In an exclusive and comprehensive interview with the chief editors of Qatari newspapers, HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz al-Thani, talks in detail about the forthcoming Shura Council elections, the hosting of the FIFA Qatar World Cup 2022, the successful fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, Qatar's pioneering labour reforms to ensure decent working and living conditions for expatriate workers, the new retirement law, the unrelenting campaign against corruption, enhancing government services, Qatarisation and a host of other key issues.
HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz al-Thani has affirmed the keenness of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani to hold the Shura Council elections, according to the constitution that was submitted to a referendum and according to fair and transparent procedures to strengthen the Qatari Shura traditions and develop the legislation process and enhance citizen participation.
|His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani:
"Elections are not a criterion for national identity. The identity of Qatar has crystallised over time and appears in its best forms in the solidarity and cohesion of our society, its tolerant moral values, and its love for its homeland."
HE the Prime Minister noted what was stated in the speech of His Highness the Amir on the 3rd of November last year during the opening of the 49th session of the Shura Council, in which His Highness the Amir affirmed that "the preparations for the Shura Council elections have almost reached their conclusion, and will take place in 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." HE the prime minister also noted the Amir's assertion 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, its tolerant moral values, and its love for its homeland."
| *Shura Council elections to be held in October
*State to ensure free and fair elections, money would not have a role in the electoral process
*Qatar has successfully contained Covid-19; Qatar procured the best vaccines-Pfizer-Biontech and Moderna.
*Preparations for hosting the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, are progressing well
*Lusail Stadium, which is 90% ready, will host the opening match of the Arab Cup 2021 on the first of December.
*Qatar to inoculate the unvaccinated fans who could arrive for the World Cup 2022.
*Securing a decent life for expatriate workers is a top priority for Qatar.
*Minimum retirement pension to be raised to QR 15,000: provision of housing allowance in new retirement law
*Amir wants a corruption-free society. Government determined to root out corruption
*Government to enhance administrative competencies
*Government to streamline e-government services
*Employment of Qataris in the private sector to be encouraged with incentives
HE the Prime Minister referred to the Amir's speech at the opening of the 49th session of the Shura Council, during which the Amir affirmed his keenness to ensure the completion of the constitutional requirements for the election of members of the Shura Council and the exercise of its legislative powers under the permanent Constitution of Qatar.
He said: "There was no pressure from the people for the Shura elections, but rather the conviction of His Highness the Amir 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, which include the issuance of many important laws and legislative tools, including the electoral system law that defines the conditions and procedures for candidacy and elections, a decree defining the 30 electoral districts and their respective regions, and other necessary administrative procedures."
HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz al-Thani meets with the chief editors
HE the prime minister noted that the Shura Council referred the draft electoral system law after its approval to the Council of Ministers. He said: "The draft electoral system law and all the legislative tools related to the elections will be submitted for ratification by His Highness the Amir , at the beginning of next August, after which the elections will take place according to a specific timetable, so that the elected council will begin its work as soon as it is convened."
| "The State supports the holding of free and fair elections that guarantee wide popular participation to choose the best and most efficient, and the decision in the end is the citizen’s alone in choosing who will represent him in the elected Shura Council through the ballot boxes."
"Money would not have a role in the electoral process, so we put a ceiling on spending on electoral advertising and banned any candidate receiving foreign support or funding, as well as banning any attempt to buy votes."
" Government is to ensure the integrity of the elections and the impartiality of all institutions towards any candidate."
"Qatar successfully contains Covid-19; approximately 65% of the total population will have received at least one dose of the vaccine this week; health workers' role lauded; Qatar procured the best vaccines-Pfizer-Biontech and Moderna".
He added: "The Shura Council elections are a new experience in Qatar, and in my capacity as Minister of Interior and Chairman of the Supreme Committee to work on the laws regulating the Shura Council elections, I can confirm that the State does not support any specific people in the upcoming Shura elections. The State supports the holding of free and fair elections that guarantee wide popular participation to choose the best and most efficient, and the decision in the end is the citizen’s alone in choosing who will represent him in the elected Shura Council through the ballot boxes."
HE the prime minister noted the government's keenness in the draft electoral system law that money would not have a role in the electoral process, so we put a ceiling on spending on electoral advertising and banned any candidate receiving foreign support or funding, as well as banning any attempt to buy votes.
" Our role as a government is to ensure the integrity of the elections and the impartiality of all institutions towards any candidate... in order to achieve the principles of justice, equality and equal opportunities, and this impartiality includes the media, by providing a fair opportunity in media coverage for each candidate... We have also been keen on expanding the constituencies to include all segments and groups of society."
He also stressed the importance of the elected Shura Council in the field of legislation and cooperation with the government to achieve the directives of His Highness the Amir and the Qatar National Vision 2030, and to contribute to promoting the development process and the comprehensive renaissance that Qatar is witnessing.
