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The recent decision made by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE to sever all ties with Qatar has had far-reaching consequences. The countries have expelled Qatari nationals, blocked Qatari websites and refused to allow Qatari aircraft to fly over their territories.

In this opinion piece, Mohammed Al-Jufairi explains the purpose of the blockade, and why he believes it will ultimately fail.

This past Ramadan will always be remembered as the month we were betrayed by our neighbors.

It will also be remembered as the month in which Qatar’s leadership was tested, and won.

QNA

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On June 5, 2017, an illegal siege of Qatar took place.

As a result, thousands of families were torn apart. Most GCC nationals have relatives in at least one other GCC country, so mothers were separated from their children, and husbands separated from their wives.

This siege was so dramatic and sudden, that people questioned the motives behind it.

Particularly at a time of relative peace, a time where the news of US President Donald Trump’s “successful” Saudi visit still made headlines, and at a time when the GCC seemed to be closer than ever.

Let’s be honest – the siege of Qatar was imposed for no justifiable reason.

No demands or grievances by the three countries were ever discussed openly before that fateful day.

In fact, I believe that the common denominator between all accusations made of Qatar is that they are baseless.

Money is the motivator

So then, why did the siege of Qatar take place, and what do they want from Qatar?

The answer: Liquefied Natural Gas. We have lots it.

RasGas

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Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, is bleeding money over its failed war in Yemen, is suffering from falling oil prices and has a growing budget deficit.

Not to the mention the terrible living conditions of a large portion of the population living on state welfare.

So, Saudi must find a quick and easy way to make money – and the answer is to annex Qatar.

No retaliation

As a result of this month’s blockade, Qataris were forcibly expelled from the UAE, Bahrain, and Saudi.

Saudi Arabia also expelled thousands of camels across the Qatari border. Hundreds of them were crushed to death trying to cross the narrow pathway allocated for these desert beasts.

But Qatar has not retaliated. Because, to quote Michelle Obama, when they go low, we go high.

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Qatar’s borders remain open to the citizens of these countries, and its human rights group rushed to protect the men, women and children who were stranded and separated from one another.

Qatar’s government also urged residents to show respect to the Gulf Cooperation Council and refrain from insulting or attacking in kind.

Finally, its airspace has remained open for all planes to fly through, and the gas pipeline between Qatar and Abu Dhabi remains flowing, lighting up homes and businesses in the UAE.

Decreasing dependence

One benefit of the siege is that it has given Qatar an opportunity to test its preparedness for such a crisis.

It had a taste of what was to come in 2014, when Saudi, the UAE and Bahrain temporarily severed diplomatic ties.

That crisis was resolved thanks to Kuwaiti mediation. But Qatar also responded afterwards by investing in new livestock and agricultural facilities, and decreasing its dependence on the Saudi Arabian border, in case anything happened again.

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Investments in the state-owned carrier Qatar Airways, the massive Hamad International Airport and the new Hamad Port have also helped, as has the opening of the Ruwais Port to the north.

Within hours of the siege beginning, food products from Qatar’s GCC neighbors were replaced by tastier dairy products from Turkey and London, fruit and vegetables from Iran and Lebanon and livestock from Australia.

Cows got first class tickets to Qatar, and business is booming more than ever. World Cup stadiums are moving forward using a year’s worth of reserve construction equipment. Business-wise, the siege is a failure.

Media war

Clearly the actions taken by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt to isolate Qatar are not meant to be temporary. They are there to cause permanent damage.

After all, if you want to invade a country, you must first create a “legitimate” reason for it and sell it to your population. Otherwise, your own population will question their leadership.

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You do not resort to such unprecedented extreme measures simply to send a warning to your neighbor. You would however resort to these draconian measures as a prelude to invading them.

But what made this conflict escalate exponentially was the UAE and Saudi’s dramatic shift of the cultural norm.

They launched an all-out media war on Qatar on all fronts.

Instead of showing respect for each other’s heads of state, they used nasty rhetoric and insulting cartoons, and ran Hollywood-style horror documentaries on all state television channels.

It became easier for citizens of the three blockade countries to believe the fake news, as they had no way of seeing the other side, because all Qatari channels were blocked.

Renewed unity

Meanwhile, however, Qatar’s native and expat populations have grown closer than ever.

