Qatar Today June 2017

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inside this issue June 2017 / Vol. 43 / Issue 6



We break down what could possibly be the biggest story in Qatar’s history – the sudden and drastic isolation of Qatar by its GCC neighbours. Qatar Today covers the key developments in the story and analyses the economic and political fallout from this standoff.


Corporate learning will probably always be the most desired value and competitive advantage for people to join certain organisations rather than others. It’s also the granted benefit entrepreneurs gain from establishing their startups.


Ben Griffin, Regional Director Middle East and Africa, Inmarsat Aviation, talks about the company’s tie-up with Qatar Airways, and discusses in-flight connectivity.


In an exclusive interview with Qatar Today, Sajed Jassim Mohammed Sulaiman, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Jumbo Electronics, talks about the company’s future plans and analyses how the brand has become a “household name in Qatar”.

inside this issue June 2017 / Vol. 43 / Issue 6


A new campus in Doha opened by a UK university should boost human resources training and bring Qatar closer towards its vision of creating a knowledge-based economy in the wake of sustained low oil prices.


Ever since China announced its grandiose vision of the New Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st century Maritime Silk Road, also known as the “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) initiative, there have been guesses about what the Flying Dragon’s ambitious initiative will bring to the countries which the New Silk Road will pass through. While opinions on this vary, all the players involved see great – although not necessarily equally shared – benefits.


The General Manager of Sharq Village & Spa, Wael Maatouk, explains why the hotel is still the number one destination in Doha for locals as well as tourists.


The 488 GTB and 488 Spider have to live up not only to their predecessor, the 458 Italia, but also to a bloodline that takes in over four decades'-worth of awardwinning, V8-powered, mid-engined Ferraris.

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from the desk It has been a scary time for residents of Qatar. It’s not pleasant to wake up in a foreign country (even if it has been your home for several years) that overnight has been placed under siege, especially when you have no skin in the game and no control over how this plays out. The severity of the blockade left many in a blind panic, rushing to grocery stores to stock up on food that they believed was running out; sending their savings home, worried that they might not get another chance; and wondering whether they should postpone their scheduled holiday out of fear that they may not be able to return. But once this panic subsided, the expat community admirably rose to the occasion, voicing their support for Qatar, for HH the Emir, and standing shoulder to shoulder with their Qatari friends. Loving your country is sometimes difficult because you tend to obsess over its flaws and rough edges; you sometimes don’t give your own country the same benefit of doubt or leeway you give other nations. Because it’s a harsh love – a love driven by the need to feel pride, feel inspired, feel like you represent it and it you. In comparison, it’s much easier to love your home. All it needs is to be safe and comfortable and plentiful. Qatar has been all that for the 2.3 million expats within its borders. And when the time came they showed their appreciation and gratitude in full measure.

Several residences and commercial buildings in Doha flew the national colours to express support for Qatar during the blockade

In addition to our detailed coverage of the Gulf crisis, in this issue of Qatar Today we examine how China is forging new relationships in the GCC focused on trade and development and how its much vaunted OBOR initiative might impact the countries in the Arabian Peninsula. Apart from this we have several insightful interviews that shed light on a range of topics, from consumer electronics to aviation broadband, in addition to our usual team of expert columnists who deliver the best analytical pieces on events and trends that are shaping businesses and societies in Qatar. Happy Reading!

affairs > local THE DEMANDS



n a sudden and shocking turn of events, several Arab and Muslim countries severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, allegedly in response to its support of terrorist groups. This includes GCC neighbours Bahrain, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Maldives, Mauritius, Khalifa Haftar’s faction in Libya and Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi’s government in Yemen. Ambassadors were recalled and diplomats from these countries were told to leave Qatar in two days, with Qatari diplomats were also ejected from these countries. All Qatari citizens were given two weeks to leave these countries. Saudi Arabia closed Qatar’s only land border while all flights between Doha and these countries have been suspended. Sea ports and air space also remain inaccessible to Qatari craft. The situation remains fluid and we explore this story in detail in the following pages.

Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations who are part of the blockade against Qatar issued a list of demands which was immediately rejected by Qatar. It has been criticised for being excessive and unreasonable. 1. Scale down diplomatic ties with Iran and close the Iranian diplomatic missions in Qatar, expel members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard and cut off military and intelligence cooperation with Iran. Trade and commerce with Iran must comply with US and international sanctions in a manner that does not jeopardise the security of the Gulf Cooperation Council. 2. Immediately shut down the Turkish military base, which is currently under construction, and halt military cooperation with Turkey inside of Qatar. 3. Sever ties to all "terrorist, sectarian and ideological organisations," specifically the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIL, al-Qaeda, Fateh al-Sham (formerly known as the Nusra Front) and Lebanon's Hezbollah. Formally declare these entities as terror groups as per the list announced by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE and Egypt, and concur with all future updates of this list.

7. End interference in sovereign countries' internal affairs. Stop granting citizenship to wanted nationals from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. Revoke Qatari citizenship for nationals where such citizenship violates those countries' laws. 8. Pay reparations and compensation for loss of life and other financial losses caused by Qatar's policies in recent years. The sum will be determined in coordination with Qatar. 9. Align Qatar's military, political, social and economic policies with the other Gulf and Arab countries, as well as on economic matters, as per the 2014 agreement reached with Saudi Arabia. 10. Cease contact with the political opposition in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. Hand over files detailing Qatar’s prior contact with and support for opposition groups, and submit details of their personal information and the support Qatar has provided them.

4. Stop all means of funding for individuals, groups or organisations that have been designated as terrorists by Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, US and other countries.

11. Shut down all news outlets funded directly and indirectly by Qatar, including Arabi21, Rassd, Al Araby Al Jadeed, Mekameleen and Middle East Eye, etc.

5. Hand over "terrorist figures", fugitives and wanted individuals from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain to their countries of origin. Freeze their assets, and provide any desired information about their residency, movements and finances.

12. Agree to all the demands within 10 days of list being submitted to Qatar, or the list will become invalid.

6. Shut down Al Jazeera and its affiliate stations.

13. Consent to monthly compliance audits in the first year after agreeing to the demands, followed by quarterly audits in the second year, and annual audits in the following 10 years.


Qatar Airways has signed a multimilliondollar deal with FIFA to become an official sponsor for the next five years.


his means the national carrier’s name will be on several upcoming football-related events around the world, including the 2018 World Cup in Russia, as well as the 2022 World Cup in its own backyard. The value of the deal has not been disclosed by FIFA or the airline. But in a statement, the world’s football governing body called it “one of the biggest sporting sponsorships in the world and the largest in the history of Qatar Airways.” This likely puts the cost of the deal in the hundreds of millions of dollar range, in line with at least three of FIFA’s other current major partners: Adidas, Coca-Cola and Hyundai.

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SIDRA LAUNCHES NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY 2.0 Sidra Medical and Research Center has announced the launch of its National Development Strategy 2.0 with a focus on “inspiring and cultivating the development of Qataris and the development of the healthcare sector in Qatar”.


nder the new strategy, national development as well as learning and development programmes at Sidra are customized to ensure that nationals at all levels – whether students, graduates or skilled employees – are given access to the right training tools and mentorship to advance their careers in healthcare. The career development opportunities at Sidra include an accredited development programme designed to provide nationals with the knowledge, skills and capabilities required to succeed in the workplace,

FIRST WORLD CUP VENUE DEBUTS The first of eight World Cup venues in Qatar is officially complete and hosted its debut football match last month.

leadership behaviour support, coaching and management training, joint collaboration courses and international and local partnerships for work placements. Sidra has also identified students as a key future talent pool – with active measures taken to encourage and inspire more students to consider careers in science and medicine. Training and scholarship programmes have also been streamlined to position Sidra as an employer of choice. Sidra is currently offering scholarship opportunities in nursing, medicine and allied health.


GREEN CAR INITIATIVE LAUNCHED In an effort to improve Qatar’s carbon footprint, officials have launched a new effort to increase the number of electric/hybrid cars on the road, called the “Green Car Initiative”, which is being spearheaded by the ministries of transport and energy, as well as KAHRAMAA. In a statement, KAHRAMAA said the goal is to increase the number of electric or hybrid vehicles to 4% by 2022. By 2030, the aim is to ensure at least 10% of all cars in Qatar operate on electricity, not fuel. The government will help facilitate this goal by working with Woqod, hotels, malls and other entities to build charging stations across the country. Speaking to reporters, Minister of Energy and Industry Dr Mohammed bin Saleh Al Sada said, “Adopting clean energy in transportation would contribute to develop a healthy environment, enhance environmental indicators and reduce harmful carbon emissions by 2022 in accordance with the five-year National Sustainable Development Strategy 2017-2022.” The strategy has yet to be released to the public but it is expected to focus on diversifying the economy away from energy and protecting the environment, among other things.

fter three years of renovations, Khalifa International Stadium in Al Waab was opened to the public for the Emir Cup final on May 19. The stadium was first built more than 40 years ago and opened in 1976. It was then extensively refurbished to host the Asian Games in 2006. It has now once again been remodeled and modernised for the World Cup, with redesigned arches and new canopies to provide shade for spectators. There’s also a cooling system for players and fans. In a statement, Qatar Football Association President Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Thani said, “We are happy that Khalifa International Stadium will again host football matches in Qatar. The stadium has been witness to the most prominent sporting achievements of Qatar and is a venue that is closest to Qatari hearts.” In addition to local matches, the 40,000-seater stadium is expected to host the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships.

affairs > local

SIEMENS WINS QR3 BILLION SUBSTATION CONTRACT KAHRAMAA has awarded Siemens its largest contract to-date in Qatar for the expansion of the country’s power transmission network. As part of the deal, valued at €790 million (QAR3.1 billion), Siemens will deliver 35 turnkey super and primary substations for Phase 13 of the Qatar Power Transmission System Expansion project. Completion is scheduled in two years’ time.

A PART OF A NEW COMMUNITY Msheireb Properties and Qatar Development Bank partner up to offer SMEs the opportunity to develop commercial business in the historic Al Kahraba Street in Msheireb Downtown Doha.

T DFI CO-FINANCES HISTORIC FILM The world’s first fully painted feature film, Loving Vincent narrates the remarkable life story of Vincent van Gogh entirely through hand-painted oil paintings. Each of the 65,000 frames of the film is an oil-painting hand-painted by 125 professional artists who travelled from across the world to the studios of Loving Vincent in Poland and Greece.

THE MOST PEACEFUL COUNTRY IN THE REGION The annual Global Peace Index ranked Qatar 30 out of 163 countries and first in the region. KARIM JAAFAR / AFP

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he agreement will provide a great investing opportunity to startups and small and medium businesses looking for a vibrant downtown venue to bring their project to life. The project which includes an innovative concept café with accompanying retail store will have a focus on Qatari culture showcasing flavours that are synonymous with Qatar. According to this agreement, Msheireb Properties will provide the selected business with a prime retail space located at the city’s historical Al Kahraba Street, while QDB will appoint the best café operator and owner, and provide financial help and business counselling services to ensure the new enterprise grows and prospers. Businesses who wish to take part in the selection process will be expected to deliver a full brand identity for a Qatari Concept Café and retail shop, and ensure that they have an innovative offer that focuses on local culture. Application deliverables include a description of the business plan, food and service concept presentation with a sample menu, and details of the operator’s background and experience.

business > realty check AN OASIS ON THE HORIZON

Ezdan Holding Group announces plans to launch the first phase of its mega mixed-use project in Doha. Ezdan Oasis will comprise 2,058 residential and commercial units and more than 180 retail outlets.




he country’s sovereign wealth fund Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) currently holds about 10.69 million square feet of New York’s properties, according to commercial real estate intelligence group CoStar. The 145% jump from March last year now makes QIA the ninth largest property holder in the state. In August 2016 QIA acquired a 9.9% stake in Empire State Realty Trust, the company that owns the

Empire State Building, thanks to a $622 million investment. Speaking to Crain’s New York, Michael Maduell, president of the Las Vegas-based research group Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute, said, “Internationally, New York real estate is a safe place to park assets. And wealth funds are sometimes willing to pay more than real estate fund managers for assets. They’re buying assets for the long term, like 20 to 30 years.”



ccording to a recent report issued by SAK Holding Group Market Watch, Qatar’s real estate sector “is still showing signs of firmness and consistency” amid the “repercussions and consequences” of the drop in oil prices. The report further added that land trading and prices may improve despite an 80% drop in sales. “The real estate sector benefitted from

In its review of Qatar’s real estate market for Q1, consulting firm ValuStrat said that an estimated 5,800 new homes are set to enter the country’s real estate market by the end of 2017. Of these, five buildings will be part of The Pearl-Qatar project, while 10 buildings will be in Lusail. The report added that by the end of 2016, the total housing stock (villas, residential houses and apartments) was approximately 281,000 units. Another 1,500 units, about 17% of which are villas and 83% apartments, were added to the Qatari market during the first quarter this year. As far as the prices of residential housing were concerned, the ValuStrat report said that compared to 2016, the median transacted price fell by nearly 12% year-on-year, although the volume of transactions increased by more than 50%.

business acceleration and development projects led by the government in and outside Doha, which created numerous investment opportunities for real estate companies, investors, and land owners.” The report also cited data from the Ministry of Development Planning & Statistics, according to which: a total of 1,781 building permits were issued in the first quarter of the year – 491 for building villas, and 330 for building youth housing. 15 > QATAR TODAY > JUNE 2017

business > bank notes QATAR BANKS FARE BEST


he overall outlook for the GCC's banking sector is positive and Qatar is fairing particularly well according to KPMG's GCC listed bank results report, which analyses the published 2016 financial statements of 56 leading listed commercial banks across Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The report, which covers over 90% of the region's listed banking assets, indicates that banks in Qatar and the wider region performed well in financial year 2016, despite margin compression, increased impairment charges and increased funding costs. Whilst overall net profit has declined year-on-year for the first time in recent years, asset growth has remained robust at 6.5% on average across the region, with Qatar seeing the highest increase at 21%, largely driven by growth in corporate lending, cash and equivalents and placements with banks.