On whether it was decided to move the elected council’s site to another location, HE the Prime Minister confirmed that the current location of the Shura Council, in its majestic building, is a historical symbol that we are all proud of, and noted that the current headquarters have been expanded, to also ensure the media presence in the next council to follow up on the sessions.
The COVID-19 pandemic
On the coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19) and the State's efforts to contain it, HE Sheikh Khalid affirmed that the government has succeeded in dealing with the crisis since its inception by reorganising the Supreme Committee for Crisis Management, which in turn imposed strict precautionary measures, while making sure that these measures do not negatively affect the progress of major and vital projects in the country or cast a shadow on the economic and social side of the members of society.
He added: "The government's efforts succeeded in containing the pandemic, but we have not completely defeated it yet, and we have overcome the effects of the last wave of mutation variants (British and South African) last March."
A resident getting inoculated at the drive-through vaccination centre in Al Wakra.
He said: "From the first moment, the idea of a complete closure was rejected by the government, due to the lack of a clear study even in the countries that implemented it, and we adopted the implementation of deliberate measures for each of the activities and areas to limit the spread of the virus, and among practical examples we closed part of the Industrial Area after the discovery of the first case, and it was the first epicenter of the pandemic, which we succeeded in encircling and preventing its transformation into a source for the spread of the pandemic, and we benefited from that experience in the rapid response to encircle the sources of the increasing rates of infection."
The first shipment of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine arrives in Qatar last night (picture from MoPH twitter)
On the national programme for vaccination against the virus (Covid-19), HE Sheikh Khalid clarified that approximately 65% of the total population will have received at least one dose of the vaccine this week.
He praised the health sector and the great role played by health cadres in preventing the spread of the pandemic… He also noted that the commitment and confidence of community members in the precautionary and preventive measures taken by the concerned authorities contributed to the decline in infections.
As for the vaccines adopted by Qatar to confront the virus, he said: "There are many countries that were late in choosing the best drug, but Qatar moved early and contracted with large companies that have a global standing in the field of pharmaceutical industry and conducting the necessary laboratory experiments on them and approved by the World Health Organisation, and Qatar chose the best vaccines that have been proven effective, which are Pfizer-Biontech and Moderna.
HE the prime minister explained that the early investment in these companies allowed Qatar to have priority in obtaining vaccine doses.
Hosting the 2022 World Cup
On the preparations for hosting the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior affirmed that Qatar's preparations to host the tournament are progressing well at an accelerated and distinguished pace, despite the difficult circumstances that swept the world due to the Coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19).
He said: "The repercussions of "Covid-19" affected a little at the beginning, but because we started the preparations early, we succeeded very quickly in facilitating the delivery of the required materials in coordination with the companies working on the World Cup projects."
He stressed that Qatar is ready to host the tournament in all respects, with regard to completing the construction and equipment of stadiums and infrastructure related to the World Cup projects, all of which are being worked on at very excellent rates.
He pointed out that a large number of World Cup stadiums have been completed and are now ready to host matches, as a number of them have hosted important football events, while the preparation work is currently continuing in 3 stadiums: Lusail, Al Thumama and Ras Abu Aboud.
He said: Lusail Stadium is the main stadium that will witness the final match of the World Cup on December 18, 2022, and it is 90% ready.
He revealed that Lusail Stadium will host the opening match of the Arab Cup 2021, which will start on the first of next December. "The opening will be with a public attendance of 50% , with strict application of precautionary and preventive measures in order to preserve the health of the participants and the spectators."
|- Preparations for hosting the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, are progressing well at an accelerated and distinguished pace
- Lusail Stadium, which is 90% ready, will host the opening match of the Arab Cup 2021 on the first of December.
- Qatar to inoculate the unvaccinated fans who could arrive for the World Cup 2022.
- Securing a decent life for expatriate workers is a top priority for Qatar.
- Qatar has implemented, during the past few years, pioneering and wide-ranging reforms to strengthen labour laws and ensure the protection of the expatriate workers’ rights.
- Minimum retirement pension to be raised to QR 15,000: provision of housing allowance in new retirement law
- Amir wants a corruption-free society. Government determined to root out corruption
He stressed that the 2021 Arab Cup next December will show Qatar's capabilities in hosting major tournaments a year before the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar, and will also reflect the efficiency and readiness of the country's infrastructure and World Cup facilities.
He said that the infrastructure for the World Cup is ready in all respects and at the highest levels, including a transportation network and various services, including accommodation and health care. In general, things are going well and according to the set plan.
