The sudden irruption of what was to be called the Qatar crisis has had through the literal blockade of all movements between 4 members of the GCC countries and Egypt of populations as well as goods and services by air, land and sea to and from Qatar the effect of silencing the media that posed question marks on future GCC projects.
This crisis shows yet another difficult challenge all GCC inter-countries projects have to overcome. From a long list of projects, the first one that comes to mind is the now well-known Railway network system that is these days being finalised. This was conceived in the first place as off the need for a safer and cheaper way to move freight and people across the Gulf countries for it has always been maintained that a regional railway line would facilitate tighter economic and political integration. That was as it were the design intent whereas in reality and as revealed by this crisis, all is now a matter of the GCC railway project not being high on the list of priorities as noted by many international media. Despite that, Qatar’s railway internal loop would not prevent the rest of the line from Kuwait to Oman to proceed as scheduled. Qatar Railways is also proceeding with its lot unshaken but logistically affected with its reception of its first train reception surprisingly ahead schedule. Connection of Qatar though to the rest GCC would perhaps be put on the back burner until the crisis is over. On June 15, 2017, AMEinfo wrote on the future of GCC projects as being hampered generally. We republish excerpts of this article as a refresher for all intents and purposes.
The Qatar issue has put a couple of question marks on projects within GCC countries, such as value added tax (VAT), the WorldExpo2020 in Dubai, the World Cup 2022 in Qatar and the GCC Railway.
VAT may hit first as the deadline to start a 5 per cent consumption tax in the Gulf countries is from January 1, 2018, and final policy guidelines were supposed to be issued in June.
The GCC Railway is another important project for the region as the 2177km rail network will connect all Gulf countries. The deadline was 2018, but there is no update regarding the completion of the project.
World Expo2020 in Dubai may also be impacted should the crisis prolong. This is because companies from Qatar will not be able to participate in the trade fair billed as the biggest such event to happen in the MENA region. An Expo 2020 Dubai team had travelled to Qatar last month as part of its ‘GCC Roadshow’ to urge businesses and SMEs in the tiny peninsular country to work directly with the Expo to create partnerships and to establish a lasting presence in the UAE.
More certainly, Doha will face issues with FIFA World Cup 2022 as the Gulf country is investing billions of dollars in building stadia for the big football event.
Experts say the diplomatic rift could potentially cause delays to World Cup preparations.
“The country is heavily reliant on imported goods, but the disruption of land, air and sea trade routes would force Qatar to look for alternative trade routes for their goods, resulting in a spike in inflation,” a recent BMI Research report said.
Moreover, BMI notes, Qatar will continue to “face infrastructure delivery challenges, including the sourcing of labour and materials, and local logistics that impact the pace of construction and development”.
Qatar faces economic issues
The immediate consequences of the crisis on Qatar are huge. Some 37 million passengers cross through Doha each year. But Qatar Airways now has to fly through Iranian, Iraqi and Turkish airspace to reach Europe. Half of the food in Qatar comes via Saudi Arabia through Qatar’s only land border. 600-800 trucks per day can no longer pass. The 19 flights per day between Doha and Dubai are called off.
Among other issues, the first impact was food shortage as the country was heavily dependent on imports, mainly from Saudi Arabia through land routes. To rescue Qatar, Iran has started sending cargo planes of food to the country that includes 100 tonnes of fruit and vegetables every day. Qatar has been in talks with Iran and Turkey to secure food and water supplies.
Trade will suffer the biggest impact in the prevailing situation. Qatar’s trade with Gulf nations reached $11 billion in 2016, constituting 86 per cent of Qatar’s trade with Arab countries and 12 per cent of its international trade. The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain account for 85 per cent of Qatar’s trade with the Gulf, while Kuwait and Oman account for only 15 per cent. Qatar’s export sector in particular will suffer the biggest losses as the GCC constitutes 80 per cent of Qatar’s exports to Arab countries.