REFORMS AHEAD “The Basel 3 implementation continues in the region with capital and liquidity rules getting redefined. The Public Private Partnership law is expected in Qatar this year and it will attract private investments, know-how and technology in key areas of the economy, especially the services sector, such as transportation, health, education and others. The upcoming VAT will also contribute to the fiscal revenues in the region and enhance tax culture in the region.” DR R SEETHARAMAN, CEO of Doha Bank, speaking at a knowledge-sharing event on “Regulatory Changes and Opportunities”



Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB) priced a highly successful $750 million 5-year RegS only Sukuk offering. The Sukuk was issued at par with an annual profit rate of 3.251% (payable semi-annually), representing a spread of 135bps over 5-year mid-swaps.

he transaction represents QIB’s return to the public debt capital markets, following its $750 million Sukuk issuance in October 2015. Citi, Emirates NBD Capital, HSBC, Noor Bank, QInvest and Standard Chartered Bank acted as joint bookrunners and joint lead managers on the transaction. “The success of the Sukuk, which is attested to by the robust and healthy orderbook which closed at circa $ 2.2 billion (in addition, the orderbook was 2.93x oversubscribed and achieved a balanced distribution profile), highlights the continued strong support and confidence of both international and local investors in Qatar Islamic Bank’s strong underlying and unique credit fundamentals,” according to a statement from the bank.

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RETIREMENT BENEFITS The General Retirement & Social Insurance Authority (GRSIA) signed a partnership agreement with Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB) to offer preferential pricing and services to pensioners in Qatar.


he agreement supports GRSIA’s latest discounts initiative “Khusomat” which was launched in June 2016. The new package offers attractive profit rates for obtaining personal financing and for savings on fixed deposits to Qatari pensioners who are registered with GRSIA. The agreement covers all Qatari pensioners and will be applied to new transactions only. Qatari retirees can also apply for a free credit card for the first year and the possibility of paying a minimum percentage per month of the total outstanding on credit cards.

business > oil&gas AL SHAHEEN STUDIED

Danish company Ramboll has been selected to conduct a pre-feed study for three new wellhead platforms at Al Shaheen field, which currently produces nearly 300,000 bpd of oil, and covers nearly 40% of Qatar’s total oil output.


Following the decision by OPEC countries and some non-OPEC states to continue with the slowdown in oil production till at least the end of March, Moody’s Investors Service has upgraded its creditworthiness outlook for both the UAE and Kuwait, but downgraded its debt rating for Qatar.


atar’s sharply rising external debt and doubts about its model to promote economic growth were given as the reasons for downgrading its long-term debt rating from Aa2 to Aa3, but changing its outlook to stable from negative. According to Moody’s, Qatar’s external debt-to-GDP ratio rose to 150% last year, up from 111% the year before and the highest of any similarly rated country, whether oil-dependent or not. Meanwhile Moody’s noted that the UAE’s relative success in diversification is behind its better fiscal and growth prospects, and that even though Kuwait found itself in 102nd place in the World Bank ranking, the country’s sheer wealth means its creditworthiness is on the rise.


oneywell and Saudi Aramco have signed a memorandum of understanding that advances their long-standing cooperation, further supports the development and diversification of Saudi Arabia’s oil and gas sector, and accelerates the benefits of the Industrial Internet of Things within Saudi Aramco’s operations. The companies will work together to increase throughput, raise yield, and improve the reliability of Saudi Aramco’s operations by leveraging Honeywell’s cloud-based services and predictive


analytics solutions. The agreement was signed in Riyadh by Honeywell President and CEO Darius Adamczyk, and Saudi Aramco President and CEO Amin H Nasser. “Saudi Aramco’s strategic objective is to collaborate with partners who are technology leaders and add strategic value to our company, sector, and the country as a whole,” said Nasser. “This agreement represents a new platform to further enhance these efforts, and I look forward to this exciting chapter as we continue to leverage decades of global and regional experience in the sector.”

Qatar has expressed interest in the $1.5 billion pipeline project for the supply of imported liquefied natural gas to meet the requirements of Pakistan’s Punjab province. In addition to that, it also has the potential to win the Karachi-Lahore gas pipeline contract. “Qatar is likely to enhance the volume of gas exports to Pakistan if it succeeds in getting the pipeline contract,” said a senior Pakistani government official. “The proposal of laying the gas pipeline was taken up during the visit of Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani in January this year.” In a meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Al Thani expressed Qatar’s interest in building the Karachi-Lahore pipeline for LNG transportation. The official said that the Prime Minister’s Office had been dealing with the pipeline project and a letter was sent to Doha, suggesting the signing of a government-to-government deal for awarding the contract without bidding.

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development > viewpoint


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n May the Scotland-based University of Aberdeen opened a local branch in partnership with Al Faleh Group (AFG), an education services firm. The new campus, called AFG College with University of Aberdeen, will initially offer two undergraduate courses – in business management, and accountancy and finance – to an estimated 120 students in the 2017/18 academic year. “We believe this partnership will complement the educational pillar of the Qatar National Vision 2030, by allowing Qatari nationals and the wider community greater access to high-quality UK university education,” Brian Buckley, principal of AFG College, told OBG. Improving education forms part of the first pillar of Qatar National Vision 2030, the country’s long-term development plan aimed at reducing dependency on hydrocarbons and creating a diversified economy driven by services.

Knowledge cluster The University of Aberdeen is the second tertiary institution from the UK to open a branch in Qatar, joining a cluster of Western universities that have established campuses there over the past two decades. These have mostly congregated in Education City, a multibillion-dollar complex on Doha’s western outskirts designed as a centre for knowledge and innovation and spearheaded by Qatar Foundation (QF), a non-profit organisation focused on education, science and community development. AFG College with University of Aberdeen, however, differs in that it is located in Al Mamoura, closer to the city centre, and is a private venture undertaken with a local partner, whereas most other foreign university branches operate in partnership with QF. Last year international media reported that QF’s annual bill to cover operating expenses for the six US universities in Qatar surpassed $400 million. The investment seems to be paying dividends: in the World Economic Forum’s “Global Competitiveness Report 2016/17”, Qatar is placed 30th out of 138 countries, topping the GCC rankings for higher education. Data released in mid-March by the Ministry of Economy and Commerce showed university enrolment rose by 83.7% in the four years to 2014, to reach 28,100. Solid growth in enrolment was reiterated by Akel Kahera, dean of Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar – the first US higher education institute to set up a campus in Qatar. “Qataris have certainly embraced the challenge of creating a knowledge-based economy, as evidenced by our annual enrolment growth rate of 10-12%,” he told OBG. “Currently, 61% of our students are Qatari nationals and 91% are women, indicating the local thirst for education.” Budgetary pressures Qatar’s education sector has not been immune to budget cuts induced by the drop in oil prices, however. Earlier this year it was reported that QF would lay off around 800 staff, as part of cost-cutting measures linked to state efforts to compensate for lower oil revenues. Foreign universities in

Education City will be unaffected by the latest cuts, as they operate independently under pre-negotiated budgets, local media reported in March. Some institutions have taken QF’s budget tightening as an opportunity to streamline operations, promote efficiencies and partner with the private sector, according to César Malavé, dean of Texas A&M University at Qatar. “We can do more for less,” he told OBG. “Our focus is not just on producing top engineering graduates; we also want to focus on research that addresses national challenges and has an impact in Qatar and beyond.” Public universities Despite a strong presence of foreign institutions, public universities in Qatar still account for 88% of new student enrolments, according to the Ministry of Economy and Commerce. Qatar University (QU) is responsible for the vast majority of enrolments, with more than 17,000 students currently attending undergraduate and graduate courses and programmes across its nine colleges. QU has also attempted to foster a research culture by setting up 14 research centres of excellence that correspond to national needs. Furthermore, an ambitious fiveyear research roadmap entitled “Advancing Research for Qatar’s Future”, launched by the university in 2014, tackles four priority areas: energy, environment and resource sustainability; social change and identity; population, health and wellness; and ICT. Meanwhile, Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), a public research institution affiliated with QF, conferred degrees on 148 graduates this spring, up from 111 a year earlier and almost double the inaugural class in 2014. Moving forward, public universities could look to generate new academic and research opportunities via international partnerships. “Qatar offers international partners the advantage of a large concentration of multidisciplinary institutions in Education City,” Ahmad Hasnah, president of HBKU, told OBG. “An interdisciplinary approach to education and research is key, and any partnership must be formed with this in mind.”

BY OLIVER CORNOCK Managing Editor, Middle East Oxford Business Group

This Qatar economic update was produced by Oxford Business Group.

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affairs > world view

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Sri Lankan residents make their way through floodwaters in Kaduwela on May 27. Rainfall on May 26 triggered the worst flooding and landslides in 14 years in the southern and western parts of the island, authorities said. The Disaster Management Centre said over 200 people were confirmed killed while another 96 were missing. ISHARA S. KODIKARA / AFP 21 > QATAR TODAY > MAY 2017

business > viewpoint




Corporate learning will probably always be the most desired value and competitive advantage for people to join certain organisations rather than others. It’s also the granted benefit entrepreneurs gain from establishing their startups.

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n the 21st century, the value of tacit knowledge is undeniable for success in business. Knowledge restructuring fuelled by inspiration leads to innovation. Learning should become an innovative platform to create more value for the intellectual capital of companies, where potential entrepreneurs are to be given the chance to innovate company’s projects and become future independent entrepreneurs. However, it’s the task of the established entrepreneurs, the modern management

executives and the game changers to lead the way by giving insight into what exactly it is in learning that people should seek. How and why do we redefine the learning process as an objective other than the mere knowledge per se? Tacit knowledge for startups’ value creation The impact of learning in organizations will be much more significant once the objective becomes obtaining tacit knowledge. This means that individual coaching sessions

and interactive learning programmes that generate insights, observations and develop intuition in business will reap great benefits, just as well as the standardised technical learning programmes. Tacit knowledge will result in a permanent change of behaviour, human capabilities, and mindset that stems from processing knowledge, experience and practice as advised by John Bratton’s concept of workplace learning nature through his writings. Especially in startups, entrepreneurs and small business owners can reap enormous benefits once they realise the importance of learning as a vital propositional value to generate opportunities and success in their ventures. Mentorship, coaching, learning about branding, storytelling and how to stand out from the crowd whilst expressing your business feel, mantra and values in a unique and artistic way are necessities in today’s world. There could possibly be more value in Cupcakes and Abayas startups than just selling cupcakes and abayas, once there is a story and a strong business concept. At this stage, the advice is to invest in entrepreneurs’ learning through coaching for the business and its branding to avoid early failures and challenges of a future scaling phase. The challenge in learning Compared to challenges startups face in other countries, Qatari ventures face fewer financial difficulties and funding issues due to government support and grants for local SMEs. The vision to transform Qatar from an oil and petroleum-based economy into an economy of human capital power has paved the way for Qatari youth’s motivation to invest in their entrepreneurial ideas. The specific learning challenge that many Qatari entrepreneurs will face is that they might miss out on vital tacit knowledge and experience due to the more comparatively facilitated funding services available in the country. When funding has fewer limitations and more availability, the original entrepreneur hardships in normal competitive markets shall not constitute a threat in this case. And since hardship is a catalyst for success and personal development, Qatari entrepreneurs need to gain this knowledge in another way. So, how would a future Qatari entrepreneur compensate this experience of growth in order to gain what their international counterparts of world entrepreneurs gained already? Qatari

startups need honest and authentic feedback on potential weak points of their business, which is mandatory to prevent failure once they have to stand on their own feet and keep their business running and thriving. As for individual entrepreneurs, investment is needed for one-to-one coaching sessions for businesses could help in their reflexive learning to enable their development. In our open, globalized world where ideas are easily communicated and shared on technology platforms and media channels, it’s not difficult for business ideas to get regenerated, reproduced and unfortunately sometimes copied, with IP legal rights lacking in some countries in the developing world. Yet, with the right guidance and local support system the government offers through NGOs and with help from international consultancies, future Qatari entrepreneurs should have a solid base to start with. Creativity and entrepreneurship at the behavioural level To accelerate the rise of creativity and entrepreneurial spirit in the Qatari market place, the local personal and business mindset needs to be carefully studied and guided. It’s the responsibility of both the expertise available in the local market and of the present international associations to boast the behavioural development of Qatari entrepreneurs in order to align them with the same level as their international counterparts. The private sector should/ could play a bigger role in this through boasting intrapreneurship within their companies, to create innovation and to create successful future entrepreneurs. Besides, Qatari entrepreneurs and owners of small businesses need authentic and transparent business feedback, and definitely a reflective learning opportunity. Ideally, they should be offered coaching assistance that helps their performance, and they should be granted the opportunity of international experience for inspiration and motivation. The essential concern about creating a solid entrepreneurial character should be about the learning impact and value to be placed within the people themselves, rather than only the financial outsourcing for services their ventures need. The highest value is to create a person who creates, generates, learns, develops and establishes their own business persona, catalyses their passion and creative meaningful entity

BY NAGHAM ODEH Chief Learning Officer AUREA Consultancy

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legal > viewpoint


Can standards and other regulatory devices established by corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices be likened to legal rules and standards?


e at HEC have demonstrated that CSR increasingly operates as a genuine normative system and can even stand in for the law. This is an important development in a time when, as illustrated by the 2017 list of the ‘100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World’, corporations are increasingly proactive when it comes to CSR practices. Corporate social responsibility has enjoyed great success over the past few years, and has led to a widespread, active and inventive set of regulatory devices: codes of conduct, ethical standards, whistleblowing policies, control procedures inspired by compliance, provisions for monitoring, evaluating, and obtaining approval from external rating agencies, and more recently, performance indicators and smart mechanisms known as SMARTLaw. For a long time, lawyers dismissed these

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standards and devices, which they did not consider part of the law. Since they were not passed down from official law-making bodies they were not seen as holding a legal pedigree and could not therefore be considered as law. However, the tide now seems to be turning. CSR standards gradually seen as binding In recent years, several highly publicized legal cases have been more favourable to CSR standards. One example was the Kasky v. Nike case in which California Supreme Court justices, using a California state law provision about honest practices in commercial matters, ruled that Nike could be sued for false advertising because the company had not complied with clauses set forth by its code of conduct. Similarly, European legislation has adopted a more accommodating attitude to CSR, stating that a company’s failure to comply with commitments established by its code

of conduct constitutes a misleading commercial practice. Finally, national authorities are no longer reluctant to introduce obligations for publishing nonfinancial reports or to incorporate CSR in public procurement regulations. A complete normative system Although there has been a gradual shift towards considering CSR standards in a legal context, it has remained far too fragmented and limited to very specific situations. This phenomenon should be looked at from a global (rather than national) perspective using a pragmatic approach, by considering the effects of regulation (rather than the sources). Seen from this perspective, CSR represents a genuine normative system which can complement or even take the place of traditional legal standards, since they often play the same functionally equivalent role. The complete normative system established by CSR includes not only standards, but implementation devices and sanctions as well. Who sets CSR standards? CSR standards are set by a wide range of players from diverse sectors. Corporations are evidently among those who create or promote these CSR tools, but other participants include States (examples include the Apparel Industry Partnership Agreement in the USA or the SCS 9000T in China), regional organizations such as the European Union (the code of conduct for nanotechnologies, for example), international organizations such as the United Nations (with the Global Compact, for example), NGOs (such as the Equator Principle Association or ISO 26000), and industry associations (code of conduct of the International Federation of Toy Industries). These various groups set standards for fields as diverse as environmental protection, Internet or nanotechnology regulation, the extractive industry and energy sector, the forestry and textile industries, or even armed conflict. How are they implemented? Mechanisms have also been established to ensure the implementation of these standards. These mechanisms may be developed by public authorities and can take a variety of forms ranging from requirements for obtaining public contracts to substantial reductions of criminal fines if the accused organization can prove that it possesses and

effectively implements a code of conduct (US Sentencing Guidelines). These mechanisms can also be implemented by private actors, as is the case for the SA 8000 Standard or the Chevron Operational Excellence Management System, often in the form of an approval, label or certification. Another recent, noteworthy development is the establishment of performance indicators by third parties such as CSRHub or the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark. These indicators, which are based on international CSR standards, make it possible to compare corporate performance in legal areas of great importance such as working conditions, environmental impact, or nondiscrimination policies.


