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A report published in Science Magazine has revealed how the Arab blockade is harmfully affecting scientific developments in Qatar. But in the end, if the standoff continues, it will prove to be mutually destructive. Everyone loses when it comes to science.

Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Bahrain have ordered their citizens to leave Qatar. Students and visiting scientists have had to exit the country, along with Qataris in the blockade countries. It disrupted or ended the education of aspiring scientists in the entire Middle-East.

The blockade has disturbed shipments to Qatar of lab reagents and equipment, which came mostly from UAE. Qatari researchers can’t easily exchange materials with their gulf neighbors, and vice versa. The blockade has put on hold some grants with Egypt, UAE, and Saudi Arabia in fields from solid state physics to coral reefs. King Abdullah University of Science & Technology in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, told faculty on five grants to end the projects. Scientists in the emirates could face jail time and fines if they show sympathy for Qatar. Another casualty of the tensions are eight projects in biomedicine and other areas, funded in 2016 by Qatar University and four Saudi and UAE universities.

Contingents from Qatar’s neighbors are disappearing from scientific meetings, and Qatari scientists are barred from entering UAE, Bahrain, or Saudi Arabia for conferences there. Truly a lose-lose situation. It is not just Qatar, but the Arab bloc will be bearing the consequences of its actions, too. Scientific developments in Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain will also suffer.

Burgeoning biomedical cooperation between the Gulf countries is critical since they share common disease challenges that can be best handled through collective R&D investments.

Perhaps, they fail to recognise the significance of knowledge economy. Reliance on oil and natural gas will not last. Science is the engine of future prosperity. Economists have said that a third to a half of U.S. economic growth has resulted from basic research since World War II.

Qatar, Saudi, UAE and Bahrain must remember that their collective future depends on the decisions they take today. There will be pressing issues to handle, from providing energy security to curing illnesses, to living sustainably in a world that’s not infinite. The ongoing crisis will one day end. What will remain is the challenge future poses. And only uninterrupted collaboration in research and innovation can help secure the Middle-East.

Mwani

Hamad Port for illustrative purposes only.

After plunging two months in a row, the value of Qatar’s imports jumped sharply in August, according to new government figures.

They stood at QR8.7 billon, an increase of 39.1 percent from July, the Ministry of Development, Planning and Statistics (MDPS) said.

The August figures were still down 7.8 percent from the same time last year.

However, the figures are a notable improvement from the sharp y-o-y drops of up to 35 percent seen in June and July.

Gulf dispute

Those months marked the beginning of a boycott on Qatar by some of its Gulf neighbors, who cut ties with the country over alleged terrorism links.

Qatar has denied these claims.

Al Meera

Turkish chicken

Despite the initial drop-off in imports due to the air, land and sea blockade, the country has forged new trading partners for construction materials and food, including Iran, Turkey and India.

The crisis now continues into its fifth month.

Thoughts?

Mohamed Rimzan/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

For the second year in a row, the UAE has beaten Qatar for the title of the most competitive economy in the Middle East.

The two nations often go back and forth for the top spot in the World Economic Forum’s annual index, which assessed 137 countries this year.

Qatar fell seven spots to 25th in the latest edition of the Global Competitiveness Report 2017-2018, which was released yesterday.

Shehan Peruma/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Despite the tumble, it remains the region’s second most competitive economy.

The index scores countries on 12 economic “pillars” across three main themes. They are:

  • Basic requirements such as infrastructure and healthcare;
  • Efficiency enhancers such as higher education and technological readiness; and
  • Innovation and sophistication factors, which are not specified.

Lower oil prices

According to the report, which conducted its analysis before the Gulf dispute began, Qatar slipped in the rankings due to lower global oil and gas prices.

RasGas

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The WEF had warned this might happen in last year’s report, saying Qatar’s economy is less diversified than the UAE’s.

In its latest report, the WEF explained:

“Qatar moved from a fiscal surplus of 10.3 percent (in 2015) to a deficit of 4.07 percent of GDP (2016) and public debt increased from 35.8 to 47.6 percent of GDP in the same years.”

However, Qatar’s infrastructure and goods markets remain strong, the WEF said.

In the future, more individuals and businesses need to embrace digital technologies, and the nation should also strengthen its educational institutions to get ahead.

Other countries

Despite being bested by the UAE which fell one spot to 17th this year, Qatar came out ahead of all the other Gulf countries.

Saudi Arabia fell one spot to 30th and Kuwait tumbled 14 spots to 52nd.

Omar Chatriwala / Doha News

Photo of Oman for illustrative purposes only.

Oman and Bahrain however moved up four spots, and are now 62nd and 44th, respectively.

As in previous years, the top three economies were Switzerland, the US and Singapore.

Thoughts?