His Excellency the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani affirmed the intent of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to hold the Shura Council elections according to the constitution, using fair and transparent procedures to strengthen Qatari shura tradition and develop the legislation process to enhance citizen participation.
In a comprehensive interview with the Editors-in-Chief of Qatari newspapers, HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior talked in detail about the forthcoming Shura Council elections, the new retirement law, the unrelenting campaign against corruption, enhancing government services, laying the foundations of the law, the state of institutions, the political and administrative plans, and overall ongoing reforms.
HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior noted HH the Amir’s speech on November 3 2020, during the opening of the 49th session of the Shura Council, in which HH 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 broader participation of citizens.” HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior also noted HH the Amir’s assertion that “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 and Minister of Interior stressed that the state does not support specific people in the upcoming Shura elections, pointing out that the state supports the holding of free and fair elections that guarantee wide popular participation to choose the best and most efficient electorates, and the decision is for the citizen to choose who represents him in the elected Shura Council through the ballot box.
He said that the government is keen for money to not have a role in the electoral process, so the draft electoral system law will put a limit on spending on electoral advertising and criminalises receiving foreign support and funding or any attempt to buy votes. He explained that the government’s role is to ensure the integrity of elections and the impartiality of all institutions to any candidate, adding that the state had been divided into 30 electoral districts, taking into account distribution includes all regions and represents all segments of society.
He underscored the importance of the elected Shura Council in the field of legislation and cooperation with the government to achieve the directives of HH the Amir and the Qatar National Vision 2030 to contribute to promoting the development process and the comprehensive renaissance that Qatar is witnessing.
Regarding the state’s efforts to preserve public money and combat corruption, HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior stated that combating corruption is an issue that HH the Amir has cared about since he was crown prince, as he is always keen to emphasise that no one is above the law and that there is no immunity for any individual in society in this area to preserve state funds and the rights of future generations.
HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior continued: Qatar is a state of institutions, and the government’s strategy in combating corruption does not depend on specific individuals, but through legislation and oversight bodies. The government has also approved several other laws to combat corruption and promote integrity and transparency, including a law on combating conflict of interest, which is defined as any case that in which the employee or the 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. The law confirmed that the employee must disclose any cases that may lead to this. The government also approved a draft law regulating the circulation of information. In addition, the cabinet issued the Charter of Integrity of Public Officials.
HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior also emphasised the state’s intent to combat corruption in all its forms and manifestations on a permanent and public basis. Thus, for the first time, a statement was issued by the Public Prosecution when the former Minister of Finance was summoned for interrogation, confirming the extent of transparency followed in this regard. He added that 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 without immunity.
Regarding the impact on investments after the announcement of corruption cases, HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior stressed that announcing corruption cases represents the highest levels of transparency. Qatar will not be affected by the investigation of any official or person in society, as all institutions carry out their roles with all seriousness and professionalism, and are also able to compensate for the absence of any official as the work is ongoing collectively and not individually.
HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior praised the role of the media in supporting the state’s efforts to combat corruption, spreading a culture of integrity and transparency, preserve public money, and give priority to the public interest.
Regarding the announcement of the trial of people accused of corruption, he said that only the competent judicial authorities will determine whether or not to publish information related to these investigations and trials, explaining that the government does not interfere with that process.
Regarding the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the state’s efforts to contain it, HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior affirmed that the government has succeeded, thanks to the directives of HH the Amir. From dealing with the crisis from its inception and by developing legislation and issuing urgent decisions to confront the pandemic, as well as reorganising the Supreme Committee for Crisis Management, which in turn imposed strict precautionary measures, Qatar was able to combat COVID-19. These measures additionally do not negatively affect the progress of major and vital projects in the state or cast a shadow on the economic and social parts of the community.
He said, “The government’s efforts succeeded in containing the pandemic, and we have overcome the effects of the last wave of mutation variants in March.” He added, “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.”
HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior said that according to the plans of the National COVID-19 Vaccination Program, approximately 72% of the total eligible people in Qatar have received at least one dose of the vaccine by this week, knowing that the early investment in vaccines allowed the State of Qatar to take priority in obtaining the needed doses. He explained that the health sector and health cadres played a major role in preventing the spread of the pandemic. The further commitment and confidence of community members to take the precautionary measures also had a significant contribution in reducing the cases.
On Qatar’s preparations to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar, HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior stressed that they are progressing well at an accelerated pace, despite the difficult circumstances that swept the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that the COVID-19 repercussions were limited as the government prepared early to facilitate the delivery of the required materials in coordination with the companies working on the World Cup projects.
HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior said 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, noting that a large number of World Cup stadiums have been completed and are ready to host matches, as a number of them already hosted important football events and preparation work is continuing in three stadiums Lusail, Al Thumama and Ras Abu Aboud.
