In his first meeting with the Editors-in-Chief of the Qatar newspapers, the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior H E Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani, affirmed the keenness of Amir H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to hold the Shura Council elections, in accordance with the Constitution that was approved through public referendum. He also said that the Shura elections are in accordance with fair and transparent procedures to strengthen the traditions of Qatar’s Shura, develop the legislative process, and enhance citizens’ participation.
H E the Prime Minister noted what was stated in the speech of H H the Amir on November 3 last year at the opening of the 49th session of the Shura Council, where H H the Amir affirmed as saying that “The preparations for the Shura Council elections have almost reached its conclusion, and elections will take place next October. We are taking an important step in strengthening the traditions of the Qatari Shura and developing the legislative process with a broader participation of citizens.”
H H the Amir directed to raise the minimum retirement pension to QR15,000.
H E the Prime Minister also noted that H H the Amir asserted that “elections are not a criterion for national identity. The identity of Qatar has crystallized over time and appears in its best forms in the solidarity and cohesion of our society, tolerant moral values, and love for its homeland”.
Qatar implemented, during past few years, many key reforms to strengthen labor laws and enhance the protection of migrant workers’ rights.
During the meeting, H E Sheikh Khalid referred to the Amir’s speech at the opening of the 48th session of the Shura Council, during which H H the Amir affirmed keenness to complete the constitutional requirements for electing members of the Shura Council and enable the Council to exercise its legislative powers under the permanent constitution of the State of Qatar.
He said: “There was no pressure for the Shura elections, but rather the resolution of Amir H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to move forward towards strengthening the role of the Shura Council in developing the legislative process and expanding national participation and ensuring the completion of the required constitutional procedures. This includes the issuance of many important laws and legislative tools, and electoral regulations that define the conditions and procedures for nominations and elections, and a decree defining the electoral constituencies, and their locations and other important measures.”
Our role as a government is to ensure the impartiality of all institutions towards any candidate for Shura Council membership, in order to achieve the principles of justice and equality.
“The Shura Council referred the draft electoral system law after its approval to the cabinet,” he said noting: “The draft electoral system law and all legislative tools related to elections will be submitted for ratification to the Amir H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, at the beginning of coming August, after which the elections will take place according to the specific timetable, so that the elected council will begin its work as soon as it is convened.”
The reforms which protect the rights of expatriate workers and widely praised by the most important human rights groups and UN organizations, make Qatar a role model in the region in labor market reforms.
He added: “The Shura Council elections are a new experience in Qatar. As Prime Minister and Minister of Interior I would like to assure that the State does not support certain persons in the coming Shura elections. The State supports conducting free and impartial elections which assure wide public participation for choosing the best candidates through ballot boxes. The final decision is of the citizens to choose their representatives for the Shura Council.”
H E the PM noted that the government is keen to assure in the draft electoral system law that money would not have a role in the electoral process. “So we set a ceiling on spending on electoral advertising and criminalised any candidate receiving foreign support or funding, as well as criminalising any attempt to buy votes.”
Legislative tools for restructuring the tourism sector regulators will be released soon.
“Our role as a government is to ensure the election integrity and impartiality of all institutions towards any candidate in order to achieve principles of justice and equality and equal opportunities,” he stressed, noting that this impartiality includes the media and provision of fair opportunity in media coverage to each candidate.
“Care has been taken to expand the constituencies to include all segments and groups of society. The State has been divided into thirty electoral districts, taking into account in their distribution that they include all areas and represent all segments of society and its components.”
The Prime Minister highlighted the importance of the elected Shura Council in the field of legislation and cooperation with the government to achieve the directives of H H the Amir, Qatar National Vision 2030, and contribute to promoting the development process and the comprehensive renaissance that Qatar is witnessing.
Regarding the old building of the Shura Council and whether it was decided to move the site of the elected council to another place, the PM said that the current location and the building of the Shura Council are historical, and the building constitutes a history and the contents that we are all proud of. He pointed out that the current headquarters has been expanded, to ensure the media presence in the next council to follow up on the sessions.
