What Qatar Thinks About Globalization
What Qatar Thinks About Globalization

 

Qatar is a small peninsular country, bordered by Saudi Arabia, and ruled by Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. Known as the home of Al Jazeera, Qatar is seeking to become the center for education in the region. With the 3rd largest GDP per capita worldwide, Qatar’s wealth comes from the oil and gas industry. In fact, it has the 3rd largest gas reserves in the world.

Similar to other Gulf countries, Qatar is investing in development projects, such as a 45km Friendship Bridge (the longest causeway in the world) linking it to Bahrain and $60bn investments in 27 industrial projects.

The following “top ten” list in a Qatar newspaper, The Peninsula, highlights the major concerns of the Qatari people:

Safety and security are obviously vital for the country’s advancement. In the midst of trouble all around, Qatar with its prudent policy and careful strategy has provided its people with a sense of security like no other country. We not only hope this to continue but get strengthened.

Qatar has carved a niche by embarking on a path of educational excellence in the Middle East. We wish people would stop complaining in the daily radio shows about our schools and education policy and give the new system time before judging its efficacy. We wish Qatar University will continue to improve, focus more on research and become one of the world’s top universities. We raise our hat to Qatar Foundation for its yeoman service in bringing in the best of educational institutions to Qatar and raising standards. We, however, wish Qatar Foundation will consider Qatar University as its own and open the state-of-the-art facilities on its premises to the university. Moreover, we hope that Qatar Foundation will focus more on vertical improvements instead of horizontal ones by avoiding diversification into other sectors.

Health services in the country are comparable to the best anywhere. But in the last 10 years, we have seen the decision makers change from a ministry to a corporation to a supreme council. We have been promised a children’s hospital by various ministers and health chiefs over the years. That still remains a promise. We hope the new year will see concrete progress in this regard. We also wish to see the medical insurance scheme implemented and hope for improvement in the appointments system for HMC so that patients won’t have to wait until they forget why they went there in the first place. We also wish Qatar will have its own pharmaceutical company. We are the only GCC country that does not produce our own medicines.

We would like the government to pay more attention to food security because food shortage will be a major issue worldwide in the coming 50 years. We must invest in this sector and it should not be limited to the country. We must look for opportunities abroad.

We must pay attention to the country’s demography and aim at a judicious balance between the native and non-native populations. We can utilise technology to reduce dependence on manpower. We would also like the system of short-term contracts to be reviewed, especially in the construction sector, where the contractor can leave the country after completing the assigned work.

We want Qatar to diversify and invest in varied projects. Real estate is one of the easiest to get into because it does not require much know-how. But we need to diversify our investment and not depend on real estate alone, by owning shares in major companies abroad in different sectors such as healthcare, food, energy, automobiles, research and media. Diversity is not only a security for our investments but by owning shares in critical industries we can also help reduce unemployment in host countries.

We want the government to have an open budget to invest in culture, tradition and heritage, because it is the only way to protect our nation from the ill effects of globalization and maintain our identity. We hope 2010 will see much happen since Qatar has been selected as the Capital of Arab Culture.

We hope that the new media law will be implemented soon and it will ensure the freedom granted by the Emir, H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and will be similar to the one Al Jazeera is enjoying. We also wish that the Doha Centre for Media Freedom will take its role at the local level more seriously. However, if we need it to have a global role it would be better if it is brought under an international body like the UN.

We want Ashghal to complete its projects on time, especially the major road and highway projects. We also hope to see an independent roads and highways organisation like in other countries, and functions not divided between Ashghal, the municipalities and the Traffic Department.

Our final wish is to see progress in Qatar’s FIFA 2022 bid, so that we can have this event staged in Qatar, which will become the first Arab country to do so…

10 things we wish for in 2010.” The Peninsula. May 21, 2010.

For this analysis, perspectives from citizens of the region were used when possible. Despite Al Jazeera’s presence and relative ability to report freely on current events, local newspapers are often censored. Those with perspectives critical of the governments are often arrested, so views from expats were included as well.

Culture
Qatar seeks to become the first Arab country to host the World Cup.

Yes, we can. This is the message which the government of Qatar and its people have to convey to the visiting FIFA team over the country’s ability and preparedness to host the football World Cup in 2022. A six-member FIFA inspection team is here to see what Qatar has to offer as potential World Cup hosts. They will visit stadiums, view presentations on Qatar’s plans and vision for World Cup and meet with key officials besides experiencing the local culture and cuisine during their three-day stay.