Regarding the spectators’ attendance at the World Cup and how to deal with the influx of fans to Qatar in the event that some people would not have received full vaccination against the Coronavirus and the precautionary measures taken in this regard, HE the prime minister said: "When the date of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 comes, most countries of the world will have vaccinated and immunized their citizens; however, and due to the possibility that some countries will not be able to vaccinate all their citizens, Qatar will not allow fans to enter stadiums without receiving a full vaccination against the virus. Therefore, we are currently negotiating with a company to provide one million vaccine doses against the Coronavirus for the immunisation of those coming to the FIFA World Cup Qatar. "Our primary goal in vaccinating the unvaccinated is to protect the public health of citizens and residents."
In the field of workers' rights
With regard to the efforts of the State of Qatar to protect the rights of expatriate workers, HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, affirmed that securing a decent life for expatriate workers is a top priority for Qatar, noting that the reform of labour laws and the related practices was in order to achieve a system appropriate to the needs of each of the workers and employers.
Workers Accommodation Barwa Al Baraha
Workers participating in sport activities
He explained that Qatar has implemented, during the past few years, pioneering and wide-ranging reforms to strengthen labour laws and ensure the protection of the expatriate workers’ rights.
He added: "There are individual actions by some companies, or as a result of the greed of merchants, which were represented by the failure to provide adequate housing, the delay of payment of wages and the failure to guarantee the most basic rights for workers. All the reforms that have been carried out will not harm the interests of business owners, because they were made within a framework to balance the private and the public interests."
He said: "These reforms stem from our morals, traditions, principles and teachings of our noble Islamic religion, which do not allow workers to be mistreated or to discard their rights, but rather are keen to ensure a decent life for them, address cases and individual violations of some individuals or companies and take strict and deterrent measures against them."
HE the prime minister pointed out that reforms in the field of protecting the rights of expatriate workers are widely praised internationally by the most important human rights groups and United Nations organizations, which makes Qatar a leader in the region with regard to labour market reforms, as these reforms are effective and for a long-term, and are the result of years of thoughtful planning. They are the result of a positive interaction with many internal and external feedback.
He stressed that Qatar has responded during the past years to many malicious campaigns, which promote incorrect information and figures about the conditions of expatriate workers, and we have refuted many of these allegations and found out that they are backed by foreign agendas with malicious goals to undermine the reputation of Qatar.
The new retirement law
HE Sheikh Khalid spoke about the new retirement law, and the most prominent features of the amendments that it will include, stressing that the lofty directives of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, require ensuring a decent life for retired citizens.
He said: "His Highness the Amir directed to raise the minimum retirement pension to QR 15,000." He noted that a long period of nearly two years has passed since the State reviewed the retirement law. He also stressed that the draft law is currently in its final stages of preparation, and procedures for its issuance will be taken soon after referring it to the Shura Council for debate.
He stressed that the law to be issued will include many articles that are in the interest of the retiree, and that there are amendments to the law, to add housing allowance among them, as well as amend the provisions for "loans", to keep pace with the burdens of life and meet the aspirations of retirees and ensure a decent life for them.
Regarding the State’s efforts to preserve public money and combat corruption, HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, said: "Combating corruption is an issue that His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, has been concerned with since he was Crown Prince. His Highness is always keen on emphasizing that no one is above the law and that there is no immunity for any individual in society in this regard, in order to preserve state funds and the rights of future generations."
HE Sheikh Khalid stressed that the State is keen to confront all forms of corruption, including administrative corruption and negligence, which among its forms obstruct the interests of citizens, that we also reject and take daily measures to confront it.
HE the prime minister also emphasised that, at the same time, no accusations will be brought against anyone without clear evidence.. "In this regard, I would like to make it clear that corruption always leads to many things, so we are keen to combat it in all its forms permanently and publicly. Therefore, for the first time a statement is issued by the Public Prosecution at the same time when the former Minister of Finance was summoned for interrogation, and this confirms the extent of transparency followed in this regard, and the laws regulating the procedures for trying ministers, including the court for their trial, have been changed so that everyone is equal before the judiciary, and without immunity."
He continued: "Qatar is a state of institutions, and our strategy in combating corruption does not depend on specific individuals, but through legislation and supervising bodies. The government has also approved several other laws in the context of combating corruption and promoting integrity and transparency, including the Anti-Conflict of Interest Law, the Public Official Integrity Charter and a draft law regulating Information circulation. The Cabinet had recently approved the issuance of the Anti-Conflict of Interest Law, during which a conflict of interest was defined as any situation in which an employee or a person associated with him has a material or moral interest that conflicts or is likely to 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 Council of Ministers also issued a charter of public employee integrity."
Regarding future measures in curbing the spread of corruption, he said: "There is a periodic update of relevant laws and decisions on combating corruption and enhancing integrity and transparency to avoid any shortcomings, and new legislation. 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 member of the Shura Council and the prohibitions imposed on him, which confirms the government’s vision and its constant and continuous interest in fighting corruption and its prevention and to enhance transparency."
On the announcement of the trial of people accused of corruption cases, HE the prime minister 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."