Containing COVID-19 pandemic
Qatar has chosen the best vaccines, “Pfizer-Biontech” and “Moderna”, which have been proven effective in trials.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the idea of a complete shutdown was rejected by the government
On the State’s efforts to contain COVID-19 pandemic, H E the PM said that the government has succeeded with help of Allah Almighty and then the wise directives of H H the Amir in dealing with the crisis since its inception, by developing legislation and issuing urgent decisions to confront the pandemic, as well as by reorganising the Supreme Committee for Crisis Management, which in turn imposed strict precautionary measures, making sure that these measures do not negatively affect the progress of major and vital projects in the country or the economic and social aspects of the society.
“The government’s efforts succeeded in containing the pandemic. We could not defeat it completely yet, but we overcame the effects of the last wave of mutated strains (British and South African) last March,” said the Prime Minister.
He said that since the beginning of the pandemic, the idea of a complete shutdown was rejected by the government, due to the lack of a clear study even in the countries that applied it.
“We have adopted the implementation of deliberate measures for each of the activities and areas to limit the spread of the virus”, he said pointing out that one of the practical examples is partial closure of the Industrial Area after detection of the first case. “It was the first pocket of the pandemic which was contained successfully, preventing it from becoming a source of infection. We benefited from that experience in responding quickly and containing the sources of increasing infection rates,” the Prime Minister told the meeting.
Regarding National COVID-19 Vaccination Program, the Prime Minister said that around 72% of the entire eligible population will have had at least one dose of the vaccine by this week.
During his meeting with the Editors-in-Chief, the PM praised the health sector and the great role played by health workers in preventing the spread of the pandemic and lauded the adherence of community members to preventive and precautionary measures which were implemented by the authorities concerned to curb the spread of the infection.
Most of the stadiums, part of the mega sport event, have been completed and they are ready to host matches.
Regarding the vaccines adopted by Qatar to confront the coronavirus, the Prime Minister said: “There are many countries that have resorted to choosing the available vaccine of any kind, but the State of Qatar moved early and signed contracts with big international companies which have good names in manufacturing pharmaceutical products and conducting the necessary laboratory tests on them and approved by the World Health Organisation.”
He said that Qatar chose the best vaccines — Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — that have been proven effective in trials, adding that the early investment in these companies allowed the State of Qatar to have priority in obtaining vaccine doses, and this is what happened.
FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022
Lusail Stadium, the largest among the Qatari stadiums, is 90% ready.
Prime Minister and Minister of Interior H E Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani has said that the preparations for hosting the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 are progressing at an accelerated pace despite the exceptional circumstances caused by COVID-19 pandemic all over the world.
“The pandemic had some minor impact in the beginning, but because we started preparing early, we succeeded quickly in ensuring the delivery of the required materials in coordination with the companies working on the World Cup projects,” said the Prime Minister.
He stressed that Qatar is ready to host the tournament in all respects, whether completing the construction and equipment of stadiums and infrastructure related to the World Cup projects, which are being worked on at very excellent pace.
“Most of the stadiums, part of the mega sport event, have been completed and they are ready to host matches. Where some of them already hosted important football events,” said the Prime Minister adding works on three stadiums is going on namely Lusail, Al Thumama and Ras Abu Aboud.
“Lusail Stadium, which will hold final match of FIFA World Cup on December 18, 2022, has been 90% completed,” said the Prime Minister.
He said the 2021 Arab Cup next December, Allah willing, will show the capabilities of the State of Qatar in hosting major tournaments a year before the start of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, and will also reflect the efficiency and readiness of the infrastructure and World Cup facilities in the country.
The Prime Minister stressed that the infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup is ready from all aspects and at the highest levels, including a transportation network, and different services including accommodation, and health care facilities. “In general, things are going smoothly as planned,” he underlined.
Speaking about the plan to deal with the influx of fans to Qatar, in case some of them are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the Prime Minister said: “When the time of FIFA World Cup 2022 comes, most countries of the world would have vaccinated their citizens.” However, he said, given the possibility that some countries will not be able to vaccinate all of their citizens Qatar would not allow fans to enter stadiums without receiving full doses of vaccine.
“Therefore, we are currently negotiating with a company to provide with one million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to vaccinate non-vaccinated people coming to World Cup Qatar 2022. “Our primary goal in vaccinating some of the people coming to Qatar to attend the 2022 World Cup is to protect the public health of citizens and residents, as well as to protect the fans participating in the tournament,” he underlined.