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Qatari citizens have started removing their tribal names on social media, and replacing them with “Al-Qatari” – meaning the Qatari. All citizens became one tribe, that of Qatar.

Expats have also joined Qataris in proudly flying Qatari flags, promoting national food and dairy products and defending Qatar against false and ridiculous accusations.

After all, people in Qatar are free to make their own decisions and express their own feelings. And they all choose Qatar.

Qatar is not up for grabs. We will not allow anyone to colonize us, and dictate how we do our business.

Bosco Menezes (Big B Photography)

Ramadan Car Parade 2017

This crisis has taught us an important lesson – how to carefully carve our future paths by exposing our threats and finding our friends.

Who better to explain Qatar’s future than the Emir, who previously said:

“We don’t live on the sidelines of life, we don’t take direction (from anyone), and this independent behavior is one of our established facts.”

Qatar has won this battle already.

Thoughts?


The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Doha News’ editorial policy.

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Author and journalist Andrew Hallam  – AKA The Millionaire Teacher – believes that many expats lose money by investing with the wrong brokers. The expert, who will be visiting Qatar next month, explains below why this happens, and what you can do to protect yourself and your finances.

Most stock market investors have been celebrating lately. The past 20 years have been kind.

That might sound crazy if you live in Qatar. If you have bought investments sold by local expat brokers, you probably think I’m nuts.

That’s because Qatar – and the rest of the GCC – is filled with unscrupulous financial advisors.

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Yes, they are refined. Yes, they seem kind. But they sell investment products that pay them huge commissions – at their investors’ expense.

How do you know if you have a bad investment product, sold by one of these advisors? There are two acid tests.

Bad investment products

Firstly: global markets have risen a lot over the past few years.

Stocks gained 6.47 percent in the past year, 39.7 percent over the past three years and 55 percent over the past five years.

Qatar Exchange

Qatar Exchange / Facebook

Qatar Exchange

Longer-term, they gained 84 percent over the past 15 years and 243 percent over the past 20 years.

This represents the average return of all global stocks, not just a single hot, geographic sector.

So if your investment yield hasn’t gone up, that should set off some alarms.

Secondly: if you can’t pull your money out without paying a hefty fee, you’ve been dragged to the dragon’s lair.

Andrew Hallam/Facebook

Andrew Hallam during a seminar in Oman

I’ve written two books giving tips on how best to invest. In the first, I criticized high investment fees, but I was like a well-meaning guy complaining about non-lethal snakes.

I had no idea, at the time, what goes on the Middle East. That’s where King Cobras strike. In this region, expensive financial products get sold to almost everyone.

‘King Cobras’

So in a second book, I describe the sort of products that get sold in the Middle East. Often, investors pay more than 4 percent a year in fees.

Let’s put this in perspective: if global stocks earn 7 percent, investors paying 4 percent in fees are giving up 57 percent of their annual profits to these charges.

If global stocks only earn 4 percent, investors are giving up 100 percent of their profits to fees.

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Furthermore, many of these long-term funds are sold with front-loaded charges.

This means commissions for the whole length of the contract – say, 25 years – are paid in the first two years of the product.

So if you decide you want pull your money out early, you can lose all of it.

Yesterday’s funds

Even if you plan to keep paying into an investment product for the long term, many advisors in this region aren’t schooled on diversification.

They often build portfolios that are stuffed with yesterday’s winning funds. But funds that do well during one time period often stink the next.

For example, if you started an offshore pension in 2007, it’s likely stuffed with emerging market funds, and little else. They were coming to the end of a really good run.

Gold bar

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If you started your portfolio in 2011, it’s probably stuffed with gold or precious metal funds with, once again, little else.

In fact, if you invested with a typical advisor in Qatar, I probably know what funds you own if you tell me when you started.

Instead of being properly diversified, it will be stuffed with whatever asset class or geographic sector had recently done well – before you signed the contract.

But you wouldn’t drive a car by looking through the rear-view mirror. That’s a disaster waiting to happen. Nor should you invest that way.

Spread your bets

Investors in the Middle East need a fair shake. Their retirements depend on it.

That’s why it’s important to own a low-cost diversified portfolio that represents every geographic sector. What’s more, you can do this yourself, without the need for an advisor.

