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Cairo...Doha...Tunisia... What's going on?

January 24, 2014 at 11:19 am

It is strange that some of our brothers in Egypt and Tunisia, appearing in television, radio, or print media, have talked negatively about Qatar’s authority, people and resources. What is even stranger is watching a handful of street children in Egypt being incited by new would-be politicians and the remnants of the old regime, or seeing unemployed individuals in Tunisia burning the Qatari flag in protest of the financial assistance Qatar is providing for their countries to save them from economic collapse.

During Ben Ali’s reign in Tunisia, Qatar provided financial assistance to Zine El Abidine’s government and established the medical college, spending millions of dollars, in addition to Qatari charities implementing production projects in Tunisia during the former regime. Today, Qatar is playing the same role and providing large financial aid to enable the Tunisian government to pay state staff salaries and keep its national currency from collapsing due to a decline in production, exports, tourism and falling cash reserves of foreign currency. These Qatari charities are playing a role that is not denied by anyone in Tunisia except the misguided and ungrateful. Qatar gives with no strings attached in order to maintain the unity of the Tunisian society. It is also strange that the Francophones are all over Tunisia and the other Maghreb countries, and France is providing them with money and guidance, the most recent of which was the obvious French intervention in the internal affairs of Tunisia. But we did not hear any protests in Tunisia, nor have we seen anyone burning the French flag in Tunisia.

As for our brothers and family in Egypt, we are greatly disappointed in what they are doing and saying against Qatar’s people and government. I would like to remind our friends in Egypt that Qatar was the only country that rushed to provide financial support to the families of those on the ferry that sank in the Red Sea in 2006, and took it upon itself to replace the sunken boat. We are not required to offer condolences or compensations, and we do not even know if our financial aid was given to the families of the victims or if it was taken by Mubarak’s corrupt regime. Qatar also announced it would fix the railways on which the famous train accident occurred, which claimed dozens of lives, and also during Mubarak’s reign Qatar provided financial support to the Egyptian farmers by shouldering the expenses of new advanced plowers. Moreover, during Hosni Mubarak’s last visit to Qatar, he requested financial aid from the Qatari government and it responded to his request before he was overthrown by his people.

When Mubarak was overthrown, and the Military Council took control, it found that the state’s treasury was burdened with debts and a horrific financial deficit amounting to $2.172 trillion, and the Military Council asked Qatar for financial aid. Qatar started off by providing Egypt with $2 billion, and then started to legally invest in Egypt. My question is, was the Military Council a part of the Muslim Brotherhood? Why didn’t anyone protest the decades of Qatari investments in Egypt during the reign of the Military Council and Hosni Mubarak?

The Qatari aid to Egypt has reached over $8 billion, and when Egypt was on the verge of economic collapse, Qatar provided it with $3 million, which led to the increase in their foreign currency reserve. This amount created a balance between the exchange rate of the Egyptian Pound and the other foreign currencies, and in turn, eliminated the black market.

Egypt, under Mohammad Morsi’s rule, called on his allies for aid and support, and Qatar was the first to respond by providing financial support along with Saudi Arabia, Libya (despite its situation) and Turkey. Egypt also asked for a loan from the World Bank amounting to $4 billion, but the Bank had its demands, including taking austerity measures, decreasing staff salaries, and other conditions that would greatly impact the Egyptian people; whereas Qatar gave Egypt double the amount without imposing any conditions affecting the Egyptian people or their sovereignty. During Mubarak’s reign, the unemployment rate was 12 per cent in 2011, and has now risen to 18 per cent, and Egypt also needs foreign and local investments amounting to $70 billion, while Qatar announced that it would invest $18 billion to establish development projects in Egypt. These projects will contribute to limiting the escalation of the issue of the daily increase of the unemployment rate, due to the Egyptian citizen’s distraction by protests, strikes, and property destruction.

Qatar also has economic investment projects in Sudan, Djibouti, and Comoros, and its investments in Britain have reached £30 billion, but we haven’t heard of these countries’ politicians, who are not in power, protesting Qatar’s investments. Nor have we seen any incitement against Qatar on the streets of these countries. We must ask, is Egypt so weak that a country as small as Qatar is able to tamper with its security, control its leaders, and impose its will on it? The elite of Egypt are ruining the reputation of their own country, putting down their politicians, and delighting their enemies.

We are puzzled by some of the Arab intellectuals who think the worst of us if we invest in their country and provide them with financial aid, but if we do not, they accuse us of being neglectful and subordinate. I end by saying “Allah (alone) is sufficient for us and he is our Guardian”.

The author is a Qatari academic. This article is a translation of the Arabic which appeared in Al Sharq newspaper, 23/4/2013

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.