Opinion

Here comes the son

Last month saw Qatar’s ruler Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani pass on the prime ministerial reigns to his 33 year old son Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

Fittingly for a man that first took control as Emir in a bloodless coup in 1996, the handing over of power was done with admirable dignity and relative calm.

While Qatar has been perceived as being immune to the pressures that caused several regime changes across the region during the Arab Spring, it still symbolises a significant shift to a younger generation.

Under Hamad, Qatar has not been afraid to intervene in foreign affairs. When the Taliban sought to open a foreign office, it was no coincidence that it did so in Doha. Bound to many countries by trading its energy exports, it has also become one of the world’s major investors. It has followed its gas.

The UK is one of its major customers and just prior to the leadership announcement it committed to almost double its investment in the country to $57 billion over the next decade.

While the Western media scratches its head over why the FIFA World Cup is coming to the tiny country, Western economists are thoroughly aware of its prominence on the global stage.

It may be difficult to draw any real conclusions in regards to its importance to the heavy equipment industry, but there are rumours that Tamim could shift the Gulf state’s emphasis on foreign investment to home.

Riding on the high price of oil, Qatar has spent its money on other country’s property or, as in the case of Egypt, propping up their economies. The young former interior minister is reportedly keen that its wealth should be minted into sovereign wealth.

We should get a clearer idea in the months ahead as to whether a younger Emir means a more dynamic approach to its affairs, but the change suggests that this a man who can take Qatar to 2022 and reach its often neglected in the media but important goals for 2030. By then he will be celebrating his 50th birthday, while his father will be close to his 80th.

Personally I’m hoping that this transition has been planned for some time and that much of the delays are ready to be cleared.

My guess is that towards the end of the year we may get to finally see Qatar is ready to seize the mettle, open its wallet and finally get the FIFA 2022 World Cup ball rolling.

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