How are they enforced? Though enforcement mechanisms can be legal (e.g. judicial claim), there is a growing trend toward new processes focusing on transparency and reputation, which include peer reviews, reporting, and ranking systems. Misconduct could, for example, lead to a company’s removal from certain lists (SRI, FTSE4Good, etc.), a blaming, shaming and boycotting response, or a multinational group at the head of the network’s refusal to subcontract to a company. Moreover, the development of mechanisms known as SMARTLaw is now gradually changing CSR from a selfregulating system of voluntary compliance to a genuine global legal system, with electronic, automatic, dematerialized means of implementation and sanctioning mechanisms. The Kimberley Process – an initiative striving to eliminate “conflict diamonds” from the international market – has thus obtained support from the United Nations, civil society, and other economic players in order to implement a certification system for diamonds using blockchain technology. The goal is to prevent the flaws of the former traceability process, which was deemed ineffective and too dependent on the will of the various parties involved. All this confirms that CSR is part of a global trend driven by private and public actors, which strives to lead companies to adopt binding rules and standards in areas such as human rights, anti-corruption, and environmental protection. Therefore, it is of vital importance that managers and directors of national and transnational corporations include legal experts and in-house counsel in the design and implementation of their CSR policies 25 > QATAR TODAY > JUNE 2017





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news emerged that the Qatar News Agency had been hacked, it was assumed to be the latest in the string of cyberattacks that had become all too common of late in Qatar. No one could have predicted that it would set off a rapid chain of events that would end up isolating Qatar from its neighbours and exposing the fault lines in regional relationships. The first clue should have been the exaggerated reactions by newspapers and news channels in Saudi Arabia and the UAE to the statements reportedly made by HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani during the military graduation ceremony for the 8th batch of national service recruits in the North Camp field. Though Qatar repeatedly insisted that these statements attributed to HH the Emir were false and the QNA had been hacked, Saudi and Emirati media continued to act as if the statements were indeed true and ran several segments and opinion pieces critical of Qatari foreign policy. These statements, that supposedly tackled Iran, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda and Qatar’s uneasy relationship with US President Donald Trump, were presented as evidence that “Doha was flagrantly acting against the interests of the GCC”. The intensely combative regional and international media campaign that followed, which saw an unprecedented number of opinion pieces about Qatar in US media, took Qatari officials by surprise and foreign minister HE Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani vowed to address this issue and reassured the country that this had nothing to do with the “misunderstanding” that had occurred back in 2014 when several GCC countries had withdrawn their

Qatari Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani gives a press conference in Doha, on June 8, 2017. He rejected attempts to interfere in the country's foreign policy and said a "military solution" to the country's crisis with its Gulf neighbours was not an option. KARIM JAAFAR / AFP

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ambassadors from Qatar for over seven months. Merely a week later, this series of events would come to a head in a startling finale. In the early hours of June 5, Bahrain was the first country to make a shock announcement that would precipitate into a full-blown crisis. Bahrain’s Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a statement saying it would withdraw its diplomatic mission from Doha within 48 hours and that all Qatari diplomats should leave Bahrain within the same period. Shortly after, Saudi Arabia said it was cutting diplomatic ties to Qatar and it had pulled all Qatari troops from the ongoing war in Yemen. Both the UAE and Egypt made similar announcements on their state-run news agencies within minutes of each other. Over the next few hours and days, a few other governments joined this anti-Qatar coalition, including the internationally recognised government of Yemen led by President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the Libyan faction led by Khalifa Haftar, and the Maldives. The remaining GCC countries – Kuwait and Oman – remained out of the fray. These drastic actions were reportedly a response to Qatar’s “sponsoring violent extremism and causing regional instability”. The seriousness of this move was brought home when, in addition to abruptly suspending diplomatic relations, these countries also surprised many by cutting off land, air and sea travel to and from Qatar, including the country’s only land border with Saudi through which much of its food and construction materials were being imported. The border was sealed on the same day and reports trickled in of trucks being lined up across the border in Saudi Arabia unable to enter Qatar.The Saudi Ports Authority had notified shipping agents not to receive vessels carrying Qatari flags or ships owned by Qatari companies or individuals. The UAE’s Jebel Ali port followed suit. All but Egypt, which has 250,000 of its people

Foreign Affairs Minister of Qatar Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani speaks with his Russian counterpart during their meeting in Moscow on June 10, 2017. Yuri KADOBNOV / AFP

working here, ordered their citizens to leave Qatar and gave Qatari citizens living in their countries two weeks to leave their borders. Qatar, however, said that nationals of these countries were free to remain in the Gulf state. After a few days, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain announced hotlines to help the mixed families, a step that would aid “humanitarian cases of families shared between them and Qatar”. Qatar dismissed this hotline as “little more than a face-saving exercise” that was “too vague to have any practical impact” and was “void of a mechanism to be of assistance to those affected”. Soon Abu Dhabi’s The National newspaper said Qataris married to Emiratis will not be deported and Qataris who were “immediate relatives of Emiratis” could “pass through”. The GCC countries also clamped down on dissent and any show of sympathy or support for Qatar; Bahrain warned the island’s media outlets not to “publish or circulate anything that condones or justifies Qatari policies by any means” and those who do “will be held responsible”. “Strict and firm action will be taken against anyone who shows sympathy or any form of bias towards Qatar, or against anyone who objects to the position of the United Arab Emirates, whether it be through the means of social media, or any type of written, visual or verbal form,” Gulf News quoted the UAE Attorney-General Hamad Saif Al Shamsi as saying. Offenders could be punished with a jail term of up to 15 years and a fine of at least 500,000 dirhams ($136,000). Qatar meanwhile took the high ground on this, urging citizens and residents to keep the discussion civil on social media platforms, and, in accordance with Islamic values and Qatari culture, refrain from insulting these countries, their leaders or peoples. Some analysts saw the sudden escalation as a sign that Saudi Arabia and its allies had been emboldened by the recent visit from President Trump, in which he publicly embraced the Saudis as a leading partner in fighting terrorism and countering Iran’s influence. Now convinced of President Trump’s support, the Saudis seized the opportunity to handle the major thorn in their side – Qatar’s independent foreign policy. Soon a list of 10 Saudi demands was allegedly drawn up along with the ultimatum that Qatar had 24 hours to comply, but this couldn’t be confirmed. In any case, it would seem the Gulf would demand cutting ties with Iran, the expulsion of Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood members from Qatar and the cessation of support given to them, and may also involve the plight of Al Jazeera Media Network, which has always been a source of irritation for many of these governments. Saudi Arabia and the UAE followed this up by releasing

a list of 59 individuals and 13 entities from or associated with Qatar as part of a “terror list”. The list included several Qataris and Egyptians, including the Muslim Brotherhood cleric Yusuf Abdullah Al Qaradawi, and charity organisations like Qatar Volunteer Center, Qatar Charity, Sheikh Eid Al-Thani Charity Foundation (Eid Charity) and Sheikh Thani Bin Abdullah Foundation for Humanitarian Services. This terror list wasn’t vetted recognized by any other international entity, specifically the United Nations which said it is bound only by the list of sanctions adopted by the organs of the United Nations and the Security Council. Diplomatic back-and-forth With HH the Emir cancelling his slated address to the nation at the behest of Kuwait, it is the country’s foreign minister who has been the go-to source for Qatar’s official position. Immediately after the blockade came into effect, he started off on the first leg of a tour of major Western capitals that took him to Paris, London, Berlin, Brussels, Moscow and also Washington, DC in the future. In one of the very first statements he made, he declared that there was “no legitimate justification” for this action that was a “violation of its sovereignty” and vowed to its citizens that this will not affect their daily life. He called these sanctions “unfair” and “illegal”. 29 > QATAR TODAY > JUNE 2017



Saudi Arabia’s position was that the damage caused by economic measures taken by these Arab states against Qatar should convince it to change its policies. Qatar must end its support for Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, its foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir said. “We believe that common sense and logic will convince Qatar to take the right steps,” he said, continuing, “The decisions that were made were very strong and will have a fairly large cost on Qatar and we do not believe that Qataris want to sustain those costs.” Another official voice in the fray was that of the UAE State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, who would regularly tweet about the crisis, outlining the emirates’ position on the same. “We need a guaranteed roadmap to rebuild confidence after our covenants were broken,” he said on Twitter early on, accusing Doha of turning to “money and media and partisanship and extremism”. Qatar has consistently denied the allegations. “Regarding the reasons for this escalation, honestly, we don’t know if there were real reasons for this crisis,” HE the Foreign Minister Al Thani told Al Jazeera. “There were no indications [of a crisis] whatsoever” in the latest GCC meeting or the American-Islamic-Arab summit. Qatar had never experienced this type of hostility, even from an enemy country, he said. Declaring emphatically that “no one has the right to intervene in our foreign policy,” HE made it clear that Qatar “was not ready to surrender, and will never be ready to surrender, the independence of our foreign policy.” The other camp also seemed just as determined to see this through, with Gargash tweeting that “there’s nothing to negotiate” with Qatar and signaling Arab countries trying to isolate Doha won’t back down. “After much effort to internationalise the crisis with its brothers, after [Qatar kept] drumming up its media and screaming it is oppressed, our brother [Qatar] will soon realise the solution is in Riyadh and at [the hands of King] Salman.” The comment came a week after HE Al Thani said in a statement, “The aim is clear, and it is to impose guardianship on the state. This by itself is a violation of its [Qatar’s] sovereignty as a state.” The voice of calm and reason amidst all this has been

An employee stocks milk from Turkey at Al Meera supermarket in Doha on June 10, 2017. When Saudi Arabia closed its borders with Qatar, effectively blocking food and other supplies exported by land to Qatar, local media in Qatar reported there was already some panic buying as people stock up on food. STRINGER / AFP

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that of Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah who has been leading the mediation efforts from the first day, saying he would like to see the dispute resolved within the framework of the GCC. He flew to Saudi Arabia the very next day after the blockade was declared and has reportedly been in constant touch with HH the Emir. “It is quite difficult for us, the generation that built the GCC 37 years ago, to see the divisions among its members which may lead to undesirable consequences,” he was quoted as saying by the state news agency Kuna. He said, “Almost four decades ago, I lived the first moments of building the GCC and this is why I cannot stand silent without trying to mediate for the rapprochement among the brothers. It is a duty that I cannot walk away from. No matter how difficult the efforts, I will do my best to mediate among the brothers.” Speaking from London before he met Boris Johnson, his British counterpart, HE Al Thani said, “Diplomatic dialogue is the solution, but it needs foundations not yet available. We’re focused on solving humanitarian problems resulting from the illegal blockade.” He called on countries to support the efforts of Kuwait’s emir in finding a solution, and invited “friendly states” to participate in that effort. Food security and more As Doha’s residents started waking up to the news of what amounts to a siege, panic set in. For a country that imports 90% of its food, this is worrying news. There were reports of supermarket runs as people stockpiled food, expecting an imminent shortage. This unexpected demand, especially for perishables and dairy products, put a strain on the supply chain and shelves sat empty, further exasperating concerns. However, the government soon stepped in to ease the situation, announcing that Qatari citizens and residents will not be affected by the blockade and life will continue as normal. The country has robust contingency plans under the Qatar National Food Security Programme and these soon kicked in. Qatar Chamber held a meeting which was attended by more than 40 major food companies. The meeting discussed the alternative sources for the importers, as many of these importers have already signed agreements with other partners to ensure the flow of food and consumer

goods. Attendees assured that they have enough strategic stock of foodstuff and a variety of sources, the local market would not be affected, and they are ready to put all their stocks under the State. Briefing the press after the meeting, Chairman of QC, Shiekh Khalifa bin Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani, declared that Qatar has enough stocks of food and other consumer goods for next 12 months and there will be no shortage of food items and other materials due to closure of the only land border as over 95% of Qatari imports come through air and sea links. Faced with the prospect of being barred from the Saudi and Emirate ports, Qatar Ports Management launched a new direct service linking Hamad Port with Sohar Port in the Sultanate of Oman. The service operates three times a week and the journey will take up to one and a half days. Ahmed Al Khalaf, Chairman of International Projects Development Co., the parent company of Qatar Meat, said shipments began arriving within five days from Oman, and that about 12 vessels were headed to Qatar from Sohar and Salalah. “There are around 300 containers of fresh and frozen food coming. Some have arrived and the others are on their way.” He said about 30 shipping containers filled with his imports at the UAE’s Jebel Ali port were still stuck, but that others, including from Europe, were being diverted to Oman’s ports. Shipping company Maersk Line, which had announced that it was temporarily not accepting bookings to Qatar as feeder transshipments from Jebel Ali to Doha were suspended, soon started accepting new bookings for container shipments to Qatar from Oman. MSC also said it would deploy a new dedicated shipping service to Qatar from Salalah. Turkey has played the most visibly supportive role in this crisis with calls by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to lift the sanctions against Qatar and also by bolstering its food supplies with quick imports of dairy and poultry products. Soon supermarket shelves were filled with Turkish produce, replacing the familiar brands from Saudi Arabia, and people shared helpful tips on Twitter on what Turkish phrases to watch out for when trying to differentiate between whole milk and skimmed or fat-free chicken and regular chicken. Over the past few months, Qatar and Turkey have signed some key agreements to cooperate in the fields of security, infrastructure development and technology transfer and these strategic ties seem to be paying off for Qatar. Delivering a speech at a Ramadan fast-breaking dinner in Istanbul, President Erdogan said that Turkey would provide food and medicine to help Qatar ease its isolation despite the other nations' “displeasure”. He called on Saudi Arabia and other countries of the region to end their sanctions, calling them un-Islamic and rejecting accusations by these countries that Qatar supports terror groups. “Turkey will continue to develop our ties with Qatar, as with all our friends who have supported us in the most difficult moments,” he added in reference to last year’s failed coup. Additionally, Turkey’s parliament approved legislation allowing its troops to be deployed to a Turkish military base in Qatar and also carry out joint military training exercises. The military base, Turkey’s first such installation in the Middle East, was set up as part of an agreement signed in 2014 and has a capacity to accommodate up to 5,000 troops; it already hosts 200 Turkish soldiers.

