Posted on January 03, 2016

Year 2015 was vibrant for Qatar with a multitude of major diplomatic, political, economic and cultural events, activities and achievements. Major amendments to labour and residency laws and new legislations in the health and education sectors were among the highlights of the year. The much-awaited new law regulating entry, exit and residency of expatriates was issued during the year. To be enforced on December 14 this year, the law has replaced the Kafala (sponsorship) system with a contract-based system and cancelled the exit permit system. 

It has also removed the two-year period required for an expatriate worker to return to the country to take up a new job, after his departure. As per the new law, a worker can return to the country two or three days after his departure if he gets a new contract and fulfils entry visa requirements and if there is no court verdict against him. A major move taken to safeguard workers’ rights was the introduction of the Wage Protection System (WPS), a mandatory online wage payment system for private sector workers. More than 50,000 private companies are to be part of the WPS and all of their workers paid wages through banking channels.

In the health front, the Supreme Council of Health (SCH) launched the Qatar National Diabetes Strategy to raise awareness and seek preventive measures against the disease that affects almost 17 percent of the population. Another major turn in the health sector was that services of the state-owned National Health Insurance Company (NHIC) providing health insurance cover to Qataris under the national health insurance scheme, Seha, have been suspended effective from today.

Health cover for citizens will be transferred to private insurance providers from June, according to the SCH. In a major breakthrough in health education, Qatar University opened its  College of Medicine. The college will offer a six-year programme, leading to a Doctor of Medicine degree. Of the pioneering batch of 83 students pursuing the programme, 55 percent are Qataris. In the education sector, a law to regulate private schools was issued, giving the Supreme Education Council (SEC) authority to set up private schools in collaboration with internationally reputed schools, with an agreement that they must run such schools. The SEC will have control over all private schools and has the right to supervise them, their curriculum, buildings and the quality of education.

Out of purview of the law are cultural centres set up by global entities with agreements with Qatar and training centres and industrial training facilities set up by companies to improve their workers’ skills or provide them with training. The Traffic Law was amended, reducing the fine for violations on the conciliation list by 50 percent if paid by motorists within 30 days and raising it for overtaking from the right side and parking on spaces reserved for people with special needs from QR500 to QR1,000. Implementation of the revised law begins today. Two women, including an incumbent, were elected for the fifth term of Central Municipal Council during the year.

The arts and culture landscape received a major boost with the launch of several museums. The opening of Doha Fire Station has set a new paradigm for heritage preservation and opened a new window on contemporary art production with its Artists in Residence programme. Msheireb Museums, a collection of four historical buildings converted into museums, was  launched in October. The 100-year-old Heritage Houses — Bin Jelmood House, Company House, Mohamed Bin Jassim House and Radwani House in Msheireb Downtown Doha — have been restored and converted into culturally significant museums containing artefacts that give them their distinct identity.

Perhaps the most prominent cultural event was the Qatar Turkey 2015 Year of Culture which included a programme of exhibitions, festivals, performances, educational activities and cultural exchanges across Qatar and Turkey. Not one but two editions of Doha International Book Fair were held last year, celebrating its silver jubilee in January and marking its 26th edition in December. Both witnessed visitors thronging to hundreds of publishing houses offering thousands of titles.

Qatar National Day was marked with many events for citizens and expatriates at various locations. The Darb El-Saee saw thousands of visitors at its cultural events, exhibitions and activities in two weeks. Events culminated in a spectacular military parade on the Corniche which saw huge turnout of spectators. The Associated Events organised by the Ministry of Interior for expatriate communities in four locations were also a big draw.

Another major stride in the diplomatic front was the peace deal brokered by Qatar between two rival tribes in southern Libya who had battled for control of oilfields. The Tebu and Tuareg tribes signed a comprehensive reconciliation agreement in Doha under the auspices of Emir H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. It puts an end to fighting in the town of Ubari in southwestern Libya.

source: The Peninsula

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