Gulf crisis will not affect World Cup 2022: Ambassador Al-hail
Yousef Bin Mohammed Al-Hail is Ambassador of the State of Qatar to the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. He assumed his post in September 2016.
Ambassador Al-Hail joined the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) in 1997 after graduating in Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Qatar in 1996.
Forty-five-year-old Al-hail had served in the Qatari Mission in South Africa and Kuwait before coming to Kathmandu as his country’s second resident ambassador to Nepal.
Qatar is hosting the 22nd edition of the World Cup in 2022.
Ambassador Al-Hail shared his views on the preparations being made to host the next World Cup and Nepal-Qatar relations in an interview with Arun Ranjit of The Rising Nepal.
Your Excellency, the 21st World Cup has come to an end, and Qatar is hosting the 22nd World Cup in 2022. How is Qatar progressing to host the next edition of the FIFA World Cup 2022? Will the present socio-economic-political crisis faced by Qatar affect the 2022 World Cup?
The Gulf crisis will not affect the hosting of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar. We have almost finished the construction of the stadiums. The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, which is the responsible body for making all preparations for the World Cup, is working according to the plan, and most likely everything will be ready before 2022. We are very proud that we are hosting the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar.
As you said, the construction of the stadiums for the FIFA World Cup 2022 is almost finished. How many stadiums have been built?
Yes, as we are ready to host the World Cup 2022. The entire stadiums’ construction is finished. Nine new stadiums have been constructed for the World Cup, and three have been renovated. All the 12 stadiums are divided among the seven host cities. They are Al-Daayen, Al-Khor, Al-Rayyan, Al-Shamal, Al-Wakrah, Doha and Umm Slal.
The world football body, FIFA, is planning to include 48 teams in the next edition of the World Cup. Is Qatar ready to be the first nation to host so many teams?
Yes, of course, as I already mentioned, we are ready to host the World Cup 2022. It might be 32 teams or 48 or more than that. We have made enough preparations to host and to provide all the facilities. We have good spaces, Fan Zone, and cities where we Qataris are eagerly waiting to welcome all the teams and supporters in Qatar.
Will all the workers who have been mobilised in the construction of the World Cup 2022 infrastructure, including Nepalis, get any kind of specific benefits during and after the World Cup 2022?
Not only Nepali migrant workers, but all the workers involved in the construction of stadiums and other World Cup 2022-related infrastructure works will get special benefits. The Qatar government has planned to issue special beneficial programmes for all those workers who will get advantage during and after the World Cup 2022.
Let’s change the context. It has been about two years since you arrived in Nepal as Ambassador of the State of Qatar. How would you describe Nepal?
Nepal is a very beautiful country. It has lots of good things. Naturally, Nepal has been gifted by God. I found Nepal is really a piece of heaven on Earth. Nepal is rich in natural beauty. I am greatly impressed by Nepal’s beauty and its people. I feel I am in my second home.
How much have you managed to explore Nepal in these two years?
When I get time I love to explore Nepal. I have visited many places. I want people from Qatar to visit Nepal at least once in their life. Nepal is a paradise. It’s a great travel destination in the world. I love to visit different places. I am really very happy to be in Nepal.
How do you assess Nepal-Qatar relations?
Diplomatic relations between Nepal and Qatar were established 40 years ago. Since then we have maintained good relations. Actually, Nepalis have built Qatar. As I said above, they helped build stadiums for the World Cup 2022. We really want to make Nepal a proud nation. Now, I think, it’s our turn to make Nepal strong. For more than 20 years, Nepalis have been serving in Qatar. Qatar also wants to make the life of the Nepalis better. So, the Qatar government changed its labour law just to facilitate Nepalis working there. Now, Nepal has a strong government. To further strengthen our relations, there should also be exchanges of high level visits from both sides.
Are the trade ties between Nepal and Qatar satisfactory? Would you identify any measure that could help boost the trade volume of the two nations?
The bilateral trade between Qatar and Nepal is now low. And one of our objectives is to improve this side and encourage business. Qatar has asked Nepal to cooperate in the sector of agricultural products. I also suggest for an exhibition of Nepali products in Qatar to boost trade. As you know, since the blockade, Qatar is not importing foodstuffs from its neighbours, therefore, this is an opportunity for Nepal to expand its export. The good news is that we signed an agreement recently to bring about positive effects on bilateral trade and in strengthening relations between the businesspeople of the two countries.
How do you find the investment climate in Nepal? Are Qatari entrepreneurs showing interest in doing business in Nepal?
Now, Nepal has a strong government. Nepal needs to attract investment. Some legal barriers need to be changed. We (Qatari citizens) are eagerly waiting to invest in Nepal. Nepal is not only a beautiful country but also has a huge opportunity to grow. It should open new areas for Qatar and other countries to invest in Nepal. Definitely, Qatari entrepreneurs are looking to invest in Nepal. I have already identified the sectors to invest, and they are agriculture and energy.
What further role should the governments and people of both the countries play in promoting tourism and socio-economic activities between the two countries?
Nepal has plenty of tourist destinations. It has good weather, archaeological heritage sites and other attractions, some publicity and advertisement campaigns about tourism in Nepal for the Qatari public could be useful. In terms of the shared activities between the people of the two countries, I believe, cultural, artistic and sport activities could be the best ways.
As an ambassador from an economically strong country, what would you suggest are the forces that bring rapid socio-economic development?
Nepal is rich in natural and human resources, and the current government has a solid plan to achieve development. I have also noticed that in the area of economic development, all the political parties share common views. Nepal needs to formulate proper policies to spearhead development activities smoothly. The tax policy should also be changed, and a small tax should be implemented to encourage businesses. The government needs to work to open branches of international banks in Nepal. If international banks come to Nepal, it will be easier to get money to construct infrastructure.
Qatar is one of the major labour destinations for Nepali workers. Would you kindly highlight something on this issue?
Obviously, Qatar is welcoming Nepali workers. More than 400,000 Nepalis are now working in Qatar. Qatar always thinks of Nepal’s better future, because Nepalis have made Qatar, now it is the turn of Qatar to support the Nepalis. Qatar has changed the sponsorship visa (Kafala System), managed the wage system. Qatar is also planning to provide Permanent Resident, or Green Card, to the skilled people working in Qatar and those willing to come to Qatar. From this programme, many Nepalis can enter Qatar. Many Nepalis now working in Qatar can apply for the green card.
It has been almost a year since Qatar has been facing a blockade. How is the situation in Qatar?
Before the blockade, we were totally dependent on our neighbouring countries. They broke relations during the Ramadan period. When we were in need of more food to break the fast, they imposed the blockade. For some time, we suffered, but now we are empowered. We have built factories inside Qatar, invested in the agriculture sector and grow food on our territory. We imported thousands of cows from the USA and other countries. Now we are producing milk and milk products. We are now overcoming the hurdles. Things are cheaper than before. We are importing things directly to Qatar. You can get everything in Qatar cheaper than before.
Has not Qatar’s diplomatic crisis with the other Gulf nations affected the Nepalis working in Qatar?
Initially, there was a great fear that the crisis would have a severe impact on the labour market, which will lead to job loss and increase the cost of living as Qatar will not be able to import the basic goods through the usual land routes via Saudi Arabia and the sea route. But surprisingly, this didn’t happen to the extent that was feared. The government swiftly ensured that all basic goods would be brought through air and other available routes from its allies like Turkey and Iran. Some companies closed their operation, which may have led to job loss of some Nepalis working there. But the overall impact was not as it was initially feared. The impact has not affected the Nepali migrant workers.