A man selling dates and honey stands at a shop decorated with portraits of HH Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and HH the Father Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, at the popular Souq Waqif market, Doha, on June 7, 2017. STR / AFP

Morocco also decided to send airplanes loaded with food products to Qatar, according to the country’s foreign ministry statement. The document said King Mohammed VI instructed the government to do so “in accordance with our Islamic teachings especially in the holy month of Ramadan”. It stressed that the move was not connected to the Gulf crisis. Help arrived from an expected quarter when Iran offered to send shipments almost immediately after the blockade was announced, saying they can reach Qatar in 12 hours, according to Reza Nourani, chairman of the Union of Exporters of Agricultural Products. Iran Air spokesman Shahrokh Noushabadi told AFP that six planes of food exports, including fruit and vegetables, had been sent to Qatar, each aircraft carrying around 90 tonnes of cargo. Three ships loaded with 350 tonnes of food were also set to leave an Iranian port for Qatar, the Tasnim News Agency quoted a local official as saying. An unstable ally Perhaps the most confusing reaction to the crisis came from President Trump who seemed to be charting his own narrative of the country’s position on the issue through his tweets, one that seemed to contradict that coming from the state department. Even as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was telling reporters in Australia where he was currently on tour that it was important that the GCC remain a strong entity and urged the countries to find a solution through dialogue, President Trump tweeted his unequivocal support for the sanctions, even going so far as to claim credit for them. “So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism,” he tweeted. 31 > QATAR TODAY > JUNE 2017



Later, speaking at a White House dinner, he accused Qatar of “funding terrorism” at a “very high level”. With the US administration sending mixed signals in regards to its stance to the crisis, Saudi Arabia, via a statement on its state media, welcomed President Trump’s call on Qatar and other countries to increase their efforts against “terrorism” but did not respond to a state department request to ease pressure on its neighbour. Just minutes before Trump’s speech, Tillerson had urged Saudi Arabia and its allies to ease their blockade on Qatar, saying it is causing unintended humanitarian consequences and affecting the US-led fight against ISIL. He was of course referring to the US military’s Al Udeid base in Qatar which serves as a forward headquarters of United States Central Command and hosts more than 11,000 US and coalition forces. It serves as the base of operations for US air campaigns across Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. “While current operations from Al Udeid Air Base have not been interrupted or curtailed, the evolving situation is hindering our ability to plan for longer-term military operations,” Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement. Davis said Qatar remained critical for air operations against ISIL. Tillerson soon started toeing a line that carefully balanced President Trump’s outright accusations and the US’s need to maintain Qatar as an ally, saying that “Qatar has a history of supporting groups across a wide political spectrum, including those that engage in violence, and that the Emir of Qatar had made progress in halting financial support for terrorism but that he must do more”. Then news emerged that President Trump spoke by telephone with HH the Emir, expressing readiness to participate in the efforts to resolve the crisis in the GCC. HE the Foreign Minister Al Thani, however, said the Emir would not travel to Washington for GCC crisis talks suggested by President Trump because he did not want to leave his country while it is “in blockade”.

A man walks past a charity billboard in Doha, on June 9, 2017. Qatar Charity is among the organisations on the "terror list" released by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt. STRINGER / AFP 32 > QATAR TODAY > JUNE 2017

Business as usual? The Saudi-led coalition hopes that the economic losses Qatar would sustain because of these sanctions would ultimately convince the country to reconsider its foreign policy and bring it more in line with the GCC’s. But what exactly are the short and medium-term impacts of the crisis on Qatar’s economy? HE the Finance Minister Ali Sherif Al Emadi told CNBC that Qatar’s significant reserves and investment funds mean that it will not be harmed by sanctions. “We are extremely comfortable with our positions, our investments and liquidity in our systems,” he said. He explained that the countries sanctioning Qatar would also lose money because of damage to business in the region. “If we’re going to lose a dollar, they will lose a dollar also.” Analysts also say that Qatar could defend its currency for years in the face of these economic sanctions, the country’s balance sheet suggests, so the riyal’s peg to the US dollar is unlikely to fall victim to the region’s diplomatic crisis. Credit rating agency Moody’s Investors Service is concerned that the rift between Qatar and other regional states could have an impact on Doha’s credit rating if trade and capital flows are disrupted, a senior Moody’s analyst told Reuters. “There’s a high degree of uncertainty. There’s not much clarity on what could resolve this spat between Qatar and other GCC countries,” Mathias Angonin said in Dubai. “The last tension ended with no credit implications,” he said, referring to a row when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar in March 2014. “But this time around blocking sea, air and land (routes) shows a credit-negative escalation. And we’re concerned that could have a credit impact if it disrupts trade and capital flows.” Late last month, Moody’s downgraded Qatar’s credit rating by one notch to Aa3 from Aa2 with a stable outlook, citing increasing external debt and uncertainty over the sustainability of the country’s growth model over the next few years. In further news over Qatar’s economy, the central bank says transactions at home and abroad continue normally. In a statement released on QNA, the bank said Governor HE Sheikh Abdullah bin Saud Al Thani dismissed concerned over liquidity levels. However, UAE banks and other financial institutions have been instructed to search for and freeze any accounts or deposits or investments held by individuals or entities that are on the “terror list” issued by Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt. In another circular, the Central Bank advised banks and other financial institutions operating in the UAE to apply enhanced customer due diligence for any accounts they hold belonging to six Qatari banks. That stopped short of a complete ban on business with Qatar but the effect may turn out to be much the same. UAE banks were absent from Qatar’s foreign exchange and money markets, causing both those markets to slow down, because they feared any deals could expose them to legal risk, bankers said. Shares in Qatar Stock Exchange plunged 8% amid the diplomatic crisis and the country’s stock market shrank by about $11 billion in value, the most since 2010. However, the financial markets recovered following a week of losses after the blockade was announced, as the shock began to wear off and the finance minister gave reassurances that business would continue as normal.

INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said he would urge Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain along with Egypt “to ease the blockade on Qatar”. “I call on all states to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation and to find a rapid resolution through mediation,” he said. Ben STANSALL / AFP

“We cannot be happy in a situation where the relations between our partners are worsening,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. “We are in favour of resolving any disagreements through dialogue. Russia is ready to try to do everything in its power to help resolve the crisis.” Yuri KADOBNOV / AFP

The office of French President Emmanuel Macron is reportedly attempting to reconcile tensions between Qatar and its neighbours. The president said he has held a series of calls with HH the Emir, Saudi Arabia’s king, Turkey’s president and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi. Christophe Castaner, the French government spokesman, said his country was not taking sides in the Gulf spat, but said “Qatar must be completely transparent and answer precisely the questions that have been asked notably by its neighbours”. Franck PENNANT / AFP

Binali Yildirim, Turkey’s Prime Minister, said the diplomatic crisis in the Gulf could turn into a global problem if tensions flare. “A new problem area that may be created here [in Qatar] would not be limited inside the region,” he said. “The risk of this issue becoming a global problem is very high due to the geostrategic nature of the region. We call on the parties in the tension to act responsibly and contribute to reducing the tension rather than increasing it.” ADEM ALTAN / AFP

The dispute between Qatar and other Arab states could lead to war, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told a newspaper. The minister said personal talks this week with his counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, and phone calls with the foreign ministers of Iran and Kuwait underscored his concerns. “After my talks this week, I know how serious the situation is, but I believe there are also good chances to make progress.” He called for an end to the land, sea and air blockade on Qatar after a meeting with HE the Foreign Minister Al Thani in Wolfenbuettel, Germany. Philipp von Ditfurth / dpa / AFP

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A Qatar Airways plane lands at the Hamad International Airport in the Qatari capital Doha on June 12, 2017. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt banned all flights to and from the capital Doha and shut down the offices of the country's national carrier. KARIM JAAFAR / AFP

Passengers wait to check-in at a Qatar Airways counter at Hamad International Airport in Doha on June 12, 2017. Qatar Airways called on the UN's aviation body to declare a Gulf boycott against the carrier "illegal" and a violation of a 1944 convention on international air transport. KARIM JAAFAR / AFP

There were reports of shortages of US dollars at exchange houses in Qatar, making it harder for worried foreign workers to send money home, as foreign banks scaled back business with Qatari institutions because of the region’s diplomatic crisis. “We have no dollars because there is no shipment or transportation from the United Arab Emirates. There is no stock,” said a dealer at the Qatar-UAE Exchange House in Doha’s City Center mall. “The shipment is blocked from the UAE.” Meanwhile, on the seaside, ExxonMobil Corp says production and exports of liquefied natural gas from Qatar have not been affected. The growing diplomatic rift has raised concerns about global access to Qatar’s LNG, especially after some regional ports in the Gulf said they would not accept Qatari-flagged vessels. However exports of aluminium from the Qatalum metals plant in Qatar have been blocked by the UAE, Norway’s Norsk Hydro which owns a 50% stake in the Qatalum joint venture, producing more than 600,000 tonnes per year of primary aluminium for customers in Asia, Europe and the United States. “Most Qatalum shipments normally go through the large Jebel Ali port in UAE, but this port looks to be closed for all Qatar shipments,” Norsk Hydro said in a statement. Also Qatar, the world’s second largest helium producer, closed its two helium production plants because of the economic boycott imposed by other Arab states, industry sources told Reuters. The helium plants operated by RasGas, a subsidiary of state-owned Qatar Petroleum, were shut after Saudi Arabia closed its border with Qatar, blocking overland exports of the gas, a QP official told Reuters. But clearly this blockade will prove to be just as costly to Qatar’s neighbours, as evidenced by just one instance where Royal Dutch Shell had to send a replacement cargo of LNG from the United States to Dubai after the 34 > QATAR TODAY > JUNE 2017

disruption of typical trade routes from Qatar. Shell has a deal to supply the Dubai Supply Authority with LNG which it typically sources from Qatar because of its proximity. But bans on Qatari vessels entering ports in the UAE meant it had to source the LNG from elsewhere. Qatar Airways copes However, the most visible victim of the blockade has been Qatar Airways which had to cancel all its flights to the 18 destinations that it has been barred from entering. Moreover, due to restrictions of airspace use by its neighbours several flights now had to take longer, more circuitous routes and required new refueling stops. For example, the airline’s Doha-Khartoum flights previously took 3 hours 39 minutes. It now takes almost six hours because the airline can no longer send its aircraft over Saudi Arabia. Lengthier flights require considerably more fuel, a factor that will eat into the company’s profit margins on some routes. It could also discourage some passengers from flying Qatar Airways. With all air links cut off, Saudia, Air Arabia, Fly Dubai, Emirates and Etihad suspended all their flights to and from Doha. Qatar Airways had previously had a larger presence in Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE than airlines from those countries had in Qatar. Furthermore, Saudi and the UAE were Qatar Airways’ two single largest markets. Aviation analyst Kyle Bailey told AFP that this means the carrier’s profits will be severely hit by the recent Gulf dispute. “Losing these (flights) will no doubt be devastating to the carrier’s financial bottom line, wiping out about 30% of revenue,” he said. As the crisis unfolded, Qatar Airways chartered three flights on Oman Air to bring passengers from Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah to Doha. All passengers arrived safely home via Oman’s capital Muscat the day after the sanctions

Al Jazeera Media Network is an “internal affair” and there will be no discussion about the fate of the Doha-based broadcaster with nations that imposed a blockade on Qatar, HE the Foreign Minister Al Thani said. KARIM JAAFAR / AFP

were imposed. The airline has also organised a flight with Kuwait Airlines to transport remaining passengers from Saudi Arabia to Doha via Kuwait the next day. Meanwhile, all passengers booked on affected flights will be provided with alternative options, including the option of a full refund on any unused tickets and free rebooking to the nearest alternative Qatar Airways network destination, the airline said in a statement. Qatar Airways Group CEO HE Akbar Al Baker said the blockade of airspace was illegal, calling on the International Civil Aviation Authority to weigh in on this. “We have legal channels to object to this,” he said. “ICAO should heavily get involved, put their weight behind this to declare this an illegal act.” The UAE and Bahrain have signed the convention. Saudi Arabia is not a signatory. Meanwhile, speaking to Al Jazeera just after declaring a 22% profit jump from the previous year, the highest ever on record for the airline, Al Baker said that this gave the airline the opportunity to accelerate its expansion to the 24 new destinations that it had planned, which it hasn’t been able to do until now because of capacity shortage. “So though we might underperform it will not be to the extent of our neighbours. Actions like these affect air connectivity confidence and these other airlines won’t go laughing to the bank,” he said. He also complained about the unfair treatment the airline had received in these countries. “These governments have treated us like a money laundering business or drug agency. In sealing our offices, detaining our managers, kicking staff out of the offices without even allowing them to take their personal effects, they did not allow us to process refunds for affected customers. They even blocked our websites in their countries so we couldn’t communicate directly to the customers. But we will continue to support our staff in these countries and

pay their remunerations. Moreover, we will allow these other airlines to operate offices in the country as usual,” he said. Al Jazeera not on the table Central to this crisis has been the Al Jazeera Media Network. After the crisis erupted, Saudi Arabia closed Al Jazeera’s bureau in Riyadh and halted its operating licence, accusing the network of promoting “terrorist groups” in the region. Jordanian officials quickly followed, announcing the closure of the Al Jazeera bureau in Amman and the withdrawal of its operating licence. The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage issued a circular ordering all “tourist facilities” to remove satellite channels that include religious, political or moral violations, including the Al Jazeera Media Network. Those that violate this circular can face penalties, which could amount to 100,000 Saudi riyals ($26,600) or the revocation of their licence, or both. However, Qatar appears to be standing behind its biggest soft power force. Al Jazeera Media Network is an “internal affair” and there will be no discussion about the fate of the Doha-based broadcaster with nations that imposed a blockade on Qatar, HE the Foreign Minister Al Thani said. Speaking at a press conference in Paris, he had no idea why the Saudi Arabia-led bloc of nations imposed a blockade on Qatar. “It’s not about Iran or Al Jazeera,” he said. “We have no clue about the real reasons... Qatar is willing to sit and negotiate about whatever is related to Gulf security.” But he said Qatar does not accept “foreign dictations”. “Doha rejects discussing any matter related to Al Jazeera channel as it considers it an internal affair,” QNA quoted the minister as saying. “Decisions concerning the Qatari internal affairs are Qatari sovereignty – and no one has the right to interfere with them.” 35 > QATAR TODAY > JUNE 2017

affairs > bottom line





he most recent “Top Industries in the Middle East and North Africa” Survey compiled by Bayt. com revealed that twothirds of Qatari respondents are satisfied with their working hours, 61% are satisfied with their work culture, 57% are satisfied with their work-life balance, and 56% are satisfied with their job security. In terms of training and development, 58% of Qatari respondents claim to be “completely satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with the programmes available to them and half are satisfied with their career growth. When it comes to industries, women, men, and fresh grads seemed to have different thoughts on what is the best industry to work in.

