Despite marking a year since the blockade, which started on 5 June 2017, Qatar has progressed through and overcome the damages caused by the more than one-year-long blockade led by Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt.


The country has, in fact, found advantages from the blockade by creating new ties and allies, and strengthening self-sufficiency. With Qatar National Vision 2030 (QNV 2030) and the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar continues to persevere and develop.

2018 Year in Review Qatar

Celebrating the Past, Present and Future

Under the leadership of HH the Amir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the country has marked numerous significant achievements in the economic, political, scientific and social sectors and 2018 has been no exception.

Qatar at Home

The Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (MADLSA), under the patronage of the Amir signed new laws to allow the majority of the expatriates and migrant workers to apply for permanent residency in Qatar as well as travel in and out of the country without an exit permit.

According to the 2015 expatriate residency law (Law No 21 of 2015) all expatriate residents of Qatar are required to obtain an exit permit from their sponsor when exiting the country. However, Law No 13 of 2018 (Amending Law), one of the two new laws recently signed by the Amir, significantly amends certain provisions of the 2015 residency law. The Amending Law, which came into effect on 28 October, allows most migrant workers covered by the Labour Law to leave the country without having to obtain an exit permit. However, this Amended Law is not applicable to domestic workers, employees of government entities and semi-governmental organisations, embassy employees, and those working in the military. 

Further, the Amir issued Law No 10 of 2018 (PRP Law) on permanent residency permit (PRP). The PRP Law, consisting of 13 articles, is effective and is to be published in the official gazette with the Minister of Interior set to issue decisions and executive regulations needed for the implementation of the PRP Law. Expatriates can obtain a Qatari PRP under certain rules and conditions. 

A Workers’ Support and Insurance Fund was also established to support, ensure and provide care for workers, guarantee their rights and provide a healthy and safe working environment for them. It will also provide sustainable financial resources for the support and insurance of workers, and pay the workers’ dues ordered by dispute resolution committees before collecting the expenses from the employer. 

Qatar’s population grew during 2018, increasing from 2.63 million in September 2017 to 2.75 million at the end of November 2018. At the same time, the real estate market showed annual increases in the number of properties sold and the value of properties sold, of 65.4% and 82.7% respectively. A total of 4,951 new vehicles were registered during September 2018, a monthly increase of 29.7% and an annual increase of 19.6%. 

New Ministers of Qatar

The Amir issued an order in early November, reshuffling the Cabinet. It made the following appointments: 

  • HE Dr Issa bin Saad Al Jafali Al Nuaimi as Minister of Justice
  • HE Abdullah bin Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Subaie as Minister of Municipality and Environment
  • HE Ali bin Ahmed Al Kuwari as Minister of Commerce and Industry
  • HE Yousef bin Mohamed Al Othman Fakhro as Minister of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs 
  • HE Saad bin Sharida Al Kaabi as Minister of State for Energy Affairs and member of the Cabinet 
  • HE Dr Al Nuaimi also assumed the duties of Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs

The Amir also issued laws and decisions forming and defining Qatar’s new National Tourism Council (NTC), forming its board directors, regulating tourism, and organising business events. At the same time, he reformed the Board of Directors of Qatar Petroleum and Qatar Investment Authority, and established the Planning and Statistics Authority.

In April 2018, the Amir issued Law No 5 of 2018 on national service. According to the law, Qatari males between the age of 18 and 35, and graduates of a general secondary school have to be enlisted for the compulsory national service. It is not allowed to appoint any Qatari male in a governmental or non-governmental job, grant him a license to practice any profession, or register him in the employees’ registry if he has not completed his national service. However, there are exemptions and postponing the service is possible. 

Qatar Abroad

HH the Amir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani

Apart from his meetings with international leaders and delegations in Doha, HH the Amir’s overseas visits this year alone have included (in alphabetical order): Argentina, Belgium, Bulgaria, Ecuador, France, Germany, Kuwait, Paraguay, Peru, Russia, Turkey, the UK, and the US. High-powered delegations have also visited Doha.

A number of bilateral agreements were signed during the Amir’s overseas and local meetings, and he also issued directives that will see Qatar providing a host of economic projects, investments, and deposits worth a total of QAR55 billion (USD15 billion) to support the Turkish economy. It was also announced during his visit to Berlin that Qatar will invest 10 billion in the German economy over the next five years. 

