By way of transparency, my relationship with Qatar dates back many years as I have worked, lived and laughed in a country that has been a good friend to me and my family. Therefore, I am saddened that we have entered the second year of the regional boycott.
The boycott has economic, diplomatic and political facets and involves fellow GCC members Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain. I can only pray that a way will be found through the impasse.
It may, therefore, be notable that at the opening ceremony of the recent annual general meeting of the GCC that Saudi Arabia’s King Salman stated that he wished the political and customs union of 6 member states to survive.
At around the same time that King Salman was speaking so too was the Qatari ambassador to Australia, Mr Saad Abdulla Al-Shareef, at the Qatari Day Celebrations in Canberra.
As the ambassador spoke to a crowded room of fellow ambassadors, government officials and friends of Qatar, my mind drifted to the stories I had heard from colleagues in Doha the previous month.
These stories were of cross border family relationships being damaged as a result of the boycott, the loss of some 40 ports of entry etc but also remembrances of events like the Battle of Khafji in 1991 when Qataris sought to lay down their lives for their Saudi brothers, signifying the close brotherhood and sisterhood of Arab nations, there were many other such reminiscences of Arab connectivity’s.
However, and in terms of the boycott, what I also heard in Doha was a deafening reaffirmation of national pride in Qatar and a determination to continue the pace of economic advancement not just for Qataris but for the rest of the world.
This is not a nation in retreat by any stretch of the imagination.
When perhaps lesser nations of a mere 2.6 million would quite easily turn inward in the face of such cumulative challenges Qatar has done the exact opposite and is actually advancing its global footprint apace.
Here, I make no political comment in respect of the boycott – that is for greater mortals to consider – nor can I readily say what makes Qatar different from others who in similar circumstances would understandably capitulate to such imposts- it just is different.
What I can do however is point to the increasing mass of evidence that Qatar isn’t just stepping up to these challenges its actually taking advantage of its situation with an even greater daily confidence since the Embargo began on 27 June 2017 and that Qatar is different!
Qatar’s global engagement has always been a hallmark of this proud and accommodating nation, however I have to say that I have never before seen this level of engagement which has, since 2017, inured to make Qatar the second most competitive economy in the Arab world and has seen it move up to 30th in the World Economic Forums 2018 Global Competitiveness Report.
In terms of its regional standing in the Arab World, Qatar has moved into first position in the Competitiveness Report. It has championed the 12 Pillars that comprise competitiveness which includes institutions, infrastructure, IT adoption, macroeconomic stability, health, skills, product and labor markets, business dynamism financial systems, market size and innovative capability – in short Qatar now ticks the box in every aspect of, and for , a successful economic platform .
Notably, it is also now ranked 9th globally in terms of “efficiency of the legal framework in challenging regulations,” a major plank of a dynamic economy- although lets avoid the term “ disruptive” aka Trumpian economics – this instead is an enabling , and certain, economy.
Qatar’s ambition to be in the world’s top 10 most competitive economies by 2028 is far from a pipe dream but in fact is now entirely feasible even with the current boycott.
In fact, as Qatar pulls out of OPEC and has had to renew old partnerships and develop new ones it may be setting an example for post UK Brexit and provide a few, respectful lessons for Mrs May: be bold, be confident and be proud.