Celebrating the past, present and future
As Qatar celebrates National Day each December, citizens and residents reflect with pride on its culture-rich history, incredible current achievements and ambitious future plans. In 2017, more than ever before, that pride has blossomed and expressed itself in the opening of new businesses, an expansion of existing local manufacturing and processing facilities, and a consumer preference for local products – highlighting the nation’s increased self-sufficiency.
Qatar’s vision focus on the needs and aspirations of both nationals and expatriate residents; however the State also receives international acclaim for its efforts to help less fortunate and less affluent nations; especially those under siege, in dire poverty, without adequate medical facilities, and with children denied access to education.
In just three generations, Qatar has emerged from being a small nation dependent on pearling to become the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG), a major producer and exporter of petrochemicals, and a market leader in gas-to-liquids (GTL) production. According to the Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics, the State’s population was 2,634,234 in September 2017, having more than doubled over the last decade.
Qatar in past eras
Archaeological exploration indicates that Qatar may have been populated as early as 4000 BCE. What we know for sure is that in 1908 its population was estimated at just 27,000; by 1970, a government census reported it had grown to 111,113 – still just a small fraction of today’s vibrant and multicultural society.
From a country characterised by migratory Bedouin, coastal fishermen and pearl divers, it has developed into a thriving modern hydrocarbons producer and exporter, determined to create a well-qualified knowledge society of young dynamic and informed professionals.
But National Day specifically celebrates the unification of the whole peninsula in 1878 under Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani, who became the country’s first national hero when he threw off the influence of the Ottoman Empire, and established a unified national state.
This was in part due to his wise policy in dealing with the two major powers which were competing to dominate the Arabian Gulf and its territories at that time – the British Empire, which extended its influence through the Government of India; and the Ottoman Empire, seeking to retain its control of the region following the end of the 16th century Portuguese influence.
Because of his vision, wisdom and proven abilities, Medhat Pasha appointed Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed as Governor of Qatar in 1876. 18 December 1878 marks the day Sheikh Jassim acceded to power, and with that the inception of the modern State of Qatar. Sheikh Jassim stridently opposed Ottoman attempts to increase their influence over the peninsula, as they appointed administrative personnel in Al Zubara, Doha, Al Wakra and Khor Al Adaid, established a customs office, and reinforced their garrison in Doha’s Al Bidaa.
Inevitably, military confrontation followed and a crucial battle broke out between the Ottomans and Qatari tribes. Sheikh Jassim and his loyal troops fought bravely, inflicted defeat on the Ottomans, and emerged victorious. Al Wajba battle, 15 km west of Doha, was a turning point in the nation’s history.
During the 20th and 21st centuries, Qatar registered impressive development and left its mark on the world stage. The development strategy Qatar National Vision 2030 has proven to be comprehensive, bold and far-reaching. Yet while embracing the best of the 21st century, the nation is determined to respect its past.
Qatar at home and abroad
Qatar continues to play a leading role in promoting peace and stability globally and in May announced un-earmarked funding of USD40 million over four years – USD10 million annually from 2017 to 2020 – to support the core budget of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The Qatar Fund for Development (QFFD) is one of OCHA’s strategic partners and plays an important global role in responding to humanitarian crises.
In October, Qatar Red Crescent Society’s (QRCS) relief delegation completed the first phase of its quick response to floods and landslides in Nepal, providing 1,298 affected families (6,490 people) with temporary shelter materials and personal hygiene kits. The second phase of the operation was to provide aid to an additional 2,700 families (13,500 people).
In its educational drive overseas, Education Above All (EAA) Foundation and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) have announced a new project to enable a further 95,000 children affected by the ongoing conflict in Syria to access quality education with co-financing by QFFD, bringing the total number of out of school children reached by the EAA Foundation to 1.2 million.
Together, EAA Foundation, Unicef, QFFD, and other organisations have committed more than USD60 million in funding over seven years to enable out of school children affected by the Syrian crisis into quality education. EAA Foundation is an initiative founded in 2012 by HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser.
At home, the government has continued to run information and awareness campaigns on issues such as changes to labour laws, the ban on employers holding their workers’ passports, visas for workers, and new visa-waivers for visitors.