…In fact, Qatar’s bidding is not for the country — we are bidding for the entire region. Football is ingrained in the psyche and culture of this region. It’s the primary sport here, and passion for the game is widespread and strong as in any other country in the world. It’s time for FIFA to recognise this fact and reward the lovers of the game in this region by letting Qatar host the 2022 Cup. In Qatar too, football is the primary sport, and the country has full-fledged, professional football leagues and the local matches are telecast live like in the rest of the region. Hopes are soaring high after Qatar placed its bid for the Cup; voices of support from the region have been loud.

…The Bid Committee has worked tirelessly to ensure that we meet all the requirements and conditions of FIFA. This is a gargantuan task; there are things which Qatar can easily do, and things which are beyond its control, like the weather during the Cup season. But Qatar has used its resources and vision to overcome this hurdle – the most noteworthy is the development of environment-friendly cooling technologies which will allow the tournament to be held in summer months. Qatar also has an ambitious plan to put in place the infrastructure and all the facilities for the game much in advance.

When the FIFA team leaves Qatar, they will be carrying with them the hopes of millions of football lovers in this region.

Yes, we can.” The Peninsula.

Qatar’s Education city offers unique opportunities for students to obtain a Western education, while still living in the Gulf. Two Qatar students at Northwestern University in Qatar, created a video about sex education in Qatar

Migration
Similar to other countries in the region, deplorable conditions for migrant workers is a problem in Qatar.

…Tiny Qatar is just one of the examples. The leading exporter of liquid natural gas is smaller than Connecticut, but state-funded Al Jazeera News is a powerful regional voice, and Education City, built in association with Georgetown, Northwestern, and four other US universities, is seen as a beacon of progress for the Arab world.

But not far from the futuristic campus, Rajan Sapkota and many like him are working in conditions that activists liken to indentured servitude.

The young Nepali shares a room with nine of his countrymen. More than 140 Nepali laborers have died in Qatar this year, according to the Safety Awareness Center, which tracks deaths among Nepalis. And in a country where the average wage for citizens is $83,000 per year, the world’s highest, according to the International Monetary Fund, he is paid about 60 cents an hour. Mr. Sapkota can’t quit or leave as his boss has taken his passport. “Work here is not so good,” said Sapkota, his eyes heavy-lidded after a 12-hour workday in 116-degree F. heat. “Sometimes we get tired and thirsty; it is very hot here.”

…The number of expatriate workers in the Gulf has nearly doubled, from close to 9 million in 1990 to 17 million today. In Qatar and the UAE, foreign workers are more than 90 percent of the workforce.

…Qatar has created the National Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons and boosted labor camp inspections…

“We must ensure that the laws are enforced strictly and fairly,” says Hasan al-Mohannadi, head of Qatar’s Permanent Population Committee. Yet Qatari sponsors still hold workers’ passports, despite a prohibition, and laborers regularly work more than the legal limit of 10 hours a day…

Qatar says it plans to build three clinics and two health centers for male laborers. “They have health problems that are difficult to address and they impose problems with their huge demand on hospitals here,” said Jamal Khanji, of the Supreme Council of Health. Yet Qatar’s progressive reputation may suffer as abuses continue and the worker population grows. “The world community has to bring pressure on the governments to redress the situation,” said Khan.

Lepeska, David. “The glittering Gulf states’ dark labor secret.” Christian Science Monitor. September 6, 2010.

Video on Migrant Workers

Development
Qatar has made significant progress in achieving many of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.

HE the President of the Statistics Authority Sheikh Hamad bin Jabor bin Jassim Al-Thani told Qatar News Agency that the State of Qatar had achieved most of the millennium development goals before 2015, the final date set for them, thanks to the sincere efforts made by the wise leadership in cooperation with governmental and non-governmental organizations for the progress and development of the Qatari society.

…With regard to the remainder of the goals such as the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women, Sheikh Hamad bin Jabor bin Jassim Al-Thani said tangible progress was achieved in this respect adding that achieving such goals would require major changes in the social awareness, traditions and values.

HE Sheikh Hamad bin Jabor Al-Thani…has focused on the eighth goal related to the development of a global partnership for development.