Equally, Qatar continues to attract overseas investors. By the end of the first quarter of 2018, foreign investment in the country had reached a staggering QAR676.4 billion according to the findings of the quarterly Foreign Investment survey launched by the Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics and Qatar Central Bank.

Project Developments

This year, Qatar has also witnessed progress on numerous new projects. The spectacular new National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ) is scheduled to open to the public on 28 March 2019. Work to move exhibits to the new premises, from temporary storage, began in the summer of 2018.

NMoQ tells the story of Qatar and its people from more than 700 million years ago through to today, showcasing Qatar’s rich heritage and culture and community’s aspirations for the future. The centrepiece of the new museum is the restored historic Palace of Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani (1880–1957), son of the founder of Qatar: A building that in former times was both the home of the Royal Family and the seat of government, and was subsequently the site of the original National Museum. 

The new 40,000 square metre building incorporates the palace while seamlessly integrating innovative artworks commissioned from Qatari and international artists, rare and precious objects, documentary materials, and interactive learning opportunities. Presented in 11 galleries, visitors’ museum journeys will extend through over 2.7 km of experiences.

Meanwhile, a team from Qatar Museums (QM) has identified a new petroglyph site in the centre of the peninsula. Spread over some 15 hectares, it is the second largest rock carving site in the country, after Al Jassasiya, and the first site of its kind to be discovered away from the coast, completely transforming the country’s current archeological map. The ‘rosette’ petroglyphs have a central cupmark surrounded by several other cupmarks in a circle. A design unique to Qatar, it is believed to have been used for a children’s game. 

QM’s Department of Archaeology has documented the site in detail. The new discovery is expected to reveal more accurate clues about the function and dating of the carvings, as well as their relationship to other sites found around Qatar.

Al Thuraya Planetarium openingQatar’s first planetarium opened in Katara Cultural Village before the end of the year, featuring a huge 22-metre screen, equipped with state-of-the-art digital projectors. Occupying 2,240 sq m, the Al Thuraya Planetarium will have seating for 200 people, with four seats dedicated to the physically-challenged and another four for the elderly. A vast terrace overlooking the sea will serve as a platform for events and activities. 

The number of public parks across the country has doubled during the past five years of the Amir’s rule, to accommodate the growing number of visitors. There are now 40 parks in Doha Municipality, 20 in Al Rayyan, seven in each of Al Khor-Al Zakhira and Al Daayen Municipalities, six in both Al Wakra and Umm Salal, five in Al Shamal, and three in Al Shahaniya. 

Park facilities include modern play areas for children, complete with rubber ground coverage for their safety. Special shading was designed to reflect Qatari heritage and make the parks more beautiful, with the addition of features such as fountains and artificial waterfalls. The parks also offer free Wi-fi connection and solar-powered mobile charging stations. Lighting systems are often solar, and all lights are fitted with energy saving bulbs. Basketball and volleyball courts and fitness equipment have been installed in some parks and along Doha Corniche. There are special walkways for joggers at public parks and in some places separate lanes for cyclists.

Infrastructure and Transport

Qatar Rail Update 2

Construction is Qatar’s fastest-growing sector, with the government planning to spend over USD200 billion as part of a major infrastructure investment scheme. With the rapid expansion of road and transport projects along with tourism and real estate projects, the sector will continue to dominate under the Qatar National Vision 2030 and the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Qatar’s newly evolving public transport system is being warmly welcomed, by nationals, residents and visitors, as offering comprehensive, inexpensive and efficient travel and should also help ease the road congestion caused by the massive increases in both population and vehicle ownership and usage. While significant progress has been made regarding the development of the new metro system and review of the bus network, a joint cooperation agreement between Qatar Rail and Mowasalat will offer metro passengers special discounts when they book a Karwa taxi to take them to and from Doha Metro stations. 