Omar Chatriwala / Doha News

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You could build a diversified portfolio with just three exchange-traded index funds (ETFs).

The first fund would represent your home country stock market index. The second would represent a global stock index. The third would include a bond market index.

You could build such a portfolio using a variety of low cost brokerages, such as Saxo Capital Markets or TD Direct International, based in Luxembourg.

Thoughts?


Andrew Hallam is the author of Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School and The Global Expatriate’s Guide To Investing: From Millionaire Teacher to Millionaire Expat.

He will be speaking at six different venues in Qatar from Feb. 12-21. See here for his schedule. Many of the talks aren’t open to the public, but if you have a public venue to offer, he is willing to speak for free. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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British expat Graham Foxwell has been working as a financial advisor in Qatar since 2005. His wife died in 2010, and it was this life-changing event that motivated him to raise awareness among expats on writing and maintaining a legal will in Qatar. Here, he explains how to go about it. 

My wife Anne died six years ago when I was in the middle of changing jobs in Qatar. This meant I had no life insurance or medical insurance in place. I had two kids to support, and huge medical bills to pay. I ended up in financial difficulty.

My experience demonstrates how important it is to have all of your paperwork in order in Qatar – not just a legal will, but also life insurance and savings too, should the worst happen and you need to survive on your own.

Graham Foxwell pictured with his wife and children

Supplied

Graham Foxwell pictured with his wife and children

Realizing that many expats don’t have the first clue about how to protect their families in Doha if they die, I started offering free seminars about will planning in Qatar two years ago.

Make sure your will is legal

If you don’t have a will already, or aren’t sure if yours is legal in Qatar, this is what you need to do:

The simplest and cheapest way to start is to get a will drawn up in your home country.

Then you will need to get this attested at the Qatar Embassy in your home country, and then translate it into Arabic, and keep this translation with your will at all times.

Then to be doubly sure, you should get it registered in Qatar. The Ministry of Justice near City Center mall can advise you of how to do this. It’s best if you go to the ministry in person to ask.

If for some reason you don’t get around to having the translation done of your will, it’s not the end of the world. The Qatari authorities will just ask for it to be translated later before they act upon it.

Children

Alternatively, you can ask a Qatari lawyer to produce a will for you, but this is an expensive option, and not really necessary. Qatar will respect a will from another country as long as you’ve followed the steps above.

If you’re a Muslim expat, you should know that you can also get a will done, even though Sharia law applies to you in the Qatar courts. Whatever your faith, a will made in your home country will still be valid.

Souq Waqif Spring Festival

Chantelle D'mello

Souq Waqif Spring Festival

Also, for those of you with kids – I suggest that you lay out in your will who you would like to take care of your children should you and your spouse both die while in Qatar.

Make sure these people are named clearly. This will mean that the authorities know who to send the children to until other family members arrive in Qatar to take care of them.

Power of Attorney

The other aspect you should consider is to get a Power of Attorney done here. This is very simple to do and worth it.

This is another way of telling the Qatari authorities who you want to look after your children should both parents die, and it also tells the courts who your assets go to, like your vehicle(s), end of service benefits, any life insurance and cash in the bank.

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UAA Justice Center For Students

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All this can be done in Qatar at the Ministry of Justice.

On the bottom floor of that building is a pool of typists who will do the letter for you according to your wishes (best to write them down for the typist in advance).

Once you have the documents in hand, you need to take them upstairs for a signature and stamp. The typists will tell you where to take it to get it signed.

This all costs about QR50 and beats using a lawyer who will charge the earth here. While these steps take some time to execute, it’s worth the wait.

Other things to consider

It’s well known that banks in Qatar will freeze the accounts of people who’ve died.

This can cause serious problems for relatives living in Qatar who find themselves without day-to-day living expenses while they wait for their loved one’s estate to be settled.

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.

I always advise people to have money in a bank account overseas to make sure that they will still have access to cash for expenses.

If you have arranged a Power of Attorney, this will shorten the time it takes to unfreeze the account.

It’s also worth noting that if you have a joint account, you can arrange with your bank to maintain access for either party should one spouse die.

Do you have any suggestions to share? What has your experience been when making a will in Qatar?

Thoughts?

Graham Foxwell is planning further seminars in Qatar this fall. For more details, you can join his Facebook group, An Expat’s Guide to Financial Matters.