He underlined that though the eighth goal was closely linked to the developed countries, the State of Qatar emerged as a major player in the enhancement of partnership and development worldwide through the assistance it provided to poor countries and its many international initiatives to this effect.

HE Sheikh Hamad bin Jabor Al-Thani added that Qatar maintained an advanced level with regard to the provision of assistance to poor countries through its official organs or its charity organizations, stressing that Qatar’s assistance has not been affected by the global financial crisis.

For his part, Deputy Chairman of the Permanent Population Committee Dr. Hassan Al-Muhannadi said the total development aid provided by Qatar during the period 2005-2009 reached about 2.01 billion dollars or approximately 0.49% of the Gross Domestic Product.

He underlined that the assistance and bilateral development in Qatar constituted key elements in the foreign policy in the area of international cooperation.

…With regard to Development Goal of ensuring environmental sustainability, the State of Qatar has achieved the four goals listed including improving the population living conditions, integrating sustainable development principles of people who can not get safe drinking water and basic sanitation by half, integrating sustainable development principles in the State’s policies and protection of biodiversity according to the Millennium Development Goals in Qatar Report 2010.

With regard to addressing the special needs of least developed countries and to address special needs of landlocked developed countries and small island developing States, Qatar focuses primarily on development assistance and delivery.

The achievement of most of the Millennium Development Goals in the State of Qatar came as a natural outcome of the successive State investments over the past decades in various critical areas and the fruit of leadership aspirations’ and development policies aiming to improve different areas of life for all its inhabitants. the report says.

Qatar Achieves Millennium Development Goals before 2015.” Global Arab Network. August 27, 2010.

Women

Energy

Human Rights
A series of blog posting on human rights issues:

“Our system is based on equality and justice,” Attorney General Ali bin Futais Al Marri said in a recent program aired on Al Jazeera and reported by local newspaper the Peninsula.

Bemused, incredulous and wistful, Doha bloggers have been debating the merits of Al Marri’s remarks all week….

According to the Peninsula: The Emir has never interfered with the judiciary. The Constitution gives him the authority to grant pardon to a convict only after the court has issued its sentence. So during a trial he has never ever tried to interfere, said Al Marri, adding that it was at the Emir’s directives that his office as well as the judiciary have been separated from the executive…

On the forum Qatar Living,
Nic said We, who work here, all, know the level of integrity this countries displays and this reputation is becoming well known in the west among those who have never been here. Qatar is starting to be known by its hunger for fame and good reputation and instead of improving things, they just hide the problems under the carpet! Look how the article puts it:

“In other Arab countries, the political will to combat corruption is missing.” What makes these guys think that they are any better from other Arab countries?!?!?!

genesis was more optimistic: But we are learning. Why do you think they opened all those universities at EC and encourge critcal thinking among locals? They know that once those who graduated from those universities will demand change. Why all those institutes are established? Why sign all those International agreements? The Emir yesterday have given full support and power to the public attorney office & Audit bureau on tracking down corruption cases. We are a “new” country in the world stage. 15 years ago, there wasn’t even a system. Just a copycat from other bureaucratic Arab systems.

On Twitter, peterlada pointed out someone in Qatar is indeed above the law: Actually the Emir is. By definition.

Though press freedom is guaranteed to a certain extent in Qatar’s constitution, the Advisory Council in June recommended harsh punishments for Qatar-based journalists who write against the Emir, national security, religion and the Constitution.

But the State Cabinet last week called for a new press and publications law to “keep pace with the demands of the changing times,” stressing the importance of opening up communication between journalists and government officials.

Yesterday, during a forum for media experts held by the Doha Centre for Media Freedom (which has had its share of controversy over press freedom), journalists called for a revamping of the “outdated” law.

Local newspaper Gulf Times reported: Nasser al-Othman, a former chief editor of Arrayah Arabic daily and a trustee member at the DCMF, called for abolishing the imprisonment clause in the current press law and replacing it with monetary penalties. “I believe that suggestions made at today’s meeting could be useful if taken seriously by lawmakers,” said al-Othman, who was named as the dean of Qatari journalists.