Labour rights protection
Qatar’s reforms which protect the rights of expatriate workers and are widely praised by the most important human rights groups and UN organizations, make Qatar a role model in the region in labor market reforms\
Regarding the efforts made by Qatar to safeguard the rights of expatriate workers, the Prime Minister affirmed that ensuring a decent life for expatriate workers is a top priority for Qatar, noting the reforms in labor laws and practices are meant to provide an appropriate system for workers and employers as well.
He explained that Qatar implemented, during past few years, many key reforms to strengthen labor laws and enhance the protection of migrant workers rights.
The reforms reflect our morals, traditions, principles and teachings of true religion of Islam, which does not allow workers to be mistreated or to be deprived of their rights, but rather are keen to ensure a decent life for them.
The Prime Minister said there are individual actions by some companies, or as a result of the greed of merchants, represented in the failure to provide adequate housing, disruption of payment of wages, and failure to guarantee the most basic rights for workers within the framework of balancing private interest and public interest.
“These reforms reflect our morals, traditions, principles and teachings of true religion of Islam, which does not allow workers to be mistreated or to be deprived of their rights, but rather are keen to ensure a decent life for them, address individual cases and violations of some individuals or companies, and take strict and deterrent measures against them.”
H E the Prime Minister pointed out that reforms which protect the rights of expatriate workers and are widely praised by the most important human rights groups and UN organizations, make Qatar a role model in the region in labor market reforms.
“These reforms are effective and long-term, and are the result of years of thoughtful planning, positive interaction with feedback from Qatar and abroad.” He stressed that Qatar faced, during the past years, many malicious campaigns that include spreading false information and statistics about the conditions of expatriate workers. “We have refuted many of these allegations and found that they were running foreign agendas with vested interests to undermine the reputation of Qatar,” said the Prime Minister.
The draft retirement law is currently in the final stages of preparation, and procedures for its issuance will be taken soon after being referred to the Shura Council for discussion.
During his meeting with the Editors-in-Chief, H E Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani also spoke about the new pension law, and the most prominent features of the amendments that will be introduced to it, stressing that the generous directives of His Highness the Amir require ensuring a decent life for retired citizens. He pointed out that H H the Amir directed to raise the minimum retirement pension to QR15,000.
His Excellency noted the passage of a long period of time for the State’s study of the retirement law. He also confirmed that the draft law is currently in the final stages of preparation, and procedures for its issuance will be taken soon after being referred to the Shura Council for discussion. He stressed that the law to be issued will include many provisions that are in the interest of the retired and that there are amendments to the law to add housing allowance among the allowances, as well as amend the provisions for “ancestors”, to keep pace with the burdens of life and meet the aspirations of retirees and ensure a decent life for them.
Qatar is a State of institutions, and our strategy in confronting corruption does not depend on specific individuals, but through legislation and regulatory bodies.
The government also approved many laws in the context of combating corruption and promoting integrity and transparency, including law on combating conflicts of interest, Charter of Conduct and Integrity of Public Officials and the draft law regulating the circulation of information.
Regarding the State’s efforts to preserve public money and combat corruption, H E the Prime Minister said: “Fighting corruption is an issue that H H the Amir has been concerned since he was the Heir Apparent.”
“H H the Amir is always keen to emphasize that no one is above the law and that there is no immunity for any individual in the society, in order to preserve public money and the rights of future generations,” he said.
He stressed that the State is keen to confront corruption in all forms and nature, including administrative corruption and negligence, which among its forms obstruct the interests of citizens, which we also reject and take daily measures to confront it.
At the same time, he added, no accusations will be brought against anyone without clear evidence. In this issue, he said: “I would like to make it clear that corruption always leads to great damages of the society, so we are keen to combat it permanently and publicly.”
“Therefore, for the first time a statement is issued from the Attorney General office at the same time the former Minister of Finance was summoned for investigation, and this confirms the extent of transparency followed in this regard,” he stressed, adding: “As well as, the laws regulating the procedures for trying ministers, including the special court for their trial, was changed, so that everyone is equal before the judiciary, and without immunity.”