D’abord, d’où vient la Crise entre le Qatar et ses Voisins? Si elle est la plus grave depuis la création du Conseil de Coopération du Golfe (CCG) en 1981, elle n’est pas la première. En 2014, Riyad, Abou Dhabi et Manama avaient retiré pendant huit mois leurs ambassadeurs du Qatar (sans rupture des relations diplomatiques et de blocus).
Les griefs entre le Qatar et notamment l’Arabie Saoudite et les Emirats Arabes Unis sont donc anciens mais le véritable catalyseur de la crise de cette semaine est la nouvelle administration américaine.
Alors qu’en 2014, les raisons de la brouille faisaient suite au printemps arabe et à la résurgence et au soutien des Frères Musulmans – parmi d’autres groupes islamistes – par le Qatar, l’Arabie saoudite et les Émirats arabes unis ont vu ces groupes et ce mouvement comme une menace fondamentale envers leurs existences. par exemple, le coup d’État soutenu par l’Arabie saoudite et les EAU en Egypte en 2013 était censé remettre les mouvemennts des Frères Musulmans et le Qatar à leur place, ce qui a été le cas dans une large mesure. Doha a cependant continué à abriter la Confrérie sur son sol, comme le dirigeant du Hamas, ce qui reste un obstacle dans les relations avec d’autres membres du Conseil de Coopération du Golfe, dont l’Arabie saoudite et aux Émirats arabes unis.
Doha avait aussi soutenu des groupes entre 2011 et 2013 notamment dans ces « guerres civiles du Golfe » par procuration. En Libye, les « Brigades de défense de Benghazi » ont été liées au Qatar tandis qu’en Syrie, Doha a soutenu des groupes militants rivaux de ceux soutenus par l’Arabie Saoudite.
Pourquoi cette crise éclate maintenant?
Les experts ont avancé plusieurs raisons. Une explication est celle du renforcement de la relation entre Israël, l’Arabie saoudite et les Émirats arabes unis et leur volonté en commun de couper le Qatar du Hamas. De même, les relations de Doha avec Téhéran inquiètent Riyad et Abu Dhabi notamment en raison de deux appels téléphoniques récents entre l’Emir Tamim Al-Thani et le Président Hassan Rouhani.
Le veritable vecteur de la crise fut cependant l’attitude de la nouvelle administration américaine. Donald Trump et son équipe ont envoyé le message que Washington sera un allié beaucoup plus ferme que la précédente présidence américaine dans la région. Du point de vue de Riyad et Abu Dhabi, la nouvelle administration américaine leur a donné l’autorisation d’agir fortement contre leur ennuyeux voisin, le Qatar. Il s’agit donc d’isoler l’Iran mais aussi de faire quelque chose sur le front dérangeant des liens entre certains pays du Golfe, dont des Saoudiens et des Koweïtiens à des organisations extrémistes telles que Al-Qaïda et l’Etat islamique (voir à ce propos le livre le Christian Chesnot et Georges Malbrunot, “Nos très chers émirs”). Ceci inclut aussi des citoyens qatariens et des pressions existantes aux Etats-Unis, comme au Congrès, pour que des actions soient prises. Cela pourrait aller jusqu’au déménagement des installations militaires du Qatar, incluant actuellement le CENTCOM et une base aérienne majeure.
Dans ce contexte, la charge contre le Qatar est un moyen de lâcher du lest en pointant du doigt vers un coupable “idéal”.
Lundi 5 juin, le Qatar recevait Youssef al-Qaradawi. Que cela signifie-t-il?
Nous pouvons certainement voir cette rencontre à deux niveaux. Tout d’abord, elle illustre la volonté du Qatar de ne pas se laisser dicter son comportement par d’autres Etats, fussent-ils les Etats-Unis ou des régimes voisins du Conseil de Coopération du Golfe. Le Qatar a en effet toujours suivi une politique étrangère indépendante et se démarque par sa volonté de parler à tous les acteurs régionaux, quels qu’ils soient (en quelque sorte sa « marque de fabrique »). La rencontre avec Youssef al-Qaradawi peut également être vue comme un entretien qui a pour but de voir comment tactiquement répondre à cette mise au ban du Qatar sur la scène régionale et les suites donner à la relation avec les Frères Musulmans.