The country’s QAR14.5 billion Water Security Mega Reservoirs project was also inaugurated this December. The Kahramaa project will ensure Qatar’s water security, providing long-term safe water in emergency situations, linking the country’s main areas and production sites in the south and north. It covers five areas: Umm Salal, Al Thumama, Rawdat Rashid, Abu Nakhla and Umm Baraka. In total there are 15 water reservoirs – the largest of their kind in the world and a first for the region – and the project is designed to meet the State’s demand until 2026. The total capacity of the project will reach 2,300 million gallons by the end of the first phase and also entails the installation of 650 km of pipework linking the reservoirs and desalination plants.

Tourism

 

Qatar welcomed at least 1.75 million international tourists in 2018. Qatar is concentrating on attracting Chinese, Russian and Indian tourists. The National Tourism Council (formerly known as Qatar Tourism Authority) has representation offices in three of the largest cities in China, as well as in Russia and India. Visa-free entry for Russian, Indian and Chinese citizens, and in-market promotional efforts are showing promising growth in visitors from those countries: the first quarter of 2018 saw an increase in Russian (up 441%), Chinese (up 27%) and Indian arrivals (up 15%) compared to the same period last year.

In November 2018, the Amir issued Decision No 74 of 2018 establishing the National Tourism Council (NTC). The new law cancels Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) and the government committee to coordinate conferences and events. All functions of QTA shall be allocated to the new council. The council shall have a legal identity and a budget to be attached to the general budget of the State. It shall pertain to the Cabinet and have its headquarters within the country, and can also have offices outside the State. It will also be concerned with the regulation of the sector, implementation of the national strategy for tourism and promotion of tourism, both within and outside the country.

The Amir also issued Decision No 75 of 2018 to form the board of directors of the National Tourism Council. The new council will report to a board of high-level representatives, chaired by HE Sheikh Abdullah. The tenure of the board of directors of the council is set at four years, which is renewable for a similar period.

The next chapter aims to attract 5.6 million visitors to Qatar annually by 2023. It also aims to achieve a 72% occupancy rate across all hotel establishments, through a combination of increasing demand and diversifying the country’s tourist accommodation offering.

Qatar Airways A350-1000 SoaringTourism is expected to play a greater role in Qatar’s economy as the sector’s share to the country’s GDP will be nearly QAR133.5 billion in 2028, reports the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). Travel and tourism investment in Qatar may exceed QAR14.5 billion, or 4.2% of total investments in the country, in 2028.

Despite the blockade, Qatar’s national carrier Qatar Airways has witnessed a 39% increase in stopover passengers this year by promoting Qatar to the world as a tourism and stopover destination. In addition, Qatar Airways has launched 24 new destinations since the start of the blockade, expanding its network to over 150 destinations worldwide. Replacing 18 mature routes, which were closed due to the blockade, Qatar Airways opened 14 new destinations during the fiscal year 2017–18.

Sports

Major sporting events in the country this year included the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships. American Olympic champion Simone Biles finished the week with four golds, a silver and a bronze. That brought her international gold medal total to 14 and overall medals to 20, both record-breaking. Her performances also marked the first time, since Romania’s Daniela Silivas at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, that a female gymnast has won medals in all events at an international championship. 

Other international sporting events in Qatar in 2018 included: the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters golf tournament (part of the PGA European Tour); the Qatar Total Open, a WTA tennis event; the Qatar motorcycle Grand Prix – the first round of the international 2018 MotoGP season; the Middle East Rally Championship: the Qatar Athletic Super Grand Prix (previously one of the five IAAF Super Grand Prix events, now part of the IAAF Diamond League); the 2018 IHF Super Globe handball tournament; and the WPA 9-Ball (pool) World Championship 2018.

Next year, Qatar is also to host the World Corporate Games, a first for the Middle East. The event, established 30 years ago, is expected to attract around 8,000 international and local participants making it one of the largest participation sporting events in Qatar’s history. It includes individual and team competitions, is open equally to women and men of all ages and abilities and para games are also included in certain categories. Twenty-four different sports, ranging from dragon boat racing and ten-pin bowling to football and basketball, golf, tennis and running form part of the programme and for the first time the World Corporate Games 2019 will include mindsports and eSports. 

The Games will be hosted at eight venues across Doha: Qatar Foundation will host badminton, chess, netball, running, volleyball, and golf, as well as the triathlon. Aspire Zone Foundation will host basketball, field hockey, rugby 7s, soccer, squash, and table tennis. Other official venues include Doha Golf Club, Katara Cultural Village, Losail International Circuit, Qatar Bowling Center and Virtuocity, which will host the eSports games. 

