organisers of the exhibition, said that the idea stems from the vision of the Emir to broaden the economic horizons and focus on the significance of self-sufficiency.

It is expected that post 2022, Qatar will maintain a new chapter of economic progress focused on knowledge sectors and developing international expertise and talent.

Embargo a boon in disguise?

It’s been nearly a year since the Saudi Arabia-led blockade came into effect. If the idea was to stifle Qatar’s progressive stride, it has failed miserably. What it has done instead is it has stimulated the tiny nation into becoming more resolute and self-reliant. It triggered the emergence of a new Qatar.

While it was tough going initially, the siege finally drove Qatar to focus on turning hardships into privilege and freedom. There has been an explosion of developmental activities in all sectors of the economy. It is rapidly achieving food security with new-fangled urgency after the blockading countries severed supply routes. The predicament inspired Qatari farm owners to expand farmlands and amplify food and fodder productions with government support. Thousands of Jersey cows have been flown down from Australia to boost milk production and make Qatar self-reliant in dairy products.

As per a ministry report, Qatar’s poultry sector has seen a production surge from 40 to 80 percent since blockade took effect. It is also becoming self-sufficient in fresh meat by producing 100 percent of its requirements by 2018 end. The country has doubled its livestock and increasing fish yield with the start of fishing projects in its territorial waters.

Qatar has been continuously intensifying and deepening its trade relationship with a number of friendly nations. Metro and light railway networks and FIFA World Cup-related ventures are progressing advancing unimpeded. Qatar’s economy is predicted to remain one of the fastest growing in the region with a projected 3.4 growth in 2018.

Diversification will boost employment opportunities

Given the limited local population and the workforce in Qatar, the additional employment opportunities generated during the process of economic diversification will benefit locals as well as expatriates from around the world.

There was a reported decrease in job advertisements in Qatar at an average rate of 20% per month in the initial phase due to the blockade. However, the changing dynamics and the growing thrust on economic diversification through the setting up of new industries with the injection of foreign investments promises a robust market for people looking to make a living in the world’s richest country.

Although the Qatar government is already involved in reforming the labour laws, it must now also consider making it favourable enough to attract employees from various nationalities to fulfil its future workforce demands that is expected to continue to rise.

 

In the last few years, Qatar has emerged as Asia’s leading education hub and global center of learning. It is a direct result of its rising position as a destination of choice among overseas students seeking international quality education. The tiny Gulf nation is home to a number of international universities and academic institutions with best-in-class and diverse range of courses. The Government’s effort to enhance and improve the education sector is aligned with the goal of knowledge-driven economic development and growth.

For way too long, Qatar has been reliant on foreign workforce to stir it from an oil and gas-based economy to one that is more service and knowledge oriented. Recognising the changing dynamics, the country realizes that becoming an education hub will support its efforts to train and retain the large expatriate population of students as well as attract international students and workers from the region and beyond.

It has been almost a decade since the launch of the Qatar National Vision (QNV) 2030 development plan, providing the wealthy state with a blueprint of transformation and growth. The country has been one of the top advocates of the significance of education

Recently, in a high-level panel discussion organised by the Education Above All Foundation (EAA), in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva, HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of EAA and advocate for the UN Sustainable Development Goals, urged the global community to facilitate access to quality education for displaced children and to enforce severe penalties on perpetrators of armed conflict. She stated that “Education must be given priority as it is the tool for the children of the present and future.”

In line with the stated approach to prioritise education and ensuring quality education within the country, Qatar’ Ministry of Education and Higher Education outlined its Strategic Plan from 2017-2022, including development and expansion of early education and the promotion of attractive educational environment.

The most recent initiative taken by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education to promote quality education environment is designing a new Career Advising System (CAS), which is all set to be rolled out in the current academic session across public secondary schools in Qatar. The new CAS is a result of an MOU between Qatar Career Development Centre (QCDC), a member of Qatar Foundation (QF), and the Ministry of Education and Higher Education.

The new CAS is designed to cater to the futuristic needs emerging from Qatar’ social and economic environment. It is equipped with diverse and innovative components, as well as psychometric and personality assessment tools to help students identify the most appropriate academic and career paths in line with needs of the job market in the country.

Another major event, Career Guidance Stakeholders Platform 2018, was organised in line with Qatar Foundation’s efforts to promote career guidance in Qatar. The event, themed ‘Moving Operationally to Strategically Enhance Career Guidance in the State of Qatar’, was attended by 250 policy-makers, decision-makers and senior executives from various government institutions from Qatar and international organisations from the rest of the world at the Qatar National Convention Centre.

As stated by QCDC director, Abdulla al-Mansoori, “Nation-building requires a diverse set of competencies, skills, and jobs to ensure self-sufficiency when it comes to the local labour force required to bolster the state’s economy at present and in the future”. The initiatives to upgrade and direct talent in the country may be derived by Qatar’s ambition to become self-sufficient in the coming years to meet its workforce demand.

The innovation-driven approach highlighted in a recent event organised by HBKU’s College of Science and Engineering (CSE), entitled Qatar Towards a Smart Future, indicates that the move towards a knowledge-based economy is equally a strategic bend towards diversification of economy by becoming a major hub of quality education in the region.