Est-ce qu’on peut s’attendre à une rupture des liens entre le Qatar et les Frères Musulmans ?
Pas véritablement sur le fond. Si la pression devient trop forte sur le Qatar, l’émirat prendra alors ses distances comme il l’a fait en 2014 lors du précédent incident diplomatique entre Doha, Riyad, Abou Dhabi et Manama. Ces trois pays avaient alors retiré pendant huit mois leurs ambassadeurs du Qatar mais sans rupture des relations diplomatique et à l’instauration d’un blocus contre Doha. Le Qatar avait à ce moment réduit sa relation avec la confrérie mais sans toutefois revenir sur l’essentiel de la relation stratégique entre les Frères Musulmans et l’émirat. L’incident actuel est bien le plus grave en revanche mais l’intensité de la rupture des liens entre le Qatar et les Frères Musulmans dépendra certainement de la position des Etats-Unis dans les semaines suivantes et de la volonté de l’administration Trump de mettre la pression sur le Qatar – notamment afin d’isoler l’Iran – en s’appuyant sur Ryad et Abou-Dhabi.
Dans l’optique d’une telle hypothétique rupture, le prix à payer serait certainement plus élevé pour les mouvements issus de la confrérie, que le Qatar a soutenu financièrement – comme le Hamas – ou bien médiatiquement, notamment avec sa chaine télévisée Al-Jazzera. Cela dit sur le Qatar s’engage dans un bras de fer avec les membres du Conseil de Coopération du Golfe, dont l’Arabie Saoudite, les dégâts à court terme peuvent être rapidement importants. Sa seule frontière terrestre, dont l’émirat dépend pour son approvisionnement en nourriture – importée majoritairement – est fermée, et les conséquences économiques peuvent être majeures (par exemple pour Qatar Airways) pour Doha.
Une remise en question de la relation forte entre le Qatar et les Frères Musulmans ne changerait pas trop la politique étrangère du Qatar dans la région finalement puisque Doha avait déjà revu à la baisse ses ambitions régionales afin de se concentrer sur une politique traditionnelle de médiations comme cela a été le cas en Syrie avec l’accord dit « des quatre villes ». En Libye le Qatar a cessé ses livraisons d’armes et soutient le processus de réunification patronné par l’ONU.
Shopping generally in the Middle East in 2016 statistics showed despite all predictions, an unabated upward trend and is now being taken fairly seriously by the countries of the GCCs leadership in their drive towards diversification of their respective economies. In the shopping infrastructure and profusely omnipresent throughout the numerous malls and most exclusive Shopping Centers in the GCC are the top notch locally franchised brands of imported luxury range of clothing, jewelry, shoes, etc. mainly from Europe.
Dubai, for instance has over the years become the ultimate champion city in the range and variety spread of facilities starting with its airport Duty Free area and culminating with its planned Expo 2020.
Meantime, more retail space is being provided in Dubai as well as throughout the GCCs like these shown here below as the newest 9 malls that were developed and / or completed last year. These are listed according to their size.
Mall of the World, Dubai,
To be fully completed before 2020
Nakheel Mall, Dubai
To be completed this year
Mall of Saudi, Riyadh,
To be completed in 2022
Al Diriyah Festival City Mall, Riyadh
Completion date not known to date.
Mall of Qatar, Doha
Already completed in 2016 and open to the public
Doha Festival City Mall, Doha
Completed and open to the public in 2016
Mall of Oman, Muscat
To be completed in 2020
City Center of Ishbiliyah, Riyadh
To be completed in 2018
The Pointe Mall, Dubai ,
Completed in 2016
An article of TradeArabia of 4 days ago, gives a good account on the latest in the domain and is rpublished here below.