…From the Gulf Times: Abdullah bin Hamad al-Azaba, a columnist at Al Arab, criticised the absence of a government representative at the meeting, saying that such an absence had turned the discussion into a “dialogue of the deaf”. “I was saddened that HE Sheikh Hamad bin Thamir (the Al Jazeera TV network chairman) was absent while HE Sheikh Jabor bin Yousuf (chief of the official Qatar News Agency) left before the end of our discussion,” he lamented…

…On Qatar Living, Xena, who works in print media, said: I got here at the start of the paper, everyone was gungho about being in a new country with new possibilities. The atmosphere was electric…Then come the blows – you cannot print anything vaguely opposite to government stances, you can only print press releases, and you are not allowed to change them, bad english or not… Trying to get interviews with people is like trying to reach the US president – impossible – phone call after phone call, lists of questions, approval of questions, wanting to see the story before it goes to print and then frequently changing or retracting statements…

Khatri, Shabina. “Qatar: No one is above the law – really?.”Global Voices Online. November 13, 2009.

A human rights blog in Qatar further highlights abuses and problems in Qatar.
In the coming weeks we will bring you through countless of human rights abuses and stories that will never make the newspaper, never hit the media and in fact may never be reported to the authorities. Fear is an underlying current that runs savagely throughout Qatar.

The same bodies of authority that enact law to protect us from such abuses are the same bodies that refuse to enforce such laws.

…The Human Rights Committee and Ministry of Interior here in Qatar must become pro-active in ending the abuses taking place in its own country.

Human Rights abuses are more frequent in Qatar than what is actually reported. They are masked and hidden to the outward eyes looking in! The sponsors abusing law and human rights are often protected because they are Qatari Nationals. The rest of us which experience this abuse live in fear of reporting it to Authorities. Even in cases where it is reported, next to no action is taken against the perpetrator.

Instead those that do report such actions are often cancelled and deported or left to face bogus cases with all their rights stripped from them…

One would have us believe that from a human rights point of view Qatar is progressing. It has in many ways progressed by instituting organizations such as the National Human Rights Committee. But at the end of day these bodies have next to no decision making authority.

The laws are in place but there is no one to enforce them. Let’s take a look inside Qatar at what life is really like for the expats that devoted a part of their life to come and build this nation.

Let’s take a look at all the camps of laborer’s where accomodations are not fit for animals let only people.

Let us look at all the laborer’s who came to Qatar from difficult countries with the hope of being able to provide better for their families. Their dream’s shattered when they go months without the salary they rightfully earned.

Let us look at all the worker’s needlessly killed and seriously injured because their employees chose to break the law.

Let us look at how often a sponsor gets away with wreckless and criminal negligence only to have those seeking their rights promised by law punished.

When you come inside you will wonder how is such a wealthy country, with such strong leadership and vision allowing it’s own people to abuse human rights.

Human Rights in Qatar.”

Education

Media
Muhammad Ayish of University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates wrote the book The Culture of Al Jazeera: Inside an Arab Media Giant,. A summary and review of the book is provided here:

This book is a real contribution to expanding our methodological and conceptual horizons as they pertain to Arab media by combining media and organizational analysis to generate unique perspectives on the inner workings of Al Jazeera as an evolving pan-Arab media giant. By highlighting the role of Al Jazeera’s organizational culture as a decisive factor shaping the network’s current and future development, the two authors have indeed presented media students and researchers with a new perspective for understanding media institutions in the region beyond the traditional media sociology paradigm that locates variables bearing on media work more in surrounding environments than in media organizations themselves. The book, of course, does not ignore the impact of external factors on Al Jazeera development; but rather demonstrates how the interplay between surrounding political, social and economic environments and the network’s organizational culture shapes the satellite television network’s performance. In this context, the book shows how “objective factors “ such as vision, strategy, leadership, empowerment, reward system and knowledge management contribute to the survival and development of Al Jazeera in the midst of an increasingly hostile environment.

The book comprises of 13 chapters that bring together the “bits and pieces” that make up Al Jazeera organizational culture, a significant aspect long neglected by researchers in the Arab World as having little impact on media work…Within the organizational culture perspective, they conceive of a set of key factors which contributed to the success of Al Jazeera, chief among these are the wealth of talent, the structure of system in place for handling the news, and most importantly the margin of freedom available to the network. But as they come to note later, this is not to suggest that Al Jazeera has a carte blanche to speak about anything as the television network keeps silent on a number of pressing social, economical and cultural issues. They argue that even if we concede that Al Jazeera has an independent editorial line with very few limits, the margin of freedom available to it makes it vulnerable as this competitive edge may not be enough to sustain competition in the future. To understand the prowess of Al Jazeera, the book takes accounts of a set of distinctive attributes that can be considered as a source of the organization’s strength or core competency… But when it comes to Al Jazeera, the notion of core capability is quite tricky as the network has come to eminence because of the vacuity that has long characterized the media scene in the Arab World.

