In a major shuffle, Qatar has consolidated its Cabinet, combining some of the country’s 18 ministries, dropping some ministers altogether and assigning others to different titles, according to QNA.
Foreign minister Dr. Khalid Al Attiyah was replaced with Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, who is being promoted from his previous position as assistant foreign minister for international cooperation affairs.
The 35-year-old had held the position since January 2014, according to the ministry’s website.
This is the first major cabinet reshuffle since Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani became Emir in 2013.
At the time, his father said as he was stepping down to give the youth a chance to lead:
“Time has come to turn a new leaf. You our children are the munitions of these homeland…we have always thought well of you, pinning hopes on you.”
Analysts added at the time that changing out leaders would make it easier for Qatar to move forward politically as a nation.
Dr. Christopher Davidson, author of After the Sheikhs: The Coming Collapse of the Gulf Monarchies, said to Doha News in 2013:
“It’s likely that the Emir wanted to unseat much of the entrenched, elderly, and conservative hierarchy to allow Qatar to transition more smoothly towards constitutional monarchy and political liberalization.”
Today, Reuters also quoted a Western diplomat in Doha who echoed the sentiment that the Emir wants to “push out old timers” who “couldn’t be sacked all in one go.”
He added that cost-cutting was also a factor in the shakeup, given the plunging oil prices and projected budget deficit.
Al Attiyah has now been assigned to the position of state minister for defense affairs. The emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, also holds the post of defense minister.
Al Attiyah’s move to the defense portfolio comes as Qatar is believed to be engaged in its largest military action in several years after sending some 1,000 troops into Yemen as part of a Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels.
The Cabinet also has a new female minister – the fourth in Qatar’s history – with the appointment of Dr. Hanan Al Kuwari, managing director of Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC).
She replaces Abdullah bin Khalid al Qahtani as Minister for Public Health.
Al Kuwari has led the publicly-run HMC since 2007, after rising through the ranks from her appointment as a junior administrator in the Women’s Hospital.
She sits on numerous boards of health-related organizations, locally and regionally, and has a PhD in healthcare management from Brunel University in the UK.
Other key ministries, such as energy and finance, appear to be unchanged.
But the titles of several of the new members of Cabinet suggests that other ministries are being reorganized.
For example, longtime Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage Hamad bin Abdul Aziz Al Kuwari has been replaced by Salah bin Ghanem bin Nasser Al Ali, former Minister of Youth and Sports.
Al Ali is now head of a new position, Minister of Culture and Sports.
Additionally, Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Rumaihi is the new Minister of Municipality and the Environment. Previously, environment was a separate ministry from municipality and urban planning.
Jassim bin Saif Al Sulaiti, meanwhile, is now the Minister of Transport and Communications, leaving it unclear what will become of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (ictQatar), which was headed by Dr. Hessa Al Jaber.
While cabinet ministers in Qatar occasionally speak at conferences or other small invite-only events, few have prominent public profiles, give media interviews or regularly make policy or legislative announcements.
One of the exceptions was al-Attiyah, who in his former role as foreign minister routinely rejected allegations that Qatar supports militants in the region.
Similarly, ICT Minister Al Jaber led and announced several major initiatives since becoming minister of communication and information technology, including plans to increase broadband coverage across Qatar as well as boost the country’s e-commerce sector.
Here’s the full list of new appointments, according to QNA:
- Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Minister of Foreign Affairs;
- Khalid bin Mohamed Al Attiyah, Minister of State for Defense Affairs, as well as a member of the Council of Ministers
- Salah bin Ghanem al-Ali, Minister of Culture and Sports;
- Issa bin Saad al-Naimi Juffali, Minister for Administrative Development and Labor and Social Affairs;
- Jassim bin Saif Al Sulaiti, Minister of Transport and Communications;
- Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Rumaihi, Minister of Municipality and the Environment; and
- Hanan Al-Kuwari, Minister of Public Health.
News of the Cabinet shuffle received a position reception of social media, with some saying they expect it will inject new energy into the government’s senior ranks:
Translation: Congratulation on the new reshuffle, new blood pumps to (help) push Qatar’s development forward … with the youth’s vision.
Translation: (These are) wise decisions we’ve been waiting for a long time. There is no room for courtesy when it comes to the nation’s best interest.
The new ministers were sworn in by the Emir earlier today before Sheikh Tamim departed on an official visit to Italy, according to QNA.