London may have recently been named as the world capital for luxury store openings in 2016, but when it comes to a place that is vying to be the ultimate destination for luxury shopping tourism, the Middle East is set to take this crown.
Despite cities such as Paris, London and New York, the UAE has established itself as luxury shopping paradise with more than 50 shopping mega malls, regular shopping festivals, and leading designer goods, available tax-free.
And thanks to the latest tourism figures, with Dubai alone pulling in 14.9 million visitors in 2016 and Dubai International Airport still being the world’s busiest airport, with expectations of traffic at over 89 million in 2017, this surge of travellers in the region is cementing its appeal as a luxury shopping haven.
And other destinations are also rising up the ranks. In Abu Dhabi – the capital of the UAE – guest stays were up by 8 per cent in 2016, with over 4.4 million tourists clocking up a staggering 12 million guest nights, with the UK ranking number one in terms of the amount of tourists visiting from Europe. This increase in foreign tourists represents a new record for the capital of the UAE.
In addition to a long list of luxury brands and a wide variety of retail choices, the UAE’s shopping centre’s have also been globally recognised for their distinctive amenities such as one-of-a-kind ski slopes and their proximity to the iconic Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. This also includes Yas Mall, which has been built on an island, and is home to the Yas Marina Circuit which sees record numbers of international visitors attend for the Formula One every year.
And when it comes to retailers, it seems the market is also booming. The UAE, is perceived as a key long-term entry market for companies, with many entering the market or expanding their stores in the region, resulting in more intensified competition on the international global shopping stage.
With an expertise spanning six decades, one of the leading player’s in the world of beauty, fashion and gifts, The Chalhoub Group, is helping to lead this retail evolution for luxury shopping tourism globally. Its specialty department store, TRYANO in Yas Mall, bears testament to this.
With over 20,000-sq-ft of retail space and a collection of over 250 coveted international and local brands, shoppers visiting the store, which runs across three levels, experience a ‘Sculpture Garden’, a deconstructed ‘Greenhouse’ and the ‘Fountain of Youth’, an interactive digital fountain that comes to life in streams of dancing LED lights that glitter and pulse to echo visitors’ movements
Doha News‘ Victoria Scott citing BMI Research came up with this comforting piece of writing as per BIM R’s analysis and findings in a background of increasingly alarming news of upheaval reaching into the Gulf countries generally. Qatar enjoys ‘lowest political risk’ in MENA and anything contrary to that would pass perhaps unnoticed were it not for the forthcoming World Cup Football games of 2022. Seriously, the peninsula of Qatar with a population of no more than 350,000 nationals and almost 1,000,000 expatriate workers might seem to be a peace heaven to the naked eye, but it is not that different from the surrounding neighbouring countries of the GCC. The latest United Nations estimates its total to 2,321,525 as of February 24, 2017 with the median age of 30.8 years. The evocation of this piece of statistics alone would no doubt allude to all those issues that have yet to come into the open.
Qatar is likely to remain one of region’s most stable economies in the coming years due to its strong economy, top-heavy governance and politically inactive population, a new report has found.
According to BMI Research, the government’s ability “to provide its citizens with generous subsidies and economic opportunities” is a main reason for the stability.
However, Qatar has implemented some austerity measures in recent years due to lower oil prices and budget deficits.
Photo for illustrative purposes only Reem Saad / Doha News
But when asked about actions such as rising utility and gas prices, BMI told Doha News that these were “unlikely” to have a negative effect on stability.
Andrine Skjelland, MENA Country Risk Analyst at BMI, said:
“The scope of fiscal consolidation remains limited, and the overall impact on Qatari citizens’ living standards will be minimal.
In any case, we believe the government would be quick to scale back measures at first signs of significant popular discontent, preventing unrest from spreading.”
However, BMI’s report noted that political involvement from Qatari citizens is expected to remain “minimal.” Additionally, it forecast that foreign workers will continue to be subject to “heavy restrictions.”
