Allison Wood, consultant for global risk analysis in the Middle East and North Africa at Control Risks, pointed out to CNBC via telephone that the decision would reveal a “divide between skilled and unskilled workers” in the country. Considering the conditions for permanent residency, it is unlikely that most construction workers or nannies will qualify.

Wood pointed out that given the ongoing diplomatic rift and subsequent economic embargo imposed on Qatar by a group of fellow Gulf Corporation Countries (GCC) including Saudi Arabia, the timing of the decision was “probably not a coincidence.” Instead, it was at least in part intended to “position Qatar as a more open, forward-looking nation,” as the first of the GCC countries to make such a move.

Abdelmeguid played down suggestions that Qatar was a pioneer in its decision, pointing out that Saudi Arabia, as part of its Vision 2030 initiative to diversify its economy away from oil, had pledged to implement a similar system by 2021.

The state’s attempt to win favor among the international community was a source of skepticism for Firas Modad, terrorism and Middle East analyst at IHS, who said that the ruling was a convenient distraction from the human rights abuses of lower paid construction workers in Qatar, such as those currently building World Cup stadiums for 2022.

“The decision was aimed at better paid, high skill workers, who are far less likely to suffer rights abuses. As such, it doesn’t address the issue conditions of foreign construction workers for which Qatar has been criticized by international rights groups,” he told CNBC via e-mail.

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