An interesting point raised by the two authors is that media organizational models in Western contexts may not be applicable to Arab world media. This, as the book notes, is particularly important in conceiving of Al Jazeera’s organizational culture in the specificity of the society and culture, in the broad sense of the term, within which Al Jazeera operates. Taking heed of the socio-cultural environment in which Al Jazeera has been thriving, according to the authors, compels us to look at Al Jazeera not only from a corporate model perspective, but also from a family business perspective which, although more specific to Qatar, is particularly intrinsic to the culture of a small Arab country where kinship, tribalism and nepotism are still prominent concepts. For both authors, the family-business paradigm can be said to permeate Al Jazeera particularly when we contemplate the way it was founded and the way it was managed during its formative years. Though it was created as a state-sponsored organization, the autonomy and access to resources that the founding director Mohammed Jassim Al Ali had while running the network allowed him to mold the network on a family business model; and hence, attempts at formalizing, structuring, and institutionalizing activities in Al Jazeera were also attempts to move away from a family-like business to a more professional model based on explicit structures and modern management practices…

Potential political effects on Al Jazeera funding have also been addressed in the book. The authors note that the fact that Al Jazeera maintains its operations in spite of failure to sustain its operations on the basis of its self-generated financial resources is indicative of Qatar’s political priorities.’…The Qatari government’s conduit to the network is its board of directors- although the relationship between the latter and the upper political leadership is neither direct not straightforward. At the level of management, the relationship between Al Jazeera’s board of directors and Qatar’s political leadership has at times served Al Jazeera well, but at a price. Partly because of its covert political dimension, Al Jazeera is presented in the book as a fragile organization, which is tantamount to saying that the politics of Qatar is not without potential effects on Al Jazeera. For one thing, awareness that Al Jazeera has a political weight takes away from the myth of its independence while its dependence on the good will and support of its sponsor makes it unable to wean itself off Qatari state funding…

…For better or for worse, the staff had in mind the notion that they were changing the face of Arab history; likewise, there is a sense among some people that Al Jazeera is supportive of its staff as evident in high job security and low turnover rates. The book plays up Al Jazeera’s culture of empowerment as instrumental in maintaining organizational cohesion and continuity within the network. Particularly when seen in the context of Arab media, Al Jazeera’s journalists, reporters, anchors and editors have decision making prerogatives which enable them to react to situations and deal with events without systematic and routine hierarchical referral, thus allowing self-managing teams to be in charge of themselves and qualified individuals to be at their best

…Al Jazeera does not have a formal knowledge management structure and its culture is not management intensive. This suggests, according to the authors, that Al Jazeera culture is not conducive to the identification and appropriation of acquired knowledge. Part of the problem facing Al Jazeera is its overwhelming concern with professional considerations rather than with administrative matters, which meant that insufficient attention was paid to institutional or organizational issues…

In conclusion, the two authors seem to suggest that Al Jazeera has a rough ride ahead despite its impressive professional achievements. They note that Al Jazeera’s success cannot be credited to objective factors and certainly cannot be attributed to its organizational model. In fact Al Jazeera is far from being an organization in the full business import of the term as the network continues to exhibit many of the symptoms that plague Arab organizations. Even a cursory look at such objective factors as vision, strategy, leadership, empowerment, reward system and knowledge management suggests that Al Jazeera does not live up to the image it has acquired over the years of being at the forefront of Arab news media. The book notes that although these organizational problems may not be threatening or detrimental to the survival of Al Jazeera, they are nonetheless risk factors which cannot be overlooked if the network is to maintain its privileged status in an already congested Arab media landscape. When it comes to their role and mission, many Arab broadcasters have been grappling with an identity crisis and rhetorical missions. But according to the authors, Al Jazeera has come off as uncommonly conscious of its mission which is defined by as an Arab media service that has a global orientation. With its motto “the view and the other view,” it acts as a forum for plurality, seeking the truth while observing the principles of professionalism within an institutional framework…

Ayish, Muhammad. “Creativity and Constraint at Al Jazeera.” Global Media Journal. Volume 7, Issue 12, Spring 2008.

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