He said that Lusail Stadium, which will witness the final match of the World Cup on December 18, 2022, is 90% completed. He said that the December 2021 Arab Cup, will further demonstrate the capabilities of Qatar in hosting major tournaments a year before the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, and will also reflect the efficiency and readiness of the country’s infrastructure and World Cup facilities.
HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior stressed that the infrastructure for the World Cup is ready, including a transportation network and various services such as accommodation and healthcare. He added that in general, things are going at a pace that in in accordance with a set plan.
On the public attendance of the World Cup, HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior said that by the time of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, most countries in the world will have vaccinated and immunised their citizens. However, due to the possibility that some countries will not be able to vaccinate all their citizens, the State of Qatar will not allow fans to enter stadiums without receiving a full vaccination against the virus, pointing out that Qatar is currently negotiating to provide one million vaccines in order to immunize and vaccinate some those coming to Qatar.
He added that the primary goal in vaccinating some of those coming to Qatar to attend the World Cup is to protect public health of both citizens and residents.
HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior referred to what was raised about the rights of workers in the State of Qatar and said that securing a decent life for expatriate workers is at the forefront of the State of Qatar’s priorities, such as reforming labour laws and practices to achieve a system appropriate to the needs of both workers and employers.
Qatar implemented pioneering and wide-ranging reforms to strengthen labour laws to ensure the protection of the rights of migrant workers over the past few years, and all these reforms will not harm the interests of business owners because they are made in a framework of balancing the private interest and the public interest, HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior said.
In the past, the State of Qatar has countered many malicious campaigns sharing incorrect information and numbers about the conditions of expatriate workers. Many of these cases were found to have agendas aiming to undermine the reputation of the State of Qatar, HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior pointed out.
He stated that there are individual actions by some companies, resulting from the greed of merchants, represented in the failure to provide adequate housing, the disruption of the payment of wages, and the failure to guarantee the most basic rights for workers. The government continues to work to correct these conditions and these reforms will not harm the interests of business owners, because they were made within a framework of balancing the private and public interest.
He 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 organisations, which makes the State of Qatar a leader in the region with regard to labour reforms. He added that these reforms are effective and long-lasting, and are the result of years of thoughtful planning.
On the new retirement law, HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior said that the directives of HH the Amir, require ensuring decent life for retired citizens.
HH the Amir announced a raise to the minimum retirement pension to QR 15,000. A period of nearly two years has passed since the state reviewed the retirement law, and the draft law is currently in its final stages of preparation. Procedures for its issuance will be taken soon after referring it to the Shura Council for debate.
The law to be issued will include many articles that are in the interest of the retiree. There are amendments to the law to add housing allowance, 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.
In response to a question about the strategy to advance administrative competencies and improve the performance of ministries and government agencies. HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior 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 human power 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 electronic development plans for public services, HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior said: “We are working with great effort to develop services in the e-government industry, and we have a pioneering experience in the Ministry of Education; the package of e-services, which was launched in 2013 and has been a successful experience, but it has not been developed since that period. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we used this technique in applying distance learning, and we aim to make e-learning more interactive between the student and the teacher.”
Regarding the window in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior continued: “It is a good experience, but it is connected to other governmental bodies, and the electronic connection is being developed between the two. We also have a good electronic example, which is the ‘Metrash2’ application. It proved to be successful and will be developed through a new version of the application that will provide other services. We aspire to create the digital wallet that includes bank cards, and we are currently studying technical and security risks, and maintaining information and electronic security in cooperation and coordination with the competent bodies.”
In response to a question about the future of the tourism sector in Qatar, HE 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 big difference in the prices of hotels and various tourist facilities, as 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, there are no facilities or services of an average rating, despite their demand in most tourism destinations.”
He continued: “We aim 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 in this sector will be related to the Prime Minister. We are keen to follow up the quality of services and prices in resorts, hotels and tourist facilities constantly to be accessible to everyone.”
“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 for smartphones. It will 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 to reflect the past, present, and promising future of Qatar, and an essential supporter of the economic diversification programme.” he added.
Concerning supporting the scholarship expeditions plan and encouraging citizens to work in the state’s various sectors, HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior said: “We found that there is a reluctance among citizens to study certain specialties that are required in some sectors, such as the health, education and the technology sectors, and we will address this issue by providing privileges for students on scholarship expeditions to study specialisations that the country needs. One of the examples in the education sector is that in the past, we used to have a sufficiency in teachers who are female citizens, but nowadays we have a shortage for many reasons, and we continue to address the imbalance in scholarships and employments in the educational sector.”
HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior revealed a study of the application of the part-time job system for women in order to maintain family stability. “I am personally interested in this file, and this study took a long time and we are working on it with great effort. We are also working on establishing new rules for job efficiency that will benefit everyone and have a great impact on future generations,” he added.