The countries of the Arab Gulf have witnessed a wave of production of ‘national’ strategies and ‘vision’ initiatives, most of which have been developed by foreign firms and consultants, and many of which were drafted in English. Two examples of these that form the basis of analysis of this article are the Qatar National Vision 2030 (QNV) issued in 2008 and followed up by the Qatar National Developmental Strategy 2011–2016 (QNDS) in 2011. Neither document was subjected to public referendum, and many of those directly involved in Qatar's central planning were unable even to obtain copies until after publication in final form. Both are problematic for reason of vague or undefined terms, lack of concrete goals, as well as any explicit mention of political development in the country. Even more serious is the question of citizenship, where the huge expatriate populations and permanent residence concessions granted on the basis of ownership of real estate threaten to undermine Arab Qatari identity – a situation aggravated further when English was made the official language of instruction in education and a primary language of administration. This latter development also had the effect of dwindling participation of Qatari citizens in the labour force – already low at 14% in 2001 – to a mere 6% in 2009. The article examines four major deficiencies inherent in Qatar in light of the QNV and QNDS: economic–productive, labour force, political and security. Of these, mention of the political deficiency is conspicuously absent from both documents (where there is not a single mention of terms such as ‘democracy’, ‘citizenship’ or ‘elections’) and both the labour force and economic–productive deficiencies are addressed in terms more relevant and favourable to foreign concerns than those of native Qataris. In the final analysis, both the QNV and QNDS are reflective of Qatar's severe demographic anomaly where the number of Qatari citizens was estimated to be only 230,000 out of a total population of 1.64 million in 2010; and official policy in terms of both the labour market and the granting of permanent residence on the basis of unregulated foreign purchases of real estate and investment only serves to perpetuate an already precarious situation. If Qatar is unable to restructure and reform its policies to the benefit of the indigenous Arab population, the matter of identity and the future character of the country threaten to be matters of serious doubt by the end date of the QNV in 2030, if not well before then.
The visions and strategies of the GCC countries from the perspective of reforms: the case of Qatar
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ʿAlī Khalīfa Al-Kuwārī; The visions and strategies of the GCC countries from the perspective of reforms: the case of Qatar. Contemporary Arab Affairs 1 January 2012; 5 (1): 86–106. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/17550912.2011.647417
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