Qatar actively promotes its own culture arts heritage, through regular events at home and abroad including lectures, symposia, poetry readings, folkloric, theatrical and musical performances, literature, museum collections and exhibitions. The impressive Museum of Islamic Art gives visitors the opportunity to experience 14 centuries of great art in a few hours but with constantly changing additional short-term exhibitions always offers something new. International exhibitions and cultural events hosted by Qatar continue to represent its respect for other nations and cultures.
Qatar began providing easy access to visitors from over 80 countries in August, issuing visa-waivers free-of-charge at their port of entry, on presentation of a valid passport with a minimum validity of six months and a confirmed onward or return ticket.
Depending on the nationality of the visitor, a waiver is either valid for 180 days, from the date of issue, allowing the visitor to spend a total of 90 days in Qatar (multiple-entry waiver); or for 30 days from the date of issue entitling the visitor to spend
up to 30 days in Qatar (with the possibility of a further 30 day extension).In September, Qatar introduced a new system for electronic travel authorisation (ETA) available to visitors who hold valid residence permits or visas from the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Schengen countries, or of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Eligible visitors can obtain an ETA by completing a simple online application prior to travel.
The next chapter of Qatar National Tourism Sector Strategy 2030 charts the next five years of its tourism sector’s growth positioning the State as a hub to discover ‘where cultural authenticity meets modernity, where the sand meets the sea, and where people of the world come together to experience unique offerings in culture, sports, business and family entertainment.’
The blueprint identifies six geographic zones across the country and ties each zone to tourism themes based on the area’s geographic characteristics and natural assets, and aims to attract 5.6 million visitors to Qatar annually by 2023; double the number which the country welcomed in 2016, it also aims for a 72% occupancy rate across all hotel establishments.
Many of the nation’s efforts continue to be directed towards providing appropriate infrastructure for the influx of tourists expected for 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™, including the provision of additional accommodation. Three new hotels opened in the first three months of the year, adding an extra 1,430 hotel rooms to the market.
The year has also seen an increase in the number of cruise ships and passengers visiting the peninsula, with 10 ships arriving during the first three months of the year, carrying approximately 28,000 passengers and crew. Overall, the number of European nationals visiting Qatar during that period was up by 19%, with a 13% increase in American tourists, and a 7% increase in those from Asia and Oceania.
It is no secret that Qatar loves sports and, apart from hosting the prestigious 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™, Doha continues to consolidate its position as the sporting capital of the Middle East. Work on the world cup facilities continues apace. In October, Qatar received the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) flag during the closing ceremony of the 47th Artistic Gymnastics World Championships that concluded in Montreal, Canada. Qatar has been granted the rights to host the prestigious event as the first country in the Middle East hosting the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships; the event will take place in Doha from 25 October to 3 November 2018. Doha will also host the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Athletics.
The Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) works in partnership with its national federations to identify talented athletes who have the potential to represent Qatar on the world-stage. October saw the launch of a new Team Qatar website, the first-ever Team Qatar Club and redesigned Team Qatar social media channels – see the feature in the Sports section for more details about the rebranding.
The Qatar Women’s Sports Committee (QWSC) continues to identify and develop women’s sporting talent under the guidance of specialist coaches in all fields of sport and enhance their participation in sports events, sessions and conferences both at home and abroad.
‘Shine’ is the nation’s Rio 2016 Summer Games Olympics legacy project, established to provide an opportunity for underprivileged young athletes from across Rio de Janeiro to train in Qatar’s world-class facilities at the Aspire Academy, with specialised coaching and sports science support.
The project is a partnership between the QOC, Qatar Athletics Federation, Aspire Academy, Futuro Olimpico, an NGO founded by Brazil’s Olympic bronze medallist from Atlanta 1996 Arnaldo de Oliveira, and the Rio de Janeiro Athletics Federation.
The Qatar Olympic Academy and Athlete Development Pathway are two other notable and successful QOC ventures.
Qatar is just one of a few countries in the world to organise a National Sport Day through a paid day of leave, aimed at embedding sporting values into the nation’s culture and inspiring citizens and residents of every age and fitness level to participate in sports and enjoy them as a spectator.
In a novel venture, both adults and children are now able to rent bicycles at the MIA Park in Doha every evening, while bikes can also be rented by those who elect to cycle (rather than walk, run or rollerblade) for their exercise at the Losail Circuit Sports Club. Ladies-only days are each Tuesday when there is a group ride for children with a trainer for guidance. Wednesdays are open to the general public.