“Qatar is a State of institutions, and our strategy in confronting corruption does not depend on specific individuals, but through legislation and regulatory bodies,” he said, adding: “The government also approved many laws in the context of combating corruption and promoting integrity and transparency, including law on combating conflicts of interest, Charter of Conduct and Integrity of Public Officials and the draft law regulating the circulation of information.”
H E the Prime Minister said the Cabinet had recently approved the issuance of the law on combating conflicts of interest. “The definition of a conflict of interest is any situation in which an employee or a person associated with him/her has a material or moral interest that is in conflict or is likely to be in conflict with the duties or responsibilities of his position or job, and the law affirmed that the employee must disclose cases that may lead to this.” The government also approved a draft law regulating the circulation of information, and the Cabinet also issued a charter of public employee integrity.
About the future measures in curbing the spread of corruption, the Prime Minister said: “There is a periodic update of relevant laws and decisions on combating corruption and enhancing integrity and transparency to avoid any shortcomings”.
He added: “As part of the preparations for the elected Shura Council to assume its duties immediately after its election, the government recently approved a draft law on the organization of the Shura Council, which included, among other things, the rights and duties of a Shura Council member and the prohibitions imposed on him, which confirms the government’s vision and its permanent and continuous keenness to combat corruption, prevent it, and promote transparency.”
Regarding the announcement of the trial of individuals accused of corruption cases, the PM said: “Only the competent judicial authorities will determine whether or not to publish information related to investigations and trials, and we do not interfere in that.”
Regarding the impact of announcement of corruption cases on investments, he stressed that the announcement of corruption cases represents the highest levels of transparency, the recent statement of the Public Prosecution regarding the investigation with the former Minister of Finance confirms this.
“Qatar is a State of institutions and will not be affected by the investigation of any official or person in society.”
“All institutions possess Qatari cadres who are able to carry out their roles with all seriousness and professionalism, and are also able to compensate for the absence of any official, and the work is going on collectively and not individually” he said, adding: “Ministers and officials are required to prepare and qualify cadres of second and third grade leaders, in implementation of the vision of H H the Amir.”
During his meeting with Editors-in-Chief of Qatari newspapers, the PM praised the role of the media in supporting the State’s efforts to confront corruption, spreading a culture of integrity and transparency, preserving public money, and giving priority to the public interest.
FROM LEFT: Prime Minister and Minister for Interior H E Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani with H E Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Hamad Al Thani, Chief Executive Officer of Qatar Media Corporation (QMC); Dr. Khalid Mubarak Al-Shafi, Editor-in-Chief of The Peninsula; Sadiq Mohammad Al Amari, Editor-in-Chief of Al Sharq, and Faisal Abdulhameed Al Mudahka, Editor-in-Chief of Gulf Times.
Improving administrative capability
My vision as Prime Minister is that we can advance national competencies through clear and accurate plans and studies. To achieve this goal, I formed a government competency committee, and it will finish its work soon
We have good service apps like the Metrash app, and we will work on developing them.
Speaking to the Editors-in-Chief, H E the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior H E Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani, touched the government’s strategy to advance administrative competencies and improve the performance of ministries and government entities.
“We have gone through many experiences in the process of advancing administrative competencies in various ministries and institutions and upgrading the level of job performance,” he said.
“My vision as a Prime Minister is that we can advance national competencies through clear and accurate plans and studies. In order to achieve this goal, I formed a government competency committee, which will finish its work soon,” he stated.
“One of its main objectives is to improve the performance of government agencies and to develop a clear job description, as well as to study changing the competencies of some ministries and possibly increasing the number of some entities. Among the tasks of the committee is also to put in place the necessary reforms in human resources to address the increase in the number of employees in some ministries and to avoid a shortage in other ministries,” the Prime Minister said.
On the return of financial job privileges to employees, H E said: “There is a study that will be applied upon completion of job privileges that have not been completely suspended, and will be reorganized in the right way in the coming period.”
We are keen that the elected Shura Council will be in its current location after its expansion, which is a historical building, constituting a history and contents that we are all proud of
“In fact, there are challenges we faced in preparing the government efficiency plan represented in the lack of statistics, and we are working hard to overcome this, and we are also seeking to establish a statistics body to provide accurate information and this will serve us a lot.”