Enthusiasm for Qatar’s hosting of 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™ resurged earlier in the year with the official announcement of the Qatar World Cup days. In the run-up to the 2022 World Cup, the country is committed to spending USD200 billion to develop new stadia, its USD35 billion metro and rail system, and a new city for 200,000 people. Qatar is working to increase the number of hotels and hotel apartments to meet – and exceed – FIFA’s requirements for the availability of 125,000 rooms for fans, visitors, players and administrative personnel.

Education

The Ministry of Education and Higher Education announced the planned opening of 14 new schools and kindergartens during the academic year 2018–19 in addition to the new Qatar Academy for Science and Technology (QAST). Qatar Academy’s newest Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) focused school will provide an advanced academic programme for accomplished students in STEM subjects, initially to a select group of 40 boys and girls. 

QA says the programme of studies will meet and exceed all UK and US college entry expectations while also ensuring its students will have access to Qatar Foundation’s universities. 

The first two years of learning will focus on core content and skill mastery. At the centre of the curriculum will be a problem-based engineering class where students will be challenged to collaborate and solve real-world issues. The final two years will shift to advanced engineering applications, the International Baccalaureate programme’s Careers Programme and internships with industry and academia. In their last year, students will develop an academic research project. QAST will also provide opportunities to participate in various mathematics and science competitions as well as offer academic activities after school.

The Ministry’s list of new ventures included 11 private schools and kindergartens and three public schools, adding an additional 5,065 classrooms. The move brings the number of public schools and kindergartens in the country to 272. The number of private schools and kindergartens has meanwhile reached 282, with the total enrolment of 190,644 students. There are now 13,440 teachers in the public school sector and 13,591 in private schools.

In addition, Qatar now has 24 higher education institutions encompassing universities, colleges and institutes with international status in terms of academic and research programmes and best practices.

The moves further enhance the implementation the Ministry’s strategy for 2017–2022, and the road map for developing a world-class educational system in Qatar. The strategy also includes teacher training, developing technical education, and improving services for gifted students and those with disabilities.

Healthcare

On the health front, Sidra Medicine, a member of Qatar Foundation (QF), has now opened its Children’s Emergency Department (CED), another major milestone in the ramp-up of the institution which firmly establishes Sidra Medicine as a key player in the state’s integrated healthcare system. The CED treats serious emergencies for children up to the age of 18, including loss of consciousness, severe trouble in breathing, major bone fractures, seizures and convulsions and other emergencies. Families and carers of those up to 18 years of age requiring emergency treatment can access the CED directly or by calling 999. Children and young people admitted to Sidra’s CED are treated for free of charge.

A new hospital and health centre in Mesaieed Industrial City were handed over to Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) in October, in coordination with the Ministry of Public Health. Designed to meet the needs of workers in the south of the country, it is the third to have been established through the Private Engineering Office (PEO). The PEO handed over Hazm Mebaireek General Hospital (HMGH) in the Industrial Area in 2016, and Ras Laffan Hospital in 2017. Mesaieed Hospital has the capacity for 126 beds, which can be extended to 210 if required by the addition of a new building adjacent to the hospital according to future plans.

Qatar has meanwhile issued a set of three new healthcare guides, aimed at helping the public choose and access the right services. The manuals provide guidelines on what healthcare services can be sought for children, adults, and the elderly. Launched by the Ministry of Public Health in collaboration with Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC), HMC and Sidra Medicine, the guides explain everything people need to know about accessing healthcare services in Qatar, including what services each provider offers, how to get an appointment and information on choosing the right service for their needs. The guides, in Arabic and English, are being translated into several languages including Urdu, Tagalog, Nepali, Hindi and Malayalam to make the information easier for people to understand. Copies were distributed during Doha Healthcare Week, and will be available from health centres and online at guidetohealthcare.qa 

While 2018 has been impressive, the coming year promises even more with the opening of NMoQ and the first Free Zone in Qatar, Umm Al Houl Free Zone, to receive local and foreign investors. In addition, one of the first stadiums of 2022 World Cup, Al Rayyan Stadium, is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2019.


Author: Gina Coleman

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