x

Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 November 2018

Qatar emir names new foreign minister in cabinet reshuffle

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad replaces the foreign minister and merges some portfolios in what was seen as a move to cut costs after the sharp drop in oil prices.

DOHA // Qatar’s emir announced a cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday, replacing his foreign minister and merging some portfolios as the emirate grappled with the financial fallout from falling oil prices.

It was Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani’s first major reshuffle since taking power in 2013.

Seven ministerial changes were announced by the official Qatar News Agency. The most noticeable change was the removal of foreign minister Khalid bin Mohammed Al Attiyah who was appointed as minister of state for defence.

His replacement is Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdurrahman Al Thani, 35, a member of the royal family who is Qatar’s assistant foreign minister for international cooperation affairs.

Mr Al Attiyah, a 48-year-old lawyer and former fighter pilot, repeatedly defended Qatar amid renewed scrutiny over ties to militants, including the Palestinian Hamas and Syrian rebel groups. He unequivocally denied that Qatar ever funded the extremist ISIL group, which holds parts of Iraq and Syria in its self-declared caliphate.

“All these rumors against Qatar defending the extremists or supporting the extremists in Syria [have] no truth,” Mr Al Attiyah said in 2015.

As notable as the announcement of new faces was the fact that several departments would be merged, which some see as a cost-cutting measure.

Among the newly combined ministries is not only administrative development and labour, but also the departments of culture and sports, transport and communications, and municipality and the environment.

Previously, these were separate departments.

“No doubt this has to do with reducing spending and preventing sagging,” Jamal Abdullah, head of Gulf studies at Al Jazeera centre, said.

“Especially as a number of ministries intersect tasks and responsibilities, such as communications and transportation, municipal and environment.”

Qatar has already forecast a budget deficit of more than US$12 billion (Dh44bn) in 2016 – and that could increase as it was calculated at an oil price of $48 per barrel. The current price is around $32.

In addition, the emir warned last December of “wasteful spending, overstaffing and a lack of accountability” across Qatar.

* Agence France-Presse, Associated Press and Reuters