Meanwhile Qatari rally ace, Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah, ensured his fourth world title in October, clinching an impressive win in a rain affected OiLibya Rally of Morocco, the 10th and penultimate round of the FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup.
A strong economic outlook
According to an October report from the World Bank, Qatar is expected to record a 2% growth rate for 2017 and 2018, rising to 3% in 2019. The World Bank added that: ‘key tax policy and administration measures, including the introduction of a VAT and excises during 2018 are expected to further contain the fiscal deficit’.
Oil and gas exports remained strong and on schedule in 2017, with new sales agreements and innovative delivery logistics added to the mix.
Qatar Ports Management Authority (Mwani Qatar) cleared 142,854 tonnes of general cargo in August 2017 compared to 80,275 tonnes the previous month, a growth of 78%.
The three-day MedFood 2017 exhibition held in Doha in September provided a big boost to Qatar’s self sufficiency in the fields of food and medicine, putting the spotlight on local manufacturers in both sectors. Organised by Qatar Chamber in partnership with the Ministry of Energy and Industry, it highlighted national and international investment opportunities.
According to the Ministry of Economy and Commerce, 1,015 new companies were registered in Qatar during September 2017. Construction companies topped the list (167), with 108 commercial records for groceries and supplies, 94 for public goods, and 90 for restaurants, cafeterias and ice cream shops.
Qatar continues to simplify business-related searches, applications and registrations through online information, available contacts and procedures. According to the World Bank Group’s ‘Doing Business’, starting a business in Qatar in 2017 required 8 procedures, took 8.5 days, cost 6.2% of income per capita for men, and required 9 procedures, took 9.5 days, and cost 6.2% of income per capita for women.
Qatar made the process of starting a business easier in 2017 by abolishing the paid-in minimum capital requirement for limited liability companies.
September 2017 saw the official inauguration of Hamad Port in Umm Al Houl by The Emir, HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
Its largest access to the sea, it gives Qatar a gateway to over 150 worldwide destinations, providing complete independence in its global import and export of goods. South of Doha, Hamad is the newest of Qatar’s six ports – Doha, Mesaieed, Haloul, Ras Laffan and Ruwais – and is the largest port of its kind in the Middle East.
Covering a total area of 28.5 sq km, the USD7.4 billion project has: a general cargo terminal with the capacity of 1.7 million tonnes per annum; a 1 million tonne grain plant; stations for the reception of livestock and coastal security vessels; a customs inspection area; a 110 m observation tower; a ship inspection platform; multiple marine facilities and administrative buildings; warehouses, mosques and restrooms; and a medical facility.
The port is equipped with sophisticated equipment which ensures the fast-handling of trucks, with containers unloaded and delivered to the importer within 20 minutes at an average rate of 30 containers per hour; the total capacity of the port will be around 7.6 million containers, including 2 million per annum within the first year of operations. During the first half of 2017, Qatar’s ports received some 470,000 tons of general cargo, 407,000 tons of livestock, 449,000 tons of building materials, and over 400,000 tonnes of equipment and vehicles.
Qatar Railways Company meanwhile announced the delivery of the first four of 75 Doha Metro trains through Hamad Port, two months ahead of schedule, after a 21-day journey from the Japanese port of Kobe. The first phase of the Doha Metro project is expected to open in 2020, and a test-run on the Metro’s ‘Red Line’ was carried out successfully in October while a 63 m pedestrian bridge for the Metro was installed in West Bay in just 24 hours.
Qatar Ports Management Company (Mwani Qatar) has expanded its maritime network by launching several direct shipping lines between Hamad Port and a number of ports in the region and beyond to provide fast and secure solutions to exporters and suppliers from around the world. The new routes connect Qatar ports with Sohar and Salalah in Oman, Shuwaikh Port in Kuwait, Karachi port in Pakistan, Izmir port in Turkey, and Mundra and Nava Shiva ports in India.
A QAR1.6 billion contract has also been signed for the design and construction of food security facilities at the port, covering 53 hectares and featuring facilities for the manufacturing, conversion and refining of rice, raw sugar and edible oils. These products will be available for local, regional and international markets. Hamad Port’s food security warehouses project will provide a two-year stock of manufactured and stored goods for three million people.
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