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Generally, nearly a third of Qataris polled said that the most attractive industry is the government or civil service. In addition, 16% said that the military, defence, and police domains are the most attractive to them. On the other hand, Qatari women seemed to have a different opinion than those of their male counterparts: 29% said that they find health and medical services to be the most attractive. Other women, a quarter to be specific, said that they find the banking and finance sector is the most attractive. This was followed by an additional 22% of Qatari women who stated that working in the hospitality, recreation, and entertainment sectors is the most attractive. Fresh graduates seem to agree with women on one sectors: 19% of those polled said that the most attractive sector for them is the

banking and finance industry. All jobs and industries are well and good if working in them brings satisfaction, comfort, reward, and joy. And many Qataris seem to know what the most stressful sectors are. According to the research, real estate, construction, and property development emerged as the most stressful for 21% of Qatari respondents. This was followed by an additional 19% who found working in the oil, gas, and petrochemical industry to be the most stressful. In contrast, an overwhelming majority of Qataris reported that pharmaceuticals, tourism, and automotive are the least stressful industries to work in. It is eye-opening to find out which industries professionals favour working in, as it is easy to rely on false impressions. More and more professionals are becoming satisfied with their job attributes, be it training opportunities or compensation or work culture. Yet, many are on the lookout for new and better career opportunities. Having said that, another major finding of the survey is that almost half of those surveyed in Qatar are considering an industry change in the next few months – 54% of them are seeking a better salary, while 49% are seeking better career growth. With such a big number of people seeking a career change, employers are

advised to pay attention to the factors influencing employee attrition and work with us to strengthen their employer brand and their retention efforts. Recently, revealed the top keywords that employers use when looking for candidates using’s very popular search tool CV Search. The website announced that the most heavily searched keyword in 2016 on the CV Search database was “Sales”, searched for over 170,000 times in 2016 alone. This was followed by “Manager”, “Engineer”, “Accountant”, and “HR”. Other popular words included “Marketing”, “Finance”, “Project Manager”, “Assistant,” “Secretary”, “IT”, “Business”, “Development”, “Mechanical”, “Procurement”, “Design”, and “Civil”. Professionals looking to enhance the visibility and effectiveness of their profiles online can take advantage of this information and thoroughly consider this information when planning their next career move. Data for the ‘Top Industries in the Middle East and North Africa’ survey was conducted between February 23 and March 7, 2017 with 7,162 respondents from the UAE, KSA, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia

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37 > QATAR TODAY > JUNE 2017

development > tag this


Ever since China announced its grandiose vision of the New Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st century Maritime Silk Road, also known as the “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) initiative, there have been guesses what the Flying Dragon’s ambitious initiative will bring to the countries which the New Silk Road will pass through. While opinions on this vary, all the players involved see great – although not necessarily equally shared – benefits. BY SASA ZUZMAHOWSKI 38 > QATAR TODAY > JUNE 2017


he main goal of OBOR is the integration of China, especially its poorest western and southern provinces, with Eurasia through ambitious infrastructural and telecommunication projects and intensified trade. The initiative includes many regional powers, which have traditionally held divergent interests and this could prove to be one of the major challenges. This is especially true in the case of the GCC and Iran – two arch-rivals in the region. Gulf Arabs fear that Iran, with its close ties to Beijing, will benefit over all the others. So are these fears justified?

DR MOHAMMAD BAGHER FOROUGH Assistant Professor, International Relations Leiden University, Netherlands

There are no winners and losers According to Mr Jeffrey Payne, the Manager of Academic Affairs at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies in Washington, D.C., Iran is without a doubt a key focus for Chinese investment under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). “The overland route connecting China to Europe is not logistically feasible without Iran being a key component of that chain,” he told Qatar Today. Dr Mohammad Bagher Forough, Assistant Professor in International Relations at Leiden University in the Netherlands, added that Iran has a long history of good relations with China and currently a geopolitical position in the region and the world

which is naturally favourable to China’s global interests. On the other hand, Dr Forough noted that geopolitically, China-GCC relations are more complicated as some cases such as the Syrian civil war have shown. In the Syrian case, China has used its veto power at the Security Council more in line with Russia’s and Iran’s interests. In this geopolitical perspective, Iran has the advantage of being the natural ally of China. In the case of a geopolitically tense scenario, GCC


countries’ fears are relatively justified as they are more dependent on the US for security. On top of this, some fear that this may further complicate Sino-GCC relations in the light of new geopolitical frictions between the US and China and a new US administration led by the unpredictable President Trump. But relations within the unusual GCC-Iran-China triangle could be seen through different lenses as well. While Iran is undoubtedly an important player in Chinese strategy, the volume of trade between the two countries, although significant, is dwarfed by trade volume between the GCC and China. In 2016, trade between Iran and China including oil and non-oil goods amounted to $31.24 billion while trade volume between the GCC and China came to around $160 billion. In recent years, China has become the Gulf’s largest trading partner and the partnership continues to thrive. This of course raises the weight of the Gulf bloc in any future Chinese strategy. On the other hand, Dr Forough thinks that bilateral economic ties with China are for various countries (including GCC countries) so indispensable that they would stay silent about ideological and religious agendas. This is especially true in the case of the recent decision of Chinese authorities in China’s western region of Xinjiang to ban dozens of Muslim baby names as part of a crackdown on “extremism”. According to Dr Forough, Arab countries are highly 39 > QATAR TODAY > JUNE 2017

development > tag this

likely to remain silent as in the case of the “Muslim Ban” as they cannot jeopardize all the potential benefits that exist in their bilateral relations with China. The lessons from the past teach both sides to act resolutely. Arab protests and actions against China about Islam-related issues (such as the ones in relation to Xinjiang separatism issues) caused major tensions in the bilateral relations between China and Saudi Arabia. This is something that Arab countries cannot afford at the moment. According to Agatha Kratz, Associate Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, China will not differentiate and favour any of the region’s countries over others in the context of OBOR. After all, President Xi Jinping tweeted earlier this year that “we should guide economic globalisation, cushion its negative impact and deliver its benefits to all countries”. Thus, according to Payne, China’s interest in Iran as a part of the BRI does not


inherently come at the expense of the GCC, at least in the short run. China intends to deepen its economic and diplomatic footprint throughout the broader Middle East and its engagement thus far has sought to carefully navigate regional political disputes. And Tong Zhao, a fellow in Carnegie’s Nuclear Policy Program based at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, believes China is not choosing sides between the GCC countries and Iran, and is certainly not picking a fight with the United States in the Middle East. Moreover, Kratz told us that “Qatar and other GCC countries’ close relationship to Washington might actually even be a reason for China to try to develop good relations with these countries as well.” This is especially true for Qatar which is trying to diversify the list of its allies across the world, establishing close ties with basically all major world powers. Finally, King Salman’s recent official visit to Beijing delivered lucrative results for both countries, as they signed memorandums of understanding potentially worth over $65 billion. Plans for the investment, energy, space and security-military sectors may reduce concerns that Iran will be the only winner of the One Belt, One Road initiative, according to Zhao. "I don’t think China wants anyone to see its OBOR initiative through the realpolitik lenses of winners versus losers,” he says. Payne adds that Saudi Arabia, as a regional power, is a logical focus for investment and cooperation by Beijing for Payne. For him “ the agreements between Saudi Arabia and China are first and foremost about potential economic windfalls, but Beijing also recognizes the political tensions of the region and understands that key investments in the GCC can help alleviate fears about BRI’s other features.” A more engaged China? But does the success of OBOR imply a greater Chinese involvement in the region

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and what a more engaged China means for the Gulf? Kratz thinks that “China’s policy of non-interference is still very strong, although Beijing realizes it needs to be more active in international affairs, now that it has an increasing number of companies and citizens operating and living abroad. One of the ways in which China tries to get more involved – without moving away from its non-intervention stance too much – is through mediation efforts.” Not long ago, China offered to mediate talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran. As a rising power, according to Zhao, China realizes that its expanding global economic interests mean that what happens in the Middle East will have an increasingly important impact on China. The US is no longer the sole hegemon in the region. Dr Forough believes China needs to fill this vacuum. “The fact that Xi Jinping announced his willingness to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia is a sign of the times, i.e., the tectonic shifts in global geopolitics. China has to get more geopolitically engaged in the region to create a counterbalance against the US and also secure its national interests (for instance, its energy security) and economic prospects in the region.” However, Payne stated that China will engage on its own terms and be tentative in its political involvement. “Beijing has clearly indicated that it has neither the interest nor capability in becoming a regional security provider. As for China’s willingness to facilitate talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran – this is a role China has performed in other contexts (such as in Afghanistan), but there has been little evidence of any real political force behind the idea,” he explained. Qatar and OBOR China and the GCC countries are undertaking negotiations for a free trade agreement, which is expected to boost trade relations to over $500 billion in trade


volume after signing the treaty, according to the Federation of GCC Chambers Secretary General Abdul Rahim Hassan Naqi. According to some, Qatar has much potential to become a major beneficiary. With respect to China’s ambition to expand the use of its currency through opening a clearing and currency swap centre in Qatar, Beijing hopes that a growing share of its trade partnership with Qatar will be cleared in Renminbi Clearing Centre (RMB). For Dr Forough this is part of the bigger geoeconomic and geopolitical counterbalance that China is creating vis-à-vis the US in general and the global dollar hegemony in international trade and finance in particular. He said that other countries such as Russia and Iran are very sympathetic to this idea, partly because they have been the victim of financial wars and sanctions by the US. Kratz explained that opening clearing

and RMB centres in third countries is something China has been very actively doing over the past five years. The decision to choose Qatar is likely linked to the level of financial development of the country, and China’s interest in Qatar as a partner. While this is a good sign, “it is also possible and likely that China, which wants to internationalize the RMB and its use, will open more centres in other countries of the region in the future,” she continued. But nevertheless, Dr Forough said that this gives Qatar a privileged position both financially and symbolically speaking. Financially it highlights the position of Qatar on the larger regional map even more than before. However, it may be too optimistic to speak of some unique and special relations between Qatar and China, even though the relations have been constantly improving. Or more precisely, while China’s getting more interested in the region as a whole, it engages in distinct ways. So, Payne explained that “China has pursued largescale infrastructure projects with Saudi Arabia, science and technology joint ventures with the UAE, and seems to be orienting its financial institutions to work easily with Qatari institutions. It is worth remembering that China is still a relatively new actor in the Middle East, so many of its plans remain in the planning phase. Only time will tell whether China develops a “special and unique” relationship with any particular state.” All in all, OBOR, if fully developed, offers countless opportunities for all countries involved and could even contribute to lowering tensions in the region through advanced cooperation. But it is up to every state to develop its comparative advantages and maximize the impact of the Chinese initiative. Or, as an old Chinese proverb says: "the pearls don’t lie on the seashore. If you want one, you must dive for it.” And Qataris know this very well 41 > QATAR TODAY > JUNE 2017

affairs > tag this

Inmarsat’s fourth GX satellite was launched by SpaceX at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 15, 2017.

Staying connected in the sky

Ben Griffin, Regional Director Middle East and Africa, Inmarsat Aviation, talks about the company’s tie-up with Qatar Airways, and discusses in-flight connectivity.



arlier this year, in a major deal struck between British satellite telecommunications company Inmarsat and Qatar Airways (QA), the latter became the first airline from the Middle East to select GX Aviation’s in-flight broadband solution for its passengers. The certification is expected to be achieved shortly and the high-speed broadband services should be available sometime in July. According to Ben Griffin, Regional Director Middle East and Africa, Inmarsat Aviation, Qatar Airways initially selected Inmarsat's GX Aviation for its entire B777 and A350 fleets. The installation of this equipment onto the aircraft is under way on both fleets. “On the B777, this is being retrofitted onto the fleet, a process that requires full certification for airworthiness – as is the procedure for any installation on

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an airliner,” says Griffin. “On the A350 aircraft, the equipment is being line-fit (factory fit) by Airbus and will be activated later this year.” Also, QA recently came up with the Qsuite, a novel concept for its businessclass passengers, which Griffin feels is “truly revolutionary” and shows the focus Qatar Airways has on passenger comfort and cabin flexibility. However, he clarifies that the in-flight connectivity (IFC) system does not directly integrate or benefit from the many features of the Qsuite. “It is an important part of the overall investment into Qatar Airways’ passengers and their demands for the highest levels of service and comfort. The provision of dependable, high-quality broadband to passengers flying in the Qsuite will only enhance the total experience.” He adds that since Qatar Airways is its regional launch customer, Inmarsat is proud to be ensuring a successful


programme with them, but that many of the airlines in the Middle East are evaluating broadband connectivity and Inmarsat would be pleased to deliver similar services to them. Another crucial development involving Inmarsat is its integrated satellite and airto-ground network by which passengers flying over Europe are expected to enjoy a reliable high-bandwidth broadband service in the air that matches their expectations on the ground. Partnering Inmarsat in this enterprise is German telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom.

Two technicians installing the radome for Inmarsat's GX Aviation in-flight broadband service.

