Qatari cabinet reshuffle not signal of change

ALI ÜNAL @ali_unal
Published 29.01.2016 21:54
Updated 29.01.2016 21:57
Qatari cabinet reshuffle not signal of change

Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani on Wednesday announced a cabinet reshuffle. While international media outlets pointed to falling oil prices as a reason behind the major reshuffle since the emir came to power in 2013, leading international risk consultancy firm Eurasia Group indicated in a report released Thursday that the reshuffle is unlikely to meaningfully improve Qatar's government finances in the short-term, although the reshuffle does fit into the leadership's efficiency drive.

Thani named a new foreign minister, replacing Khalid al-Attiyah with Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, changed the defense minister and appointed a new minister who is a woman. In addition, the emir merged several ministries, including communication, transport and culture, and youth and sports. According to the Eurasia Group, the reshuffle aims to increase efficiency in government operations and will not negatively impact political or economic stability. "The merger of several ministries fits in with a broader trend of political and bureaucratic consolidation. As low oil is starting to bite and pushing Qatar's budget into the deficit for the first time in 15 years, Qatar's leadership feels compelled to accelerate its drive to improve accountability in government-linked bodies and remove excess weight," the Eurasia Group country report said.

Moreover, the report indicated that the shakeup reflects the emir's interest in bringing young allies into the core political elite to help consolidate his power. "New Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, 35, is of Tamim's generation and also a member of the ruling family. However, former Foreign Minister Khalid al-Attiyah has not necessarily been sidelined, as he assumed the post of state minister for defense affairs, directly reporting to Tamim in his capacity as defense minister." The report also predicts that the shake-up does not signal an increase in political instability or a drastic change in policy. "In particular, Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani does not appear to be a hardliner," the report said.

Bilateral relations between Turkey and Qatar have achieved significant progress in recent years. In addition to close, historic ties between, both countries also share a similar view on regional and international disputes. While the two countries continue to strengthen economic ties, last month the government announced it will establish a military base in Qatar as part of a defense agreement aimed at helping them confront common enemies. Turkey's military base in Qatar will be its first overseas military installation in the Middle East, and 3,000 ground troops will reportedly be stationed at the base as well as air and naval units, military trainers and special operations units.

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