On the impact of investments in the announcement of corruption cases, the prime minister stressed that the announcement of corruption cases represents the highest levels of transparency, and the recent statement of the Public Prosecution regarding the investigation of the former Minister of Finance confirms that Qatar is a state of institutions and it will not be affected by the investigation of any official or person in society. Institutions possess Qatari cadres who are able to carry out their roles with all seriousness and professionalism and are also able to replace the absence of any official.. The work is ongoing collectively and not individually, and the minister and official are required to prepare and qualify cadres of second and third rank leaders, in implementation of the vision of His Highness the Amir."
He praised the role of the media in supporting the State's efforts to confront corruption, and spreading a culture of integrity and transparency, to preserve public money, and give priority to public interest.
HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior addressed the strategy to advance administrative competencies and improve the performance of ministries and government agencies. He said: "We have gone through many experiences in the process of advancing administrative competencies in various ministries and institutions and the upgrading of the level of job performance.. My vision as prime minister is that we can advance national competencies through clear and accurate plans and studies, and to achieve this goal we have formed a government competency committee, which will finish its work soon. One of its main objectives is to improve the performance of government agencies and develop clearer job descriptions, as well as study the changing of the competencies of some ministries and reviewing some government agencies.
"Among the tasks of the committee is also to put in place the necessary reforms in human resources systems to address the increase in manpower in some entities, to avoid a shortage of employees in others, and re-study and organise job privileges. In fact, there are challenges we faced in preparing the government efficiency plan represented in the lack of precise statistics, we are working hard to beat that."
Regarding the evaluation of the Kawader recruitment platform and the demands to develop plans for its development, he said: "We cannot accurately evaluate the Kawader platform, as it is a new experience, and there are countries that have copied it from Qatar.. The platform has its pros and cons, and I am personally interested in the issue of employment, and it has been put as a permanent article on the agenda of the weekly meeting of the Council of Ministers and we are discussing overcoming all the obstacles before this important topic.
"The private sector has also been directed to contribute more to employment by raising the percentage of the Qatarisation of jobs, and we will provide all the support from our side in order to make this this sector attractive to Qatari employees, to make it a source of desirability for national talent, by providing privileges such as government housing, retirement insurance and other incentives."
With regard to plans for the electronic development of public services, HE the prime minister said: "We are working significantly to develop services and access points 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, which is the electronic bag, which began in 2013 and was a successful experiment, but it has not been developed since then. During the Corona 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."
HE Sheikh Khalid continued: "With regard to the one-stop shop in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, 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 the Metrash2 application, which has proven successful and we will develop it through a new version from the application. It includes the inclusion of the personal card, driver’s license and car ownership form within the application, and we will announce these updates soon.. We aspire to make an “electronic wallet” that includes bank cards, and we are now studying the technical and security risks to preserve information and electronic security in cooperation and coordination with the competent authorities."
With regard to supporting the educational missions plan and motivating citizens to work in the various sectors of the state, HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior said: "In the education sector, we found that there is some shortage in citizens’ turnout to study certain specialisations that are required in some sectors, such as the health sector and computer, and we will address this by introducing privileges like scholarships for students to study the specialties that the state needs. For example, in the education sector, in the past we had self-sufficiency in female national teachers, but now we have a shortage for many reasons, and we are continuing to address the imbalance in scholarships and appointments in the educational sector."
He also revealed a study to implement the part-time system for women in order to maintain family stability. HE the prime minister said: "I am personally interested in this file, 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 competency that everyone will benefit from and have an impact on future generations."
The tourism sector
In response to a question about the future of the tourism sector in Qatar and the desired aspirations it has achieved, His Excellency the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior said: Our tourism facilities are not up to 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, and between this and that there are no facilities or services of an average rating, despite their great importance and that they are the most widespread in most touristic countries, which are needed by multiple categories of tourists and visitors.
On the future plan for the development of the tourism sector, His Excellency said: We pursue to create new places that suit and interest all segments of society and tourists.. Legislative tools for restructuring the tourism sector will be issued soon, and the supervision of the regulators to this sector will be related to the Prime Minister. There is concern to follow up the quality of services and prices in resorts, hotels and tourist facilities constantly to be accessible to everyone because this is important for a large segment of society.
His Excellency added: We also have a complete national strategy to develop the tourism sector, which will include the development of beaches, which is an integrated project that includes many areas, and the Tourist Leader Program, which will prepare specialists to accompany tourists during their tour, to explain the landmarks to visitors and provide complete information about the country's landmarks. The "Visit Qatar" application, which was launched last March, is an application on smart phones, to be a digital travel companion for visitors, citizens and residents, so that they can explore the heritage and cultural sites as well as tourist events planned to be held in the country.. We seek to advance the tourism sector in order for it to be an honorable civilized interface for the past, present, and promising future of Qatar, and an essential supporter of the economic diversification program.