The speech focused on the ongoing war in Gaza, Qatar’s economic performance, and foreign policy.
Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani inaugurated the Shura Council’s legislative term on Tuesday with a powerful speech that centered on the war in Gaza as well as Doha’s domestic affairs.
The amir shifted his annual speech to lead with the Israeli war on Gaza, slamming the bombing campaign as “barbaric” while calling out countries that unconditionally supported Israel’s relentless killing of Palestinians.
“We are saying enough is enough. It is untenable for Israel to be given an unconditional green light and free license to kill, nor is it tenable to continue ignoring the reality of occupation, siege and settlement,” Sheikh Tamim said.
Since 7 October, Gaza has been subjected to a deadly Israeli bombing campaign that has killed at least 5,087 Palestinians, including more than 1,700 children, though more than 1,000 are still believed to be trapped under the rubble.
Qatar has been at the forefront of de-escalation efforts since the start of the deadly Israeli aggression on Gaza.
Officials in Doha have been in close contact with key international partners— namely the United States, the United Kingdom, Iran, Turkiye, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, among others—in an effort to end the Israeli escalations in Gaza. So far, Doha has managed to mediate the release of four captives held by Hamas.
In reiterating Qatar’s stance as a peace advocate, the Qatari leader slammed Israel’s attacks on “innocent civilians on any side, regardless of their nationality.”
However, he stressed that Qatar does “not accept double standards and act as if the lives of Palestinian children do not count, as if they are without faces and names.”
“What is happening is very dangerous, including trampling on all religious and worldly values, customs and laws, not just international law and the Israeli and public declaration of illegal intentions such as displacement and others,” Amir Tamim said.
Sheikh Tamim also took aim at those standing in support of Israel as it continues its bombing campaign on Gaza, where half of the population are under the age of 15.
“We would like to ask those who have aligned with the war, and those acting to gag any dissenting opinion: What would come in the aftermath of this war?” he said.
The Qatari leader underscored the seriousness of the situation in Gaza and its violations of all “religious and worldly values, customs and laws” in addition to Israel’s ongoing policy of settlement expansion and displacement.
On 8 October, Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant announced an all-out siege on Gaza, preventing its more than 2 million population of access to basic necessities, such as water and electricity, and describing locals there as “human animals”.
Sheikh Tamim denounced such acts, saying that “it should not be allowed in our time to use cutting off water and preventing medicine and food as weapons against an entire population.”
He stressed: “The Palestinian people are here to stay, despite the lingering suffering under occupation, siege, land confiscation and settlement. Wars offer no solution of any kind. What lies ahead of this will be further exacerbation of suffering, an increase in the number of victims, and a deep sense of grievance that breeds wrath.”
Qatar’s economic growth
Sheikh Tamim also tapped into Qatar’s domestic affairs and outlined what appears to be a promising economic outlook.
Qatar’s economic growth continued to increase during the first quarter of this year alone, with preliminary figures pointing to a 2.7% rise in the gross domestic product (GDP) in comparison to the same period last year, the amir explained.
Sheikh Tamim noted the Gulf nation’s gas production expansion project and the third national development strategy contributed to Qatar’s economic performance. He confirmed that the country seeks to implement projects “to enhance the opportunities available for the private sector.”
In the first quarter of this year, Qatar’s budget surplus hit QAR 19.7 billion ($5.4 billion), exceeding expectations after the announcement of a surplus of QAR 29 billion (nearly $8 billion) in December last year.
The Qatari leader said the spike in energy prices contributed to a major surplus, which the country plans on utilising to reduce public debt and increase the state’s financial reserves. Qatar managed to reduce public debt from approximately 73% of the GDP in 2020 to below 40% at the end of the first half of 2023.
He added that the fiscal and economic policy have contributed to reducing the inflation rate from 5% in 2022 to 3.6% for the first half of 2023. The International Monetary Fund also believes that the inflation rate would drop to 2% by the end of the year.
Promoting economic diversification
In his annual address, Sheikh Tamim highlighted the importance of economic diversification and opening up investment opportunities to the public and private sectors.
“During the coming period, the State will pay great attention to developing the business environment, attracting investment, and benefiting from the available infrastructure[…]There is also an ongoing mechanism in the State that develops the legislation regulating foreign investment to remove the obstacles facing such investment,” the amir said.
However, the amir noted that there is a need to change what he described as “negative bureaucratic attitudes and approaches in favour of giving openness to investments, encouraging start-ups, and creating a hospitable institutional environment that encourages success.”
He further pointed to “legal loopholes” that must be removed, including the lack of clarity in procedures.
“There are legal loopholes that need to be plugged, and obstacles that must be removed, such as lack of clarity of procedures, as sometimes the employees themselves are unaware of them, besides the conflict between agencies. These are matters that can be easily resolved,” the Qatari leader said.
Sheikh Tamim stressed that economic growth “depends on the extent of investment in human capital, especially those working in government institutions, to enable it to deal and interact with the knowledge-based and competitive global economy.”
The Qatari leader also called for the need to have “reliable statistical data” and establish “an integrated central database”, noting that authorities have started working on creating one.
“Work has already begun on its construction which will be completed according to specific deadlines,” he said.
Qatar’s foreign policy
The Qatari leader concluded his speech by highlighting the country’s foreign policy and key mediating roles.
“With regard to our foreign policy and within the framework of striking a balance between our principles, interests, and sense of belonging to our civilised environment, to assume a constructive role, in making peace, resolving disputes through peaceful means,” he said.
He added that solidarity and regional stability are among the main factors the Gulf mediator takes into account when addressing key issues.
“Today, Qatar is recognised as a trustworthy mediator in peace making and conflict resolution through dialogue and diplomacy. In this respect, we reiterate our welcome of the United States-Iran prisoner swap, which was brokered by Qatar,” Sheikh Tamim said.
The Qatari leader was referring to last month’s milestone prisoner deal between Washington and Tehran that was a result of a two-year diplomatic effort by Qatar. The historic agreement also led to the transfer of $6 billion in frozen Iranian assets.
Meanwhile last week, Qatar secured the repatriation of four Ukrainian children from Russia per Ukraine’s request. This week, Qatar managed to secure the release of four captives who were captured by Hamas during the 7 October operation.
“We affirm our determination to move forward in facilitating dialogue between the various parties to enhance security and peace in our region and the world,” Sheikh Tamim said.
Amir Tamim also welcomed all leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries in Doha for the regional summit in December.
“You have seen that the positive interaction with the outside has reflected in progress at home, and vice versa. This is the logic behind the energy industry, the sovereign fund, and international mediations, and this is also the logic behind the civilised interaction which also embraces tolerance and acceptance of diversity,” Sheikh Tamim stressed.