“The European Aviation Network (EAN) can provide up to 75Mbps to an aircraft,” says Griffin. “We can support hundreds of aircraft with high-quality broadband even during peak hours in busy traffic areas. Also, as the ground component is entirely scalable, adding further capacity to this network is both technically and economically viable.” As far as a direct comparison between EAN and the Inmarsat-Qatar Airways tie-up is concerned, Griffin says that the passenger demands of QA would be continuously monitored to ensure that the

bandwidth available is similar to what’s available on the ground. Prior to joining Inmarsat, Griffin was employed at AeroMobile, the first company to implement a GSM on board a commercial aircraft. He also worked as an aerodrome controller in Air Traffic Control in the UK before that. Those experiences have stood him in good stead in relation to his current appointment. “My time at AeroMobile helped me to understand how airlines work, how passengers’ expectations and experiences develop, and how underwhelmed passengers can be by delivering a solution that invoices a 72,000 km round trip to deliver an SMS. “As far as my time in Air Traffic Control is concerned, it taught me how to be orderly and logical and to always have a plan B. Most importantly, it helped me to develop the capability to be calm in potentially testing situations. This has proved invaluable throughout my career.” And finally, where does Inmarsat fit into the Middle-Eastern airline market, and what are the company’s plans for the aviation business in the near future? “The Middle-Eastern airline market is fascinating and exciting, and the ability to convert concepts into reality is unrivalled around the world,” says Griffin. “Our roadmap for new services is always evolving. In addition to our progress in the IFC space, we will be enhancing our safety and cockpit services to ensure airlines and aircraft operators are able to harness the power of Inmarsat in all sections of the aircraft for all purposes.” 43 > QATAR TODAY > JUNE 2017

business > marketwatch




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umbo Electronics started its operations in Qatar in 1980 with three people. Its staff now consists of around 1000 people from different nationalities, and the company is planning to open its new head office in Energy City, Lusail, in a couple of years’ time. Sajed Jassim Mohammed Sulaiman, the company’s Vice Chairman and Managing Director, says that they have been part of Qatar’s development over the years and have grown along with the nation.

The key, according to him, is the company’s “customer comes first” policy. “We have been very proactive with our strategies. To us, our customers always come first and we want to provide them with the best service possible. It’s not just about selling our products anymore. It’s about selling a product, and once it’s with the customers we make sure they can use the product and get the maximum benefits out of it. And if there’s anything they need in after-sales service, we should be there for them. This is the essence of business.”

Sulaiman adds that with a population of around 2.7 million, the market in Qatar is small and word of mouth works really well here, and that it’s even more important now that when a product is sold, the necessary spare parts are available so that if and when a customer comes back during the warranty period, the servicing/repair work is carried out smoothly. Going forward, Sulaiman says that rebranding and upgrading are going to feature in Jumbo’s scheme of things. However, he rules out doing anything drastic. “Our company basically has three main segments – B2B, B2C and real estate. We are preparing ourselves for the next ten years. Customers should always come to us and we should not look outdated. One of our latest introductions in retail is Spark, which is going to be more than just an electronics store; home automation is going to be a part of it. We did a test project in Dar Al Salam Mall. That was the first phase where we tried out how our retail should work. We have invested a lot of money in designing, and we are likely to open an outlet in one of the most prominent malls within this year. We will be handed over the site in the next few months. This location will always have its advantages with regard to footfalls since it's well connected and strategically positioned.” “I also recall the early years of LG Electronics in Qatar when we started our partnership in 1986 with Gold Star and how it has evolved as a solid brand willing and capable of winning the trust and loyalty of consumers in Qatar and worldwide. We are proud to have been LG’s faithful partner for three decades and will continue to nurture this relationship while focusing on what matters most to our local consumers as we cater to their unique needs and lifestyles,” says Sulaiman. In connection with the 30-year

partnership, LG Electronics hosted Video Home’s hierarchy at its headquarters in South Korea last year. Access was provided to their new projects, which were otherwise under wraps, and to the high-security areas in the manufacturing facilities which was a rare honour accorded to LG’s partners worldwide. Among LG’s latest products introduced recently in Qatar, the energy and timesaving Twin Tub washing machine and the 8-star DUALCOOL Inverter AC are attracting a lot of attention. The DUALCOOL Inverter AC works even at temperatures of 650C. Another of its key features is ‘Smart Diagnosis’, which allows users to remotely and conveniently check set-up, installation, troubleshooting, and other information directly from a smartphone via a SIMs module. The AC’s exclusive Gold Fin(tm) coating, which forms a protective shield on the surface of the heat exchanger, makes the surface more resistant to corrosion while improving the overall durability of the heat exchanger.


“Officials from the Environment Ministry and Kahramaa were also present during the launch of the Dual Inverter AC,” says Sulaiman. “From an environment point of view, we are among the few brands which comply fully with the regulations. The AC has low power consumption. Having seen it work, I can tell you that it’s quite userfriendly and has prominent panels on the cover where you can see the temperature quite easily. At times it’s so quiet that you don’t even know whether it’s on or not.” Among the latest products introduced by the company are the LG SIGNATURE collection which includes 4K OLED TVs, the much-awaited Wallpaper TV launched recently in Home Entertainment and TwinWash washing machines in Home Appliances, and LG G-6 – the star of the GSM range. LG SIGNATURE products bring together the company’s best technology and designs under a single name, where each product stays pure, sophisticated, and true to its essence. Qatar’s consumer electronics market is one the most lucrative in the world with high incomes and a strong consumption culture. Over the last 30 years, Video Home & Electronic Centre has played a significant role in establishing the LG brand across households in Qatar. Since 2000, the company has achieved a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.57%. Video Home expects to reach QR500 million in revenue with the LG brand by 2016 - 17. As far as Jumbo’s LG side of businesses are concerned, Sulaiman says that the company achieved a turnover of over $100 million last year, which was a landmark achievement for them. He further says the company is immensely proud of what it has achieved in the last 37 years. “The constant drive is taking us forward. Since our beginning in 1980, we have come a 45 > QATAR TODAY > JUNE 2017

business > marketwatch


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long way. We are opening one of the best buildings in Energy City in Lusail, as our new headquarters, within the next two years.” In Qatar, Video Home & Electronic Centre is also the sole distributor for some of the world’s most prominent brands like LG, Indesit, Ariston, Brother, JBL, Harman Kardon, AKG, Kyocera, Onida, Ariston, Kenwood, Morphy Richards, Supra, Olympus, Safari, Campomatic, Sunstech, Nikai, Binatone, Rotpunkt, Symphony, Dometic, Secutron, Bosch Advantage Line, Hitachi Power Tools, etc. And it is constantly adding to this list of worldclass brands. The company understands the needs of the consumers well and knows that the discerning customer wants products with features, style and the latest technology. Keeping this in mind Jumbo launched

Oscar, its own brand of electronics and appliances. Oscar’s wide product range includes a variety of air conditioners, refrigerators, chest freezers, washing machines, televisions, etc., covering a wide range of electronics, home appliances and small kitchen appliances. “We will be taking the product forward in other GCC countries as well. We have already started selling them in Bahrain. Right now, things are at a very initial stage. However, as we go along, Oscar might become one of the big names in the market.” Sulaiman’s opinion on dealing with the slowdown in the economy is clear-cut. “When things get challenging, like in 2016, you can either crib about it or fight the challenges. We found avenues beyond the scope of our business to keep our turnovers going. We have been more aggressive with our placements across the country. Though we were definitely affected, the impact was minimal.” However, he anticipates a shift in momentum as the nation gets closer to the 2022 FIFA World Cup and expects Jumbo to be a part of that momentum. “Things are picking up and will get even better from 2018 onwards. We will try to get the maximum benefits from the situation. Having said that, we will also support our government to carry out one of the best FIFA World Cups ever.” And, on the subject of Jumbo being involved with Qatar’s World Cup projects, Sulaiman feels that there will be a multitude of activities that the company will be involved with, not only with regard to the World Cup, but also for Qatar’s 2030 Vision, e.g., air conditioning, signage, and parking management systems. “Currently, most of the World Cup projects are associated with civil works, but as soon as the contracts for other projects start being awarded, there will be plenty of opportunities for us.” “Recently we introduced a vehicle inspection system suitable for inspecting vehicles entering high-security areas, residential compounds, manufacturing facilities, etc. Since security is getting more important by the day, our principals in Germany have developed a state-of-the-art security ramp for several usage purposes. Meanwhile, we understand that they have received very positive responses from European airports and harbour security companies.” Sulaiman feels that there is still quite some time to go before Jumbo starts on its

expansion plans outside the GCC, and that there’s a lot happening in Qatar as well as the other GCC countries and that pattern is going to continue in the years to come. “Currently, we’ve got enough on our hands for the next 4-5 years. We have an export business outside Doha which we run from here, and we are also planning to open an office in Dubai. After 2022, we might be looking at spreading our wings, but currently all the attention is focused here, where the competition is increasing every day.” He also talks about the company’s Oryx group of food services – Nando’s, Ocean Basket, and Captain Billy’s. “We introduced Ocean Basket in Mall of Qatar. We’ll have a total of 12 outlets in Doha by the end of this year. Because of the current challenges, we are postponing some of our development schedules to next year. So we’ll have 12 restaurants running in Qatar.” “Two of our new Nando’s outlets are coming up at Doha Festival City (DFC) and the American base. Harman House, which we opened at DFC, is one of our most beautiful outlets. Some of our really highend products like JBL are available there. Harman House has a huge range of products, with a price range of QR100 to QR25,000. And the quality maintained in the whole range of products is phenomenal.” Jumbo Electronics’ new head office which is going to be opened in Lusail is a smart building with solar panels. Sulaiman points out that 70% of energy in the building will be solar-driven, and the idea


is to further promote the concept of smart buildings because LG’s products epitomise just that. “As soon as the door is opened, the AC switches on automatically, and as soon as you leave the room, the lights go out, the TV shuts off, etc.,” he says. “This is something that LG has already started in Korea. The smart cities there have signages on the road which tell you about the traffic situation, so maybe they should be introduced in Qatar before 2022.” Sulaiman also cites personalised service provided by Jumbo, which according to him is unique. He says that when any of their customers are moving house, the company

provides assistance in the shifting of their products at nominal charges. “How many companies do that? We also have mobile units that go out to remote parts of Doha for servicing, because when you go to those areas, you need to carry spare parts. Instead of bringing it back here, we fix it then and there. Our service centre is the largest aftersales facility in the country for electronics and home appliances.” Jumbo Electronics’ 37-year journey thus far has come with its fair share of challenges, and Sulaiman stresses the constant need for improvement and innovation. He says that keeping the business sustainable over the years has not been easy, and exceeding one’s expectations in terms of growth comes with its share of problems. “At times our sales were so high that if was difficult to keep pace with our aftersales services. Another challenge we faced was the requirement of a stable partner, and then LG, which has become like a family for us, came along. The numerous hypermarkets have also made things challenging, and the competition now is much more than before. “The market today is such that if you don’t innovate you’ll be left behind because the times, business and competitors are changing. It’s very important that we put our A game on the table all the time and if we fall even a little bit behind, we’ll be left out. So, we would like to end by saying a big thank you to our customers, dealers and hypermarkets for their marvellous support.”

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development > tech talk THE LOST VOICE OF SIRI If things had turned out differently, Hollywood actor Jeff Goldblum might have been the voice of Siri. Speaking on the Today show in Australia recently, Goldblum revealed that Apple’s late co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs called him up a few decades ago to be the voice of Apple. “That was early on, and I did not know it was Steve Jobs,” he said.


CRA FURTHER LOWERS CEILING ON ROAMING The Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA) has coordinated the implementation of the second phase of the regulation on reducing roaming charges within the GCC. In the next phase of rates reduction, voice callsand SMS messages charges will be further reduced on April 1, 2018 and charges for mobile data services will be further reduced each year until 2020.



Making local voice calls within the visited country [QAR/min]



Making local voice calls to other GCC countries (including home country) [QAR/min]



Receivig voice calls [QAR/min]



Sending SMS [QAR/SMS]



Mobile Data [QAR/Mbyte]



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Dubai Police has welcomed a new member onto its force - the world’s first operational robot policeman.


he announcement was made at the opening of the fourth Gulf Information Security Expo and Conference (GISEC). The autonomous Robocop, standing 170 centimetres tall and weighing 100 kilograms, is equipped with an emotion detector which can recognise gestures and hand signals from up to 1.5 metres away. The Robocop can also detect a person’s emotions and facial—expressions - whether the individual is happy, sad, or smiling —and has the ability to change his expression and greetings accordingly to put people at ease. When patrolling the streets, the Robocop which harnesses the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and the latest smart technologies, can use its facial recognition software to help police officers identify and catch offenders, as well as broadcast live video feeds. The Robocop was pressed into

service with the patrol of high-density areas of the city. Its wide-ranging skills include the capability to map the interior of a building and navigate its path automatically via its self-control and drive feature. With a built-in tablet device, people can complete smart police services through the RoboCop using credit cards for payments, resulting in an enhanced customer service experience. The RoboCop can also transmit and communicate in six languages, including Arabic and English and more. Additionally, the robot can chat and interact, respond to public queries, shake hands and offer a military salute. Adding value to the existing police force, the robot’s integrated system allows it to be linked to various social media channels, such as Twitter, as well as artificial intelligence systems, mobile applications and websites, among others.




undreds of thousands of PCs were attacked in May by ransomware known as WannaCry, throwing government agencies and private businesses around the globe into disarray. Those who were infected found their computers locked, with hackers demanding a $300 ransom in Bitcoin to unlock the device and its files. WannaCry did not target Microsoft’s newest OS, Windows 10, and Microsoft had released a patch in March that could have addressed this vulnerability. WannaCry used an exploit known as EternalBlue developed by the US National Security Agency (NSA), which used it to go after targets of its own. Unfortunately, EternalBlue and other NSA hacking tools were leaked online last year by a group known as the Shadow Brokers, putting these powerful tools in the hands of anyone able to use them.

Microsoft took the NSA to task for “stockpiling” these vulnerabilities. “This is an emerging pattern in 2017. We have seen vulnerabilities stored by the CIA show up on WikiLeaks, and now this vulnerability stolen from the NSA has affected customers around the world,” Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, Brad Smith, wrote in a blog post that likened the leaks to the US military “having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen.” Many people had paid the ransom demanded by the hackers, though security experts warn against handing over cash because WannaCry didn’t seem to have a way of associating a payment to the person making it. Though approximately $70,000 had been paid out since the spread of the malware, there was no evidence of data recovery.