Regarding the evaluation of the national employment platform (Kawader), and the demands to develop plans for its development, the Prime Minister said: “We cannot accurately evaluate the Kawader platform as it is a new experience, and there are countries that have copied it from Qatar.”
He added: “The platform has its pros and cons, and I am personally interested in the issue of employment, and it is a permanent item in the weekly meeting of the Cabinet and it discusses overcoming all obstacles facing this important issue. Private sector has been directed to contribute more to employment, and we will provide all support from our side to make it a source of attraction for national competencies by providing privileges such as providing government housing, retirement insurance and other incentives.”
With regard to plans for electronic development of public services, H E said: “We are working hard to develop services and windows in the e-government, under the supervision of the Ministry of Transport and Communications, and we have a pioneering experience in the Ministry of Education, in the form of an e-bag, which began in 2013 and was a successful experiment, but it has not been developed since that time. During the coronavirus pandemic, we used this technology in the application of distance education, and we seek to make e-learning more interactive between the student and the teacher.”
Regarding the single window in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, H E the Prime Minister said: “It is a good experience, but it is linked to other government agencies, and the electronic link is being developed between these agencies. We have a good electronic model such as Metrash2 application, which has proven successful and we will develop it through a new version of the application that includes the inclusion of the ID card, driver’s licence and vehicle registration (Istimara), and we will announce these updates soon. We aspire to create an ‘electronic wallet’ that includes bank cards, and we are now studying the technical and security risks, information preservation and electronic security in cooperation with the authorities concerned.
We have a vision and plans for the advancement and upgrading of all service sectors for the benefit of citizens, and they will be implemented as soon as the relevant studies are approved
With regard to supporting the scholarship plan and motivating citizens to work in the education sector, the Prime Minister said: “In the past, we had self-sufficiency in female citizen teachers, but at the present time we have a shortage for many reasons, and we are proceeding to address the issue in appointment in the educational sector.”
“With regard to scholarships, we found that there is some lack of citizens’ interest in studying certain disciplines such health, education and computer, and we will address this by placing privileges for students on scholarships to study the disciplines that the State needs.”
H E the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior revealed a study to implement the part-time system for women in order to maintain family stability. “I am personally interested in this issue, and this study took a long time and we are working on it greatly, and we are also working to establish new rules for job efficiency that will benefit everyone and have an impact on future generations.”
“We have a vision and plans for the advancement and upgrading of all service sectors for the benefit of citizens, and they will be implemented as soon as the relevant studies are approved,” he added.
Ambitious tourism plans
We seek to create new destinations that suit and interest all segments of society and tourists.
In regard to tourism sector and future development plans and aspirations which have been achieved, the PM said: “Our tourism facilities are not at the desired ambition that we are looking for as there is a difference in the prices of hotels and various tourist facilities. We have 5-star hotels with high levels of service and there are hotels and other facilities with a low rating and their services are limited. Between this and that there are no facilities or services of an average rating, despite their great importance and that they are the most in tourism countries, which are needed by multiple categories of tourists and visitors.”
On future plans to develop the tourism sector, he said: “We seek to create new destinations that suit and interest all segments of society and tourists. Legislative tools for restructuring the tourism sector regulators will be released soon and this sector will be followed up by the Prime Minister.”
We also have a complete and national strategy for the development of the tourism sector, which includes the development of beaches, which is an integrated project that includes many areas. There will be tourist guides to accompany the tourists during their tours to provide complete information about the State’s facilities.”
He stressed his keenness to direct the authorities concerned and officials to constantly monitor the quality of services and prices in resorts, hotels and tourist facilities to be accessible to everyone because this concerns a large segment of society.
“We also have a complete and national strategy for the development of the tourism sector, which includes the development of beaches, which is an integrated project that includes many areas.
There will be tourist guides to accompany the tourists during their tours to provide complete information about the State’s facilities.”
“We also have ‘Visit Qatar’ application, which was launched last March within the framework of digital transformation,” he said, noting that it is an application on smart phones, a digital travel companion for visitors, citizens and residents, so that they can explore the country’s heritage and cultural sites as well as the planned tourist events in the country.
“We hope to develop our tourism sector to be an honourable destination for Qatar’s past, present and promising future,” he said.