Qatar’s Emir names second-in-command, and a new head of the Diwan

QNA

Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, has named two individuals to some of the nation’s most powerful political positions, according to the state news agency.

The moves were announced on Tuesday, the same day as the 43rd opening session of the Advisory Council, and are the first changes the Emir has made to his inner circle since he shook up the government’s senior ranks shortly after assuming power last year.

Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdul Aziz Al Thani.

QNA

Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdul Aziz Al Thani

For the first time, Sheikh Tamim has named a Deputy Emir – his half-brother Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad Al Thani.

Prior to being named Deputy Emir today, Sheikh Abdullah was chief of the Emiri Diwan, Qatar’s seat of government.

Replacing him is Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdul Aziz Al Thani, who Sheikh Tamim previously named as director of the office of the Emir in June 2013.

‘Stability’ factor

The new Deputy Emir, 26, is US-educated, reportedly holding a bachelor’s degree in international politics from Georgetown University. Over the past several months, Sheikh Abdullah has already been wielding considerable power.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad Al Thani

QNA

Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad Al Thani

The Emir appointed him vice-president of the Qatar Investment Authority – the country’s sovereign wealth fund – in July 2013.

And in April, he was named by royal decree as the person who would handle the Emir’s duties while Sheikh Tamim was out of the country, QNA said at the time.

Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center, told Bloomberg yesterday that Sheikh Abdullah has been “groomed” for a leadership position and brings considerable experience from his past position.

“He probably brings a certain amount of stability to the leadership,” Shaikh was quoted as saying.

The role of Deputy Emir appears to have been vacant since Sheikh Tamim – who had held the positions of both Deputy Emir and heir apparent – replaced his father and became Qatar’s ruler in June 2013.

No Deputy Emir was named during two rounds of appointments to Qatar’s new Cabinet and other senior government posts shortly after Sheikh Tamim took power.

Similarly, there has been no reports of Sheikh Tamim naming an heir apparent.

QNA

Separately, the Emir also gave a wide-ranging speech to open the new session of Qatar’s Advisory (Shura) Council.

Along with highlighting several previously announced initiatives, the Emir laid out several new directives and updates, including:

  • Directing the prime minister to resolve “issues” involving workers’ housing;
  • Calling for a reduction in real estate prices (the key driver of the rising cost of living here). He added it is “necessary to control the prices of consumer goods”;
  • Reassuring the council that according to the government’s assessment, the recent decline in global oil prices would not affect Qatar’s extensive construction and development projects; and
  • Stressing that “Supporting … and strengthening” relations within the Gulf Cooperation Council is “at the forefront of our foreign policy priorities.” The comments come amid ongoing tensions within the GCC that resulted in the postponement of a meeting between Gulf foreign ministers this week, as well as Bahrain and the UAE pulling out of an international handball tournament that’s to be hosted by Qatar; and
  • Promoting austerity as a virtue while denouncing financial mismanagement: “Waste, extravagance, mishandling of state funds, lack of respect for the budget, reliance on the availability of money to cover up mistakes are all behaviors that must be disposed of, whether oil prices are high or low … Reasonable spending is an economic matter … (and is) also related to the type of society that we want and the type of individual that we rear in the State of Qatar.”

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