Ministry reshuffle as Qatar focuses on the future

In January 2016 Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, issued Emiri Decree No. 1 of 2016 and reshuffled the state’s Council of Ministers for the first time since Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, abdicated in his favour in June 2013. The first Council of Ministers appointed by Sheikh Tamim three years ago was well received as ushering in a new and younger generation of Qataris.

More recently, the emir has discussed streamlining state institutions and reducing overlapping functions within the government. The reshuffle in January 2016 looks to have taken into account both of these points, with a number of long-serving ministers being replaced and combining the portfolios of several existing ministries, reducing the number from 18 to 14. The shake-up has both political and economic motivations. Qatar’s growth and expansion, both at home and abroad, has been one of the most notable developments in the past decade. Economically, the consolidation falls in line with the overall cost-optimisation strategy the state is currently pursuing in light of reduced hydrocarbons revenues and the impact this will have on budgets. Streamlining ministries and reducing overlaps should help to both reduce overall costs and simultaneously create a more efficient operating environment in the public sector.

A New Face

Qatar’s well known foreign minister, Khalid bin Mohammed Al Attiyah, was appointed minister of state for defence affairs and is responsible for overseeing Qatar’s military. This post also carries a position in the cabinet. The state’s defence portfolio continues to take on additional importance following a mandatory conscription bill that was enacted in 2015 requiring Qatari men between the ages of 18 and 35 to enlist in the National Service Authority. Al Attiyah was replaced by Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani. Previously the assistant foreign minister for international cooperation affairs since 2014, Sheikh Mohammed will take on the post of minister of foreign affairs. As one of Qatar’s youngest ministers at the age of 35, he will take on one of state’s most visible and contentious portfolios.

Consolidation

One of the more notable consolidations was the combining of the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, resulting in the creation of the newly established Ministry of Transport and Communications. Previously the minister of transport, Jassim bin Saif Ahmed Al Sulaiti took over the ICT portfolio in addition to maintaining the transport portfolio. Qatar’s only female minister in the previous Council of Ministers, Hessa Sultan Al Jaber, was removed from the cabinet in the reshuffle.

Qatar’s long-serving minister of culture, arts and heritage, Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al Kuwari, was also removed in the shake-up, as his ministry was combined with the Ministry of Youth and Sports, creating the Ministry of Culture and Sports. The new ministry is headed by Saleh bin Ghanem Al Ali, who held the youth and sports portfolio previously. Outgoing minister Al Kuwari has since been nominated by the state of Qatar to be the next director-general of UNESCO when the seat becomes vacant in 2017. The Ministry of Administrative Development, which is headed by Essa bin Saad Al Naimi, created in Sheikh Tamim’s first cabinet, was combined with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. Al Naimi retained his post as the head of the newly coined Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs.

Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Rumaihi was appointed the new minister of municipality and environment. Al Rumaihi was previously the assistant foreign minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 2013 and has been a diplomat since 2001. His appointment was the result of combining the Ministry of Environment with the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning.

Council Reorganisation 

Two special councils, including the Supreme Education Council (SEC) and the Supreme Council of Health, were disbanded during the restructuring. They have been replaced by the newly created Ministry of Education and Higher Education and the Ministry of Public Health. Mohammed Abdul Wahed Ali Al Hammadi, who was also previously the secretary-general of the SEC, will continue at the helm of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education. Following the dissolution of the council, the former vice-chairperson of SEC, Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani, was appointed as the CEO of Qatar Foundation (QF) in addition to maintaining her role as the vice-chairperson under the leadership of her mother Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, chairperson of QF.

Health Services

Hanan Mohamed Al Kuwari was appointed as the new Minister of Public Health, making her the fourth female minister in Qatar’s history and the only woman currently serving. Al Kuwari was previously the managing director of Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), which is responsible for managing the country’s public hospitals. The new minister of public health will also now directly oversee both HMC and Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC). PHCC has been reorganised and will continue to provide services through primary health care centres spread throughout the country, as per the ministry’s regulations and standards. The terms of reference have also been redefined for HMC, so that the managing director will be under the direct authority of the newly appointed minister. As the new minister, Al Kuwari now has responsibility for overseeing and regulating all of the state’s health care services, including private care, in addition to running the entire public health care system, including both HMC and PHCC.

Maintaining Portfolios

Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, prime minister and minister of interior, maintained his position, in addition to the deputy prime minister and minister of state for cabinet affairs, Ahmed bin Abdullah Zaid Al Mahmoud. Several ministers who were appointed in June 2013 in the emir’s first cabinet, whose portfolios are directly related to Qatar’s economic performance, maintained their portfolios, including Ali Shareef Al Emadi, minister of finance; Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim bin Mohamed Al Thani, minister of economy and commerce; and Saleh bin Mohamed Al Nabit, minister of development planning and statistics. The minister of justice, Hassan Lahdan Saqr Al Mohannadi, and the minister of awqaf and Islamic affairs, Ghaith bin Mubarak Al Kuwari, both also stayed in their previously appointed positions. One of Qatar’s longest-serving and most respected ministers, Mohammed bin Saleh Al Sada, minister of energy and industry, also maintained his portfolio. Al Sada was appointed president of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries for 2016, responsible for overseeing one of the most important players in the world’s oil market during a period of turbulence, demonstrating the role Qatar is playing internationally in the oil and gas industry.

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