Dubai: Amid growing concerns its expatriates are pondering flowing out of the country following the inexorably growing crisis that erupted on June 5, Qatar has moved to offer some of its foreigners a new residence status that could motivate them to stay.
Qatar, where foreigners make up 88 per cent of the total population, hopes that by affording skilled expatriates the same education and healthcare rights as Qataris and property ownership, it will not lose them and, will not have, consequently, to face inevitable crippling challenges.
“Qatar is now moving ahead with a plan to ensure it keeps the people it desperately needs in the country following the mounting pressure resulting from the new situation after three Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and Egypt severed their diplomatic and trade ties with Doha,” Mohammad Jaber, an analyst, said.
“It also wants to play a charm offensive game to win sympathy for adopting a more friendly and flexible approach with expatriates in a region where the sponsorship system has been dominant.”
On his part, UAE Minister of State and Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, said that Qatar’s dependency on media, marketing “fictitious” accounts, has been exposed as it counters “human logic”.
Under the new scheme announced by the cabinet, permanent residency ID holders will receive the same treatment as Qataris in education and healthcare in public institutions and will be given priority, after locals, in holding public military and civil jobs.
“In addition, holders of that ID have the right to own property and engage in some commercial businesses without the need to have a Qatari partner, in line with the executive decisions that will be issued by the cabinet according to the provisions of the law,” a statement issued on Wednesday said.
The husbands of local women and those with “special competencies” needed by the state can also qualify.
Comments on social media were more cautious than enthusiastic.
“What about your kids? Does it get passed down to them? If not, then still no real incentive to stay in Qatar long time,” the commenter posted.
“I wouldn’t get too excited, it’s probably more of an aspiration than something that is likely to happen.”
Foreigners keen on the status must apply to the Ministry of Interior, but their application will have to be approved by a special committee to be set up to sift through the applications.
The idea of granting foreigners with “special competencies” a more secure permanent residency status in Qatar had been floating for several years.
Several people born and raised in Qatar have also called for the special status that would eliminate the sponsorship rules and exit permit requirements and would give them priority in hiring and flexible property ownership.
The official Qatar’s National Development Strategy 2011-2016, concluding that “turnover is substantial among high-skilled labour, especially in the health and education sectors, and that the rising proportion of expatriate workers in the past decade has created considerable risks, including to the economy, should a major crisis force expatriates to leave”, recommended “a recruitment and retention programme, including a review and revision as may be necessary, of Qatar’s sponsorship system,” as part of the country’s efforts to retain skilled expatriates.
However, the state seemed to ignore the recommendation until Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt severed their ties with Qatar and Doha found itself in the face of new challenges that could make thousands of skilled expatriates leave the country.