The ridesharing service admitted that an error in its calculations that resulted in drivers in New York City getting nearly $50 million less in payments.


ber had apparently been calculating New York City drivers’ earnings based on an incorrect formula. Instead of subtracting taxes and fees before collecting its 25% commission as per its nationwide agreement with drivers, Uber was collecting its take based on a ride’s total fare. It’s unclear exactly how much Uber pocketed thanks to the incorrectly applied commission, which lasted for more than two years. The company says it will refund the entire amount plus interest, which amounts to an average of $900 per driver. Using an independent estimate of 50,000 New York City-area drivers, the blunder will cost the company $45 million, according to media reports.


Dubbed China’s first “digital book of everything,” this Chinese version of Wikipedia based on the existing Chinese Encyclopedia is expected to come online next year. The project was first approved in 2011, but work didn’t commence until recently. Initially it will include over 300,000 entries, each of which will consist of roughly 1,000-word explanations. Content will be gathered from the third, and most up-to-date edition of the Chinese Encyclopedia, which pools information from over 20,000 authors consisting of university and research institute staff. In total, over 100 different disciplines are covered by the encyclopedia, and this is surely only going to expand once the move to an online resource is complete. All content will inevitably be pre-approved, and anything on Wikipedia currently blocked by China is unlikely to appear in the Chinese alternative, at least not before being censored.

Not content with stopping at foldable displays, which Samsung and other manufacturers have teased repeatedly in recent years, the Korean tech giant brought an elastic display prototype to an industry conference in Los Angeles. In addition to tolerating bends, folds, and rolls, the 9.1-inch prototype can also withstand pressure and stretches. Those properties would make it ideal not only for eye-catching phones, but also a practical feature for smartwatches and fitness trackers. But don’t expect to buy a device with a strechable screen any time soon. Samsung said in a statement that “this prototype technology is difficult to mass produce at this time, and we are unable to say when it could be released to the marketplace.” 49 > QATAR TODAY > JUNE 2017

business > marketwatch TRAVEL SUPERSONIC

Boom introduced its supersonic passenger airliner as well as the XB-1 Supersonic Demonstrator at a press conference held in Doha.

ONE TV TO RULE THEM ALL LG SIGNATURE OLED TV W was launched in Qatar as the pinnacle of LG's lineup of flat-panel TVs at it’s brand shop in Mall of Qatar. Featuring Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos sound, the 65-inch LG Signature OLED TV W exemplified by its Picture-on-Wall design is a 2017 CES Best of Innovation Award winner. LG Signature OLED TV W is available at Jumbo Electronics & LG Brand Shop at Mall of Qatar.



ulf Bridge International (GBI), a global cloud, connectivity and content enabler, announced the finalization of a significant loan refinancing deal that will allow the company to explore new business and investment opportunities and to further support its successful transformational journey. GBI sealed the QR1 billion ($285 million) loan refinancing deal with a major financial house in Qatar and the Arabian Gulf. Abdulla Al Rwaili, Executive Vice Chairman and Managing Director of GBI, said, “The support extended from the financial community demonstrates confidence in our innovative business model and future investment plans. The added liquidity will further support our transformation by enabling sustainable growth and enhanced financial flexibility to launch new strategies for business expansion.” Amr Eid, Chief Executive Officer of GBI, said, “The loan refinancing initiative comes after the capital increase by GBI’s major shareholders in Q2 2016 that reflected their confidence and aspirations in GBI’s unique transformation into a true global service provider. This loan will be longterm and will accelerate our ability to pursue organic and inorganic business opportunities, across different geographies and verticals.” 50 > QATAR TODAY > JUNE 2017


he commercial aircraft will connect the GCC to the rest of the world with flights up to 2.6 times faster than conventional airliners. For example, a flight from Doha to Sydney which takes 14 hours now, will take just 8 hours 25 minutes flying supersonic. In the same fashion, Doha to New York will be a 7 hours and 25 minuteflight versus the 13 hours and 55 minutes it takes today. The Boom airliner seats up to 55 passengers in comfort and privacy. Cruising at 60,000 feet, passengers experience less turbulence and, looking through the largest windows in commercial aviation, they see a deeper blue sky and can see Earth’s curvature, according to the press briefing. Blake Scholl, Boom Founder and CEO,said, “Qatar has one of the world’s fastest-growing airlines which leads the world in travel experience. We are delighted to bring in innovative transportation technologies and introduce Boom to Qatar where tourism is burgeoning. Supersonic will make the corners of the globe more accessible to travellers and give them more of the luxury they value most -—time.”


Galler, the Belgian chocolatier, has created a special offering for the holy month of Ramadan following the successful launch of its first boutique and tea room in the GCC at Mall of Qatar. The confectionary pioneer will be offering a Ramadan set menu for visitors to the tea room during the month, while the expert team has carefully crafted a selection of Ramadan chocolate arrangements that are visually exciting and make perfect gifts during this special time of the year.

RIA MONEY TRANSFER LAUNCHES OPERATIONS IN GCC Ria has announced its expansion and ramp-up in the GCC countries and has more than 50 key business partnerships in the banking and financial services sector.


he company’s regional headquarters in Dubai is to serve as base for expansion in the GCC, which is one of the world’s top remittance sending regions. There are approximately 15.6 million Indians living outside their country of birth and they are the largest group of the expatriate community in many GCC countries and the largest diaspora group globally. The World Bank reported that in 2015 more than $38.6 billion was sent from GCC countries to India, making it the world’s largest sending region for remittances to the world’s second most populous country.

The third largest money transfer company in the world and subsidiary of Euronet Worldwide, Ria unveils it's new remittance service to India with three new principal agents adding tens of thousands of locations to their Indian network. As well as cash pick-up, Ria also offers bank deposit services which allow customers to transfer money to any bank account in India. Ria’s new principal agents — Paul Merchants Limited, Weizmann Forex Limited and Transcorp International Limited — are well recognised in India and have more than 15 years’ experience in the money transfer sector. 51 > QATAR TODAY > JUNE 2017

tourism > marketwatch

Recreating memories The General Manager of Sharq Village & Spa, Wael Maatouk, explains why the hotel is still the number one destination in Doha for locals as well as tourists.


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he Sharq Village & Spa was built to reflect the Qatari village experience with the added element of luxury facilities and services. The Ritz-Carlton took over the management of the hotel in 2007 and over the past ten years the property has been catering to the needs of a diverse range of guests, “delivering ‘Ritz’ quality and standards of service that people have come

to expect,” according to Wael Maatouk, the General Manager of Sharq Village & Spa. A literal 10-minute drive from the airport, Sharq is almost the first hotel to be seen by those entering the city, close to the main attractions like Souq Waqif, Museum of Islamic Art and several popular malls. “The hotel has been positioned from day one as the luxury resort within the city. Here Qataris can experience their own kind of hospitality within a luxury environment

and this is specifically why tourists from all over the GCC prefer the Sharq Village & Spa.” “It is a reflection of the country and its history; every time you enter a villa, you see detailed artworks that make you feel like you are in a different world. Doha has a lot of beautiful hotels but I think Sharq is the only hotel that reflects the Qatari identity, and that is the beauty of this resort. People come to experience the Middle East hospitality and design and they trust RitzCarlton service and brand.” The hotel has 174 rooms and suites, including the one and only Royal Villa in Doha. A hotel within the hotel, the Royal Villa has a gym, five suites including the Royal Suite, a dining room, Majlis, indoor and outdoor pools, spa facilities, and its own entrance and parking facilities. “In addition to that, we have two main pools, a children’s pool, many restaurants (C-Lounge, Al Dana, and Al Jalsa) with a 400-meter private beach which only very few hotels in Doha can boast of,” says Maatouk. At Sharq Village & Spa, each dining area showcases beautiful gastronomic creations that complement the rich culture of the ancient Qatari village. At the Sharq, the dining restaurants provide the most breathtaking views, ensuring that each meal provides a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. One can enjoy a delicious light snack and a glass of bubbly in the intimate setting of the Cigar Lounge. Al Jalsa is the perfect place to unwind and enjoy a cup of the brew as it is located away from the lobby’s busy activities. The sea view restaurant of the Sharq Village & Spa overlooking Doha Bay is the newest Persian cuisine called the Parisa which means “angel”. This restaurant provides to their customers an exciting style of contemporary Persian delights. Restaurants like Al Liwan, Al Dana, and Al Wanis Shisha Terrace are all-day dining restaurants that feature a magnificent spread of Arabic mezze, salads seafood and meat along with decadent desserts. One can truly indulge in an authentic Qatari experience in these restaurants and enjoy the beverages and shisha water pipe experience. C-Lounge which is ideally located on the water’s edge, adds to the vibrant cookery mix of Doha’s culinary scene. The Sharq Village & Spa also conducts events and marriages and Gazebo is the perfect place for it, a 53 > QATAR TODAY > JUNE 2017

tourism > marketwatch romantic beachfront arena where the couple can enjoy an exquisite dinner in a very romantic atmosphere. “The 6,500-square-metre Six Senses Spa is the other highlight at the Sharq Village,” says Maatouk. The spa features four villages that encompass 23 treatment rooms; state-of-the-art fitness facilities; changing, prayer and relaxation rooms; and private majlis areas. The spa has more than 250 treatments ranging from traditional Arabian, Thai and Swedish therapies to more holistic offerings, each expertly performed by trained international therapists. The spa resort provides a separate ladies’ entrance and reception area, full-service luxury beauty salon and exercise facilities. The hotel itself is undergoing several phases of renovations, with soft renovations in the rooms that updated a lot of the technical aspects and services in the hotel like televisions and the Internet (“Recent upgrades mean the hotel will have one of the fastest Internet services in Doha,” according to Maatouk). There are several plans to redecorate the restaurants to bring an even more authentic feel and all the works are expected to be completed by 2018, to collectively bring out a newer product and newer experience. “We started working on this as part of our overall strategy to attract more tourists from Europe and main markets. This is in line with the overall strategy and vision for 2030. We started working closely with Qatar Tourism Authority two years back, attending their events and shows mainly in main markets like the UK, Germany ,France and Italy and frankly speaking a year ago we started getting many tourists after signing a lot of contracts with wholesalers and main travel agencies outside Doha in the European market,” says Maatouk In order to align itself to the Qatar Vision 2030, the hotel had adopted several strategies and over the years, has been working with the Qatar Tourism Authority to help improve the quality of events that take place in France and Germany, etc. Going forward, the hotel plans to increase its ties with new international markets, especially Asian markets like China and India. By the time 2022 arrives, the property would have completed all its renovations and would be gearing up for the tourists, ready to showcase both the brand name and quintessentially Qatari hospitality 54 > QATAR TODAY > JUNE 2017

488 GTB


The 488 GTB and 488 Spider have to live up not only to their predecessor, the 458 Italia, but also to a bloodline that takes in over four decades'-worth of award-winning, V8-powered, mid-engined Ferraris. 488 Spider


orty years on from the unveiling of Ferrari’s firstever mid-rear-engined V8 berlinetta, the 308 GTB, the prancing horse opened a new chapter in its 8-cylinder history with the launch of the 488 GTB followed by 488 Spider. Since 1975, Maranello, the home of Ferrari, has been cranking up the power outputs and squeezing in ever more technical expertise into its V8, mid-engined range, creating a beautiful, fast and powerful stable. Here we take a ride through the cars that represent the 488 family tree. 55 > QATAR TODAY > JUNE 2017

affairs > auto news FERRARI 328

Just as the 488 GTB is based, under the skin, on the 458, the 328 was a revised 308. Maranello enhanced the ‘Tipo’ V8 to 3.2 litres, liberating another 15 bhp, and added what was then a cutting-edge ABS. 7,400 Ferrari 328s were produced by the time the model was replaced by the new 348 in 1989, bringing the total for the 308/328 generation to nearly 20,000.

1975 FERRARI 308 Ferrari’s first mid-engined V8 product was introduced in 1975. The 308 is where the modern Ferrari Berlinetta bloodline truly begins. The product boasts Pininfarina styling, a 255 bhp 2.5-litre V8, and originally, a Lotus-style glass-fibre body, (only later did Ferrari switch to metal panels). Ferrari fans could select between the Coupe (GTB) or Targa (GTS) models.



The 348 owes its name to its powerful 3.4-litre V8 engine, offering 300 bhp, to comfortably outdo the competition of the era. Its Testarossainspired design was a tribute to the vibrant design tastes of the time, indeed technically, the 348 was more closely related to its big brother Testarossa than the 328. The V8 engine had been turned 90 degrees to be mounted longitudinally and set lower in the chassis. The sweet V8 had been expanded to 3.4-litres and now boasted an additional 30 bhp. And this, coupled with the much improved aerodynamics, meant that the baby Ferrari was now capable of 170 mph.


1994 FERRARI 355

Upon the passing of Enzo Ferrari, the new President, Luca di Montezemolo, was keen to demonstrate Ferrari’s ongoing dominance in the supercar market. Hence the F355, a beautiful development of the 348 with 375 bhp, Ferrari’s first paddleshift system, and superlative handling. With 109 bhp per litre, the F355 engine had the highest specific output per litre of all normally aspirated production cars when it was first manufactured. With a full 8,500 revs available, the market was responsive to its speed and responsiveness. It shared many of the dimensions of the 348, but the body and sculpting were all new. It is still revered today as one of the great Prancing Horse products of all time.

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Ferrari partnered with Alcoa to produce an entirely new all-aluminium space-frame chassis that was 40% stiffer than the F355 which had utilized steel. Along with a lightweight frame the new Pininfarina body styling deviated from traditions of the previous decade’s sharp angles and flip-up headlights. The new V8 engine, common to all versions, utilized a 3.6 litre capacity and generated 395 bhp. According to Ferrari weight was reduced by 60 kg and the 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) acceleration performance improved from 4.7 to 4.5 seconds. Media noted that the 360 Modena press car was “ludicrously quick and sounded more like Schumacher’s weekend wheels than a street car.”


Literally ‘Challenge Street’ in honour of Ferrari’s one-make race series, the 360CS was the car that set a trend for a new lightweight Ferrari. The 420 bhp makes this model the father of the Scuderia and Speciale models.

2005 FERRARI F430

The F430 features a few Enzo Ferrari hypercar influences. The brand’s F1 inspiration was also starting to become evident, with faster gearshift times, optional ceramic brakes, a greater focus on aerodynamics and an electronically controlled E-differential. The 480 bhp F430 was the first Ferrari to be fitted with the now familiar Manettino switch.


