After A Successful Visit To Qatar, WHAT NEXT?
By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
It is now clear that the few days state visit of President Sirleaf to the State of Qatar has yielded fruitful results, considering the signing of several agreements and a commitment on the part of that country’s government for an investment mission to this country to explore the possibility of investing in Liberia. Describing her visit as “successful,” owing to the number of agreements reached and marathon and painstaking with different sectors of the Qatari society, President Sirleaf said she remains commitment to getting the commitments and also seeking support for the country’s post-war development program.
The signing of the agreements followed bilateral talks between President Sirleaf and her Qatari counterpart. The agreements are the agreements on air transport; an agreement on economic, trading and technical cooperation; an agreement on encouragement and protection of mutual investments between the two countries; and an agreement on regularizing the use of Liberian workers in Qatar.
Noticeably, of all the results or outcome of the meetings in that country, are the commitment for Qatar Airways, one of the largest in the world to begin flying to Liberia soon and the pending visit of an investment mission to Liberia. Also, of great importance and very useful is the attempt to use Liberian workers in that country.
Particularly, based on what I have seen in that country for the second time, I take interest in the issue of using Liberians to work in that country, especially in the building or construction industry. Anyone entering that country would be impressed over the architectural designs of buildings and the number of skyscrapers in that country. With plan to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022, there are more designs of buildings to add to the beauty of that country.
My point of interest is that by the use of Liberians in that country in that country engulfed in construction, these Liberians will discover these modern constructions and build their skills in the construction industry. This is necessary in the face of unemployment in the country. Furthermore, my other interest is about the Qatar Foundation, which has vast experience in the educational field, as Liberia is still struggling to reform its educational system, to better equip and prepare its students to face future challenges.
Amazingly, it is of interest to note that the foreign workforce is more than the actual citizens of that country. While in Qatar, it was gathered that the foreign workers are more than the citizens of that country. The population is put at about 300,000, while the Indian workforce alone is put at more than 500,000, followed by other foreign nationals.
Research also shows that Qatar projects market is the fastest growing projects market in the region as it gears up its infrastructure in preparation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Doha is working against the clock to ensure it has everything ready in time for the global showcase. Currently MEED Projects is tracking more than 650 Qatar projects worth over $170 billion in oil, gas, construction, water, transport and other key sectors from design stages through to completion.
The 2010 census recorded the total population at 1,699,435. In January 2013, the Qatar Statistics Authority estimated the country’s population at 1,903,447, of which 1,405,164 were males and 498,283 females. At the time of the first census held in 1970, the population was 111,133.
The country’s population has tripled in the decade to 2011, up from just over 600,000 people in 2001, leaving Qatari nationals as less than 15% of the total population. The influx of male laborers has skewed the gender balance, and women are now just one-quarter of the population.
Non-Arabs make up the majority of Qatar’s population, and government’s statistics refer to them as non-Qatari. As of 2013, the four largest ethnic groups are Arab 40%, Indian 18%, Pakistani 18%, and Iranian 10%. Of the remaining 14%, the most prevalent ethnicities are Nepali, Filipino, and Sri Lankans; however, exact percentages are unavailable.
Intuitively, judging from this statistics, one is left to realize that indeed the foreign workforce or foreign nationals are more than the actual citizens of that rich country. Just by entering the country one would visibly observe this situation of more migrant workers.
Interestingly, during my first visit to that country on the activities of the LEITI, with Cllr. Negbalee Warner, as its head, I was shocked when I saw the number of foreign nationals, especially Indians and Chinese working as we drove to the hotel. Initially, I thought they were naturalized citizens of that country. It was later that I gathered that they were migrant workers.
From my two visits to that country, I am convinced that Qatar has great opportunities for employment, and that Liberians, too, can benefit from those opportunities and more over upgrade their skills in the building industry. These Liberians, based on what I saw, would be exposed to modern construction and designs, such as the one with the National Social Security & Welfare (NASSCORP) building at the intersection of ELWA.
Regarding the Qatar Foundation, Liberia stands to benefit from its experience over the years, which has taken that country from its journey from a carbon economy to a knowledge economy by unlocking human potential. Besides, it is aimed at unlocking human potential through its three pillars of Education, Science & Research and Community Development, which it believes would benefit not only Qatar, but the region and the world.
The Foundation says it brings world-class education, work experience and career opportunities to Qatar’s young people and that it builds Qatar’s innovation and technology capacity by developing and commercializing solutions through key sciences.
Certainly, as someone who formed part of the President’s delegation to that country, I agree that it was fruitful, in view of the number of persons that the President held discussions with and the areas she visited. While the President has all reason to refer to her visit as being “successful,” one thing that is of concern, for which I asked her during a chat, was the issue of “follow up” for the realization of these concrete agreements and commitments she got during discussions with institutions, groups and individuals in that country, to contribute towards ongoing development program.
For this, the President acknowledged that this is a problem, but hopes that the situation would improve. She stressed the importance of follow up. Many times when such successful visits or trips are made, there are always commitments to contribute to post-war reconstruction, but it has been observed that because of the lack of follow up on some of these commitments from these visits, the outcome had not come to fruition.
I am told that today, presidential press secretary, Jerolinmick Piah, is in trouble with some Liberians for putting his neck on the chopping board that by the time of the end of the second term of Madam Sirleaf, there would be a new terminal. Today, it is clear that this is not possible. He reportedly made the promise based on information from a visit. I know his statement was made figuratively; it is only an embarrassment to him that what he had envisaged, based on information available at the time, would not be realized.
Considering the benefits of this aspect of the President’s visit, it is my hope that this would not be business as usual, because of the government’s failure to follow up on these commitments. We are in need; therefore, we must pursue these, as we are involved in reconstruction. There is much to gain from that country on the issue of construction and education.
Until we realize how useful the implementation of these agreements and commitments from the visit would be for the country, I will not rest my case, as I usually do, as I now have an obligation, as an independent media person on the trip, to ensure that there would be follow-up on these agreements and commitments from the visit.
Hence, we, as a nation, especially those in authority, MUST FOLLOW UP.