It added that national policies will continue to be shaped by “a small group of elite decision makers” who face few constraints, “in turn ensuring broad policy continuity.”
BMI was also optimistic in terms of the big picture. For example, it asserted that Qatar’s diplomatic ties with the US will remain strong.
This is despite Donald Trump’s presidency and his views on radical Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood.
The report concluded that the continued US military presence at the Al Udeid air base and deep economic ties between the two countries will outweigh other US foreign policy concerns.
BMI’s experts added that a softer focus on human rights by the US would likely work in Qatar’s favor.
“Compared with the previous administration, we expect the US government under Trump to focus less on human rights issues and the spread of democracy in its foreign policy – a trend that will likely be welcomed in Doha, as it limits the potential for external pressure on it to implement political and social reforms.”
Muslim Brotherhood links
Trump’s team is also currently debating whether to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.
This move could strain diplomatic relations between the US and Qatar, whose support of the group in Egypt has caused past conflict with its neighbors.
European External Action Service
However, BMI asserted that Qatar’s ability to act as a peace-broker in the region, coupled with financial and military concerns, guarantee that the two countries won’t fall out over the issue.
“Doha’s ties to a broad range of state and non-state actors mean it is still considered a facilitator of MENA negotiations in Washington,” the report stated.
“The two countries also have deep trade links, particularly in the energy sector, and Doha has announced plans to invest $45bn in the US over the next five years.”
BMI added that Qatar would likely yield to US pressure over its Muslim Brotherhood ties if required to do so.
This is because relations with the US and other GCC countries are becoming increasingly important amid regional instability, according to the report’s authors.
We have written on numerous occasions on Qatar’s policy of qatarisation (Ref. 15 years of Qatarisation), here is DohaNews produced article on Qatar peculiar situation of its minority autochthonous population. We could safely say that it is about the same situation in all countries of the GCC.
Qatar’s population is continuing to grow, but the number of Qatari nationals remains fairly static, at around 10 percent of the country’s residents, according to some estimates.
However, it used to be as high as 42 percent, according to Priya D’Souza.
The former editor of BQ Magazine was born in Qatar, and her family has lived in the country since the 1950s.
However, Qatari nationality is passed down almost exclusively through the father’s bloodline, and expats who are born in Qatar are not usually granted citizenship.
D’Souza recently left Qatar for good, and is now writing a series of posts for website calloftravel.com to “shed some clarity on the Qatar community (both local and migrant) to aid those looking to make Qatar home for the next few years.”
She also charts the changing relationships between the local population and expats. Her family for example still has close friendships with Qatari families they have known for almost 70 years.
But it is difficult to call a country home and not a hold passport to that nation, she added. All families who have lived here for generations “have at some point hoped for Qatari citizenship.”
Now, changes appear to be afoot among this population, with many long-term resident families considering, “for the first time in decades” leaving Qatar.
She didn’t elaborate why, but added:
“While Qatar will always hold a special place in my heart as the country I was born in, the Qatar of the last decade and what it is turning into, is the reason I had very little choice but to leave,” she said.
D’Souza’s future posts will cover topics such as how safe the country is; whether Qatari society is hypocritical; migrant worker rights and treatment; working in Qatar and censorship; and Qatarization.
Today December 18, is Qatar National Day. UN Arabic Language Day on December 18 is observed annually; it was chosen as the date for the Arabic language as it is “the day in 1973 when the General Assembly approved Arabic as an official UN language:” Wikipedia.
The National posted an article to mark the UN Arabic Language Day on December 18, Anna Zacharias, a former journalist at The National, tells us about her time in Oman.
Last year, I left work in the UAE to study Arabic full-time in Oman. After almost two decades in the Arabian Gulf, I decided it was time.
When I first arrived from Canada at the age 13, Arabic wasn’t offered to me at school. I was told I was too old to learn the language and I should focus on GCSE French. I didn’t mind. I only planned to stay a couple of years in the Gulf.
