Qatar’s newly appointed emir replaced the country’s influential prime minister on Wednesday, pledging a mixture of continuity and change in an inaugural speech that focused on domestic development and rejected “arrogance” in foreign affairs.
The day after his father handed over power, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani named his long-time ally the minister of state for interior, Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser, as prime minister, replacing Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim, or HBJ.
The minister of state for foreign affairs, Khalid al-Attiyah, was named as HBJ’s replacement as foreign minister.
Regional actors have been alarmed by the increasingly activist approach of Qatar during the Arab spring, supporting rebels in Libya and Syria.
The outgoing prime minister was a towering regional figure whose brash style was effective but also irritated neighbours.
“We must avoid arrogance,” the emir said after pointing out that some may be envious of Qatar’s dazzling rise on the global stage. “Vanity leads to mistakes.”
The region’s youngest leader talked of Arab solidarity, suggesting a policy of partnership, including the “highest possible level of integration”, with his Gulf neighbours.
The emir reflected his father’s view on the region’s revolutions: “Qatar has aligned itself with the Arab people and their aspirations to live free of corruption and nepotism,” he said, adding: “Much work remains.”
Sheikh Tamim used his wide-ranging speech to reassure his domestic audience that development was high on his agenda.
Thanking his father for a “gradual revolution,” Sheikh Tamim said he hoped to live up to his trust in handing power to a younger generation, which indicated the “necessity of change.”
Assuring global markets that Qatar’s $100bn-plus wealth fund would continue to invest for future generations, he said he would carry on diversifying the country’s economy away from hydrocarbons.
The emir also vowed to strike “a balance of growth and human resources,” saying people are “our most important asset”.
“It’s natural to put the interests of the Qatari people on top of our priorities,” he said.
Sheikh Tamim said economic growth was not limited to boosting per capital income amid his drive to increase the “productivity” of his people.
Analysts are concerned that Qataris’ dependence on public sector employment hinders the economy’s long-term health, even though its massive hydrocarbon resources make it one of the world’s wealthiest states.
Sheikh Tamim also said he would be tougher in securing results from investment in education and health, key concerns for many Qataris. Speaking from a table in front of nationalistic symbols, such as ornaments of the national animal, the Arabian oryx, he also made specific reference to national identity.
Some Qataris fear that the rollercoaster growth on which the state has embarked threatens to undermine their place in society, as expatriates form 85 per cent of the population.
Sheikh Tamim also mentioned governance, said to be another area of reform for the incoming, younger cabinet. Qatar was a country of “institutions,” he said, where the “function of law” should trump officials’ power.
Analysts say the new emir may embark on a campaign to remove conflicts of interest and the use of political power to further private business interests.
The reshuffle also named a new finance minister, Ali Sharif al-Emadi, chief executive of Qatar National Bank, who is a member of the same clan as the longstanding incumbent, Youssef Kamal.
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