The Spider version of the Scuderia was created to celebrate Ferrari’s 16th Formula 1 Constructors title. The Spider boasted all of the F430’s stunning technology, itself the product of a close working relationship with Ferrari’s GestioneSportiva F1 racing division. The F430 Spider’s all-aluminium bodywork was also carefully strengthened to guarantee both occupant safety and the structural rigidity demanded by a high-performing car. The fully automatic hood folds away under its own flush-fitting tonneau cover, allowing Ferrari’s engineers to carefully hone the aerodynamics of the car with the hood down.


Shedding 100 kg, and gaining 20 bhp on the F430, the Scuderia was capable of 0-60 in 3.6 seconds, introduced as a faster, lighter version of the F430. Fitted with the ‘Superfast2’ semi-automatic transmission, Ferrari claimed it was as quick as an Enzo round the Fiorano test track. This car was introduced at a time when the brand was experiencing up to twoyear waiting lists for the F430, and demonstrated Maranello’s unbridled enthusiasm for introducing new cars out of passion, not necessity.




Somehow, the Speciale tops the 458 Italia with an output of 597 bhp, an extraordinary achievement that it manages with ease. Thanks to shedding 100 kg and with the addition of yet more active aerodynamics, the car is able to pull 1.3 G under acceleration. The 458 Speciale allowed Ferrari to win in two categories at the prestigious International Engine of the Year Awards for the fifth consecutive year.



Launched in 2009 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, the 458 was the allnew successor to the F430. The 4.5-litre engine produces 562 bhp, propelling the 458 to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds. Faster than the Scuderia around a circuit, the wondrous 458, complete with that aero-elastic winglet, is considered one of Ferrari’s greatest achievements. 57 > QATAR TODAY > JUNE 2017

affairs > auto news

DOMASCO LAUNCHES GS8, GA8 MODELS Doha Marketing Services Company (DOMASCO), the distributors for GAC Motor in Qatar, launched the seven-seat SUV, the GS8, and the next-generation luxury sedan, the GA8, at The St. Regis Doha.


he GS8 high-end SUV is powered by GAC Motor’s golden dynamic Ti POWER 320T engine and six-speed automatic gearbox, while the GA8 model features a driving assistance system that can navigate, raise collision alerts, and actively assist in braking. The event was attended by HE Li Chen, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China in the State of Qatar, Wang Shunsheng, Deputy General Manager, GAC Motor, Liu Haoyuan, Director of International Business Department, GAC

Motor, Faisal Sharif, Managing Director of DOMASCO, Mohammed Majeed, Sales & Marketing Manager, GAC Qatar, and other senior management representatives from DOMASCO. Speaking at the launch of the two models, Faisal Sharif, Managing Director of DOMASCO, said, “With the launch of these two models, we are now able to offer customers an even wider choice from GAC, and welcome all our customers to test-drive and experience these two amazing vehicles.”

Q-AUTO WELCOMES SECOND-GENERATION AUDI A5 Q-Auto, the official dealers of Audi in Qatar, announced the launch of the latest Audi A5 in Qatar. The model represents the second generation of the A5 Coupé, made even sportier with an all-new chassis, high-performance engines, and innovative infotainment solutions.


he two-door coupé blends elegant, emotive design with high functionality; its sportiness defined by perfectly balanced proportions featuring a long engine hood, stretched wheelbase and short overhangs. The exterior is enhanced by a flatter and wider Singleframe grille, illuminated by LED headlights. To mark the debut of the A5, Q-Auto simultaneously launched a digital competition, inspired by the brand’s five-

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star standards. The dealership invited Facebook and Instagram users to share five things they love about the new model to stand a chance to win a range of luxurious prizes. The competition garnered a significant response from the growing community of Audi lovers in Qatar, with the participation of around 330 members. Additionally, the competition reached over 380,000 people across all social media channels.

INFINITI CONCLUDES FIRST "REGIONAL SKILLS COMPETITION" Infiniti recently concluded its first-ever regional skills competition focused on regional service consultants from aftersales as part of the Infiniti Middle East Training Academy.


eld at the Dubai Autodrome, the competition pitted the skills and knowledge of eight service consultants from across the region with the aim of identifying the top three performing individuals that represent the premium motoring experience that exemplifies the Infiniti brand. “Service continues to remain a cornerstone for Infiniti in delivering our brand promise of a premium motoring experience to customers,” said Juergen Schmitz, Managing Director of Infiniti Middle East. “Our training academy for service consultants will serve as a great platform to ensure that our regional consultants are equipped with the right knowledge tools to ensure that their skills are translated to the premium values of the Infiniti brand.”

AAB TREASURE HUNT: FIRST OF ITS KIND IN QATAR Abdullah Abdulghani & Bros. Co. (AAB), the exclusive distributors of Toyota and Lexus in Qatar, held the first AAB Treasure Hunt, in collaboration with the Public Parks Department of the Ministry of Municipality and Environment (PPD-MME), in May. AAB Treasure Hunt is a CSR initiative aimed at promoting the public parks in Qatar and reminds the residents in the country about road safety practices. Of the 87 renovated and new parks across Qatar, five were visited by the participating teams. They cruised from Al Wakrah, Al Thumama Family (South) Park, Onaizah Park, Dahl Al Hamam and Al Khor before heading back to Al Abdulghani Tower for the final challenge. The winners of the first AAB Treasure Hunt received a cash prize of QR5,000, a trophy and other gifts, while the first runner-up received QR3,000 and a trophy. The second runner-up got QR1,500 and a trophy.



his Ramadan, Alfardan Sports Motors —the official dealer of Maserati in Qatar — is offering clients a special deal on its complete range of luxury sports cars to celebrate the season’s spirit of giving, with the dealership focused on providing a rewarding experience to new customers upon the purchase of a brand new Maserati during this holy month. As part of the offer, every client is entitled to a one-year comprehensive insurance scheme and warranty, and service packages that protect the vehicle for five years. The

offer also includes other services such as glass tinting, paint and leather protection, in addition to gift vouchers worth QR 5,000 of Maserati’s stylish merchandise. Alternatively, customers can can take advantage of a choice of receiving a cashback of QR50,000 when they purchase a new car. The exclusive offer is valid until the end of Ramadan and includes the coupe GranTurismo models, the sports executive sedan — Ghibli, the latest generation of Maserati’s flagship sedan — Quattroporte, and its first-ever SUV, the Levante. 59 > QATAR TODAY > JUNE 2017

affairs > auto news



aleh Al Hamad Al Mana Co., the exclusive agent of Renault in Qatar, announced the launch of the allnew Renault Megane sedan to celebrate the opening of its much-anticipated second exclusive Renault store in Qatar at Barwa Commercial Avenue. Commenting on the launch of the Renault Megane, Hisham Saleh Al Mana, Chairman, Saleh Al Hamad Al Mana Co., said, “We are witnessing a demand in Qatar for vehicles that are stylish in appeal, yet practical in functionality. The Renault Megane sedan ticks both requirements. Its new aesthetics are trendy and sporty, while the cabin exudes unparalleled levels of space and comfort for the driver and passengers alike.” The Renault Megane is characterised by a coupe-like silhouette and proportions, while its broad, sculpted shoulders exude a sportier side. The addition of a panoramic sliding glass roof administers a touch of elegance, marking a unique feature in the compact class of cars. The plush interiors have been styled with a distinct cockpit feel, packed with unrivalled technological features such as a configurable 7-inch colour TFT data display, or a portraitformat 8.7-inch multimedia tablet—R-LINK 2. In addition, the vehicle also boasts multi-sense technology that allows the driver to enjoy a safe and controlled driving experience. Powered by the SCe 140 engine, the top version of the Megane achieves a 140 hp and 193 Nm of torque from 3,750 rpm. The engines are available with X-Tronic automatic transmissions that

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Renault opens new store at Barwa Commercial Avenue, and launches the all-new Renault Megane sedan.

enhance the reliability and simplicity in everyday driving. The allnew Renault Megane sedan will be available at the two exclusive Renault stores in Qatar, located at Al Waab on Salwa Road and Barwa Commercial Avenue. Earlier, the second Renault store was inaugurated by Hisham Saleh Al Mana and Marwan Haidamous, Managing Director of Renault Middle East, alongside distinguished clients, members of the press, and top management representatives from Renault Middle East and Saleh Al Hamad Al Mana Co. The new-age store features a series of visual space identity concepts aimed at transforming customer experience with every step. Its revolutionary design offers ample engagement with visitors, immersing them in the brand’s cherished motto: Passion for Life. Commenting on the launch of the new store Renault Middle East, Managing Director, Marwan Haidamous, said, “The Renault brand has enjoyed a tremendous growth in the region. We believe that with the opening of the first dedicated store, the brand is set to reach greater heights in its path of continuous expansion in Qatar. The Renault network is transforming and committing to a new customer relationship. This new concept reflects the Renault brand’s passionate enthusiasm and closeness to customers.” The Renault store features a range of current models which include Koleos, Talisman, Captur, Duster, Symbol, Clio RS, Twizy and Dokker

city life > doha diary

After Iftar


It is a month of contrasts. Mornings of abstinence and nights of revelry. Many hotels around the city hosted their traditional Ramadan tents which served scrumptuous Iftar and Suhoor fare, not restricted to just Arabic cuisine but offering an international selection as well. The tents bustle with guests, corporate gatherings and live music performances.



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city life > doha diary



00 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria, an Italian concept originating from Los Angeles, made its Qatar debut at Doha Festival City. This branch, reportedly the first of five in Qatar, was inaugurated in the presence of the brand’s founder Anthony Carron and franchise owner Manish Jeswani. The new pizzeria offers up a selection of bases, including the 95% gluten-free base, and fresh Italian desserts and coffees. A new menu of assorted appetizers and mains has also been introduced in the new Doha branch, devised by Master Pizzaiolo Rosario Accaria, and will include a fresh take on meaty and vegetarian options.

ASANAS IN THE SKY OYSHO brought together fashion and sport with yoga sessions at some of Doha’s most scenic locations.

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o celebrate its Spring Summer 2017 collection, OYSHO teamed up with popular yoga teachers in Doha to host media, bloggers and the local community at two unique holistic events aimed at promoting health and well-being. The first yoga session, hosted exclusively for local media and influencers, took place in the breathtaking backdrops of ShangriLa Hotel Doha. From the impressive 50th floor of its tower, 20 guests had the chance to be part of a special sunset Ashtangabased flow session on the hotel’s helipad. The second event, hosted by Grand Hyatt Doha on their picturesque beach and garden area, offered complimentary access to Doha’s diverse community to two types of yoga sessions: Vinyasa Flow and the latest craze in yoga, Stand-up Paddleboard Yoga.

QATAR AT CANNES The Doha Film Institute (DFI) shone the spotlight on Qatar’s emerging talents with a special Market Screening of "Made in Qatar" films at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, in addition to its annual presentation of the dedicated programme at the Festival’s Short Film Corner.


he “Made in Qatar” selection included films like “AlJohara” directed by Nora Al Subai, a Qatari take on the classic tale of Cinderella; “Amer: An Arabian Legend” by Jassim Al Rumaihi about a legendary purebred Arabian racehorse; “Kashta” by AJ Al Thani about a father who teaches his sons how to hunt in the quiet desert, where a careless struggle between the two brothers leads to disasterand “Red” , an animation by Kholoud Al Ali that explores the spectre of fear and doubt that lives inside us all, among others. Further, DFI also hosted two emerging filmmakers from the country —Rawda Al Thani and Hend Fakhroo —as part of the delegation attending the world’s leading film event, to participate in a series of workshops, meetings, advisory sessions and events designed to advance their filmmaking careers.

Additionally, diverse films supported by DFI, either through grants or support through Qumra, had been selected for screening at Cannes, underlining the continued presence of projects nurtured by the Institute at the premier film event. These included “Plot 35” (France, Qatar/2017) by Eric Caravaca, about the place where the protagonist’s older sister, who died aged three, is buried, one that is never mentioned in the family; “Wallay” (Burkina Faso, France, Qatar/2017) by Berni Goldblat about Ady, a FrenchBurkinabéadolescent, who is sent by his father to the family village in Burkina Faso to a less-than-warm welcome; and “Nothingwood” (France, Germany, Qatar/ 2017), directed by Sonia Kronlund, a feature documentary about Salim Shaheen, the most prolific and popular actor-director-producer of Z-grade movies in Afghanistan, among many others.


Members of the cruise tourism industry gathered to celebrate the close of the 2016/17 season, which witnessed a remarkable growth in both the numbers of ships and passengers. Over 47,000 passengers and crew, an increase by over 1,000%, arrived at Qatar’s shores on board 22 cruise ships and one megayacht, an increase of 120% from the number of cruise ships received last season. The top ten nationalities that have visited Qatar on board cruise ships are British, followed by Italian, Spanish, German, Belgian, French, Swiss, American, Brazilian and Irish. Qatar Tourism Authority’s (QTA) projections show a three-fold increase in the number of ship calls over the next three years. QTA is working with partners to carefully plan, develop and manage the cruise terminal facilities, infrastructure and operations needed to achieve this growth. Once all developments are completed, projections show that the cruise industry has the potential to generate over QR350 million per annum by 2026. 65 > QATAR TODAY > JUNE 2017

A day in the life of... Rashmi Agarwal Fine silk artist

Qatar Today follows the daily routines of professionals around the country from all walks of life. By Udayan Nag

Rashmi Agarwal, in Doha for the last 13 years, has revolutionised silk painting in Qatar and the rest of the GCC region through her workshops, studio classes and exhibitions. She is the founder of Qatar-based art community MAPS and a Board member of Silk Painters International (SPIN), USA. Her ultimate dream is to see her designer scarves being donned by renowned personalities all over the world.

Ink as well as paint feature in Rashmi's work, whether it's for interiors, fashion, or a display piece.

She is also the silk painting instructor at VCUQ, where she has been teaching for the last few years. Her classes there comprise a minimum of four and a maximum of 12 students, and have taken up many of her Friday afternoons.

Rashmi’s day starts relatively early in the morning, thanks to her studio classes, conducted at her home or the community hall of her apartment complex. The sessions start at 8 a.m. and continue till 1 p.m. with a one-hour break in between.

These days, Rashmi has started giving silk painting and other art workshops on demand at various centres around the country.

Rashmi has also participated at the Souq Waqif a few years back where she conducted live workshops and displayed her art work. She is carving a niche for herself painting Pashmina (a fine type of cashmere wool) scarves.

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She has exhibited her work across the region, including Katara, Souq Waqif and the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Qatar. She also has exhibitions planned in France, Italy, UK and Russia in the near future.

During her free time, Rashmi likes to swim, listen to music, and read books till late at night. Her off days are spent with her family, which has been her pillar of strength over the years and continues to play a pivotal role in her success story.

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