Years passed. I picked up what academics call Gulf Pidgin Arabic or “taxi Arabic”, a mish mash of Arabic, English, Urdu and Hindi spoken by South Asian labourers, maids and shopkeepers. I had a smattering of Emirati words from majlis sessions but no grammar on which to hang these nouns.
Occasional attempts to fill in the gaps failed. I would register in classes and drop them when teachers, unhappy with my linguistic potpourri, wanted to start from the beginning. Again.
I wanted to study a Gulf dialect in addition to Modern Standard Arabic. A friend recommended a school in Muscat.
Another friend kindly gave me a crash course before I left. He began with the same introduction to Arabic he had received decades before: “Any word in Arabic means what it is. Any word in Arabic also means the opposite.”
In our first two hours, he did not teach me grammar or new vocabulary. Instead, we flipped through his thick, old dictionary. Each Arabic word is based on a two or three letter root, and the meaning changes when this root is fitted into different patterns.
My friend guided me to a favourite, a four-page entry for the root “qbl” and its associate words: to receive, to kiss, a tribe, the Qibla and a hotel reception.
He taught me the grammar that mattered most. “Don’t worry about the dual feminine,” he told me. “Only the stuffiest people will expect you to use it.”
The fourth question on my placement test was about the dual feminine. I did something I had never done in my life – I cheated.
When asked about my education, I wrote 100 words in perfect pidgin: “Ana kalimat. Grammar mafi. Yanni fi, bas mafi ziyada.” A rough translation: “I am words. Nothing grammar. I mean, exists, but not manys.” To fellow pidgin speakers, my response was clear and powerful. Eloquent, even.
When I arrived in Muscat, they ask me to recite the alphabet. I could read but did not know the names for letters. I was placed in a class for absolute beginners. All my cheating had been for nothing. This was my first lesson in Arabic language pedagogy: Arabic is taught sequentially. It is a line dance, not a breakdance.
In most Arabic classrooms, Fusha is king. Fusha is literary Arabic, a term that includes classical Arabic and media (Modern Standard) Arabic. Most classes teach Fusha rather than the Arabic spoken and used in daily life, like Egyptian or Lebanese Arabic.
For scholars and journalists, learning literary Arabic makes sense. For people interested in travel and chit-chat, it’s like learning Latin for a trip to Europe. Will you be able to learn other Romance languages quickly after you master Latin? Yes. Is it the best way to prepare for that trip to France? Probably not.
Part of the Fusha fixation is in deference to its beauty. But it’s easier to sell Arabic classes marketed as the world’s fifth most-spoken language.
Shortly after my programme began, the American students arrived with backpacks, baseball caps and clear Fusha. They came from universities across the United States. They had beautiful handwriting and some had studied Arabic for years. They loved to talk about how difficult Arabic was. “As hard as Chinese.” I heard this at least once a day.
The new students also came with an extensive political vocabulary. They knew words like “diplomat” and “United Nations” and “draft resolution”. But in our first conversation class, many did not understand when the teacher asked whether they preferred tea or coffee.
Textbooks focus on politics at the expense of culture. This is unforgivable in a language built on social eloquence. More worrying is the reinforced association of Arabic and the Arab with violence and politics. In all my years, I’ve had exactly one conversation in Arabic about a car bomb. I’ve had about 5,793 on tea. Words for tea are not in the textbooks. Nor are words for politely refusing a third serving of mandi.
There is much talk of Arabic being at risk, of a decline in usage. Meanwhile, conversations about the best form of Arabic are still more common than discussions on how to best engage students or present Arabic in a way that reflects the diversity and warmth of contemporary Arab cultures.
The best way to preserve a language is to share it. Our teachers in Oman understood this. My teachers were poets, familiar with both high Arabic and the banter of the Gulf. Our classes were filled with frankincense, our bellies with luqaimat dumplings, our ears with verses of pre-Islamic love poetry or first hand tales of djinn. My teachers knew the truth: the only rocket students should learn about is the rocket shawarmah.
Anna Zacharias is a former journalist at The National.