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Qatar’s Vision of the Future

Since the leadership change in Qatar in 1996, the country has taken the deliberate step of looking ahead to safeguard its future and prepare for the post-oil era. The massive financial resources earned during recent years have enabled the entire infrastructure of the country to be developed rapidly and sustainably. The decision to pursue this path was coupled with a resolution to diversify investments in terms of location and sector to guarantee an income for future generations once oil revenues have dried up.

It is estimated that the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) has total assets of US$ 335 billion. Through the diversified utilization of these resources, Qatar plays a substantial role on a regional level and could also become a strong international presence. As part of this vision, Qatar has committed itself to investing around US$ 180 billion in large, domestic infrastructure projects between now and 2020, with several mega projects now well underway. One of these ventures is a US$ 8 billion investment in the new Hamad Port - the world’s largest greenfield port - “Qatar’s gate to the future,” which is scheduled for completion in 2018.

A delegation of International Management students of the ZHAW School of Management and Law visiting Qatar recently had the chance to meet and attend presentations by consultants responsible for the project, including the environmental manager, legal advisor, and client manager for this enormous undertaking. An interactive Q&A session offered them the opportunity for a unique exchange, with students gaining an insight vision into the development of the project. Discussions included the challenges being faced regarding environmental concerns, the coordination of various stakeholders from different countries, and the opportunities the project offers. Afterward, students all agreed that successful business requires the ability to understand other cultures and communicate across cultural barriers.

Qatar has also invested in the development of both education and healthcare within its national borders. This is probably nowhere more evident than at the Sidra Medical and Research Center, located in Education City, a campus covering 14 million square meters (5.4 square miles). The non-profit-making Qatar Foundation was instrumental in the establishment of this architecturally attractive medical care and research establishment (US$ 7.9 billion) with 400+ beds and ultra-modern inpatient and outpatient departments. The hospital now boasts some of the best-equipped, state-of-the-art facilities anywhere in the world.

This infrastructure is supported by modern and innovative management methods which ensure maximum utilization of the available resources. A meeting with senior researchers in the hospital gave the visiting student delegation an idea of the demands on a healthcare system when a poor, rural, and primary society rapidly evolves into a wealthy, service-driven one. They also learned about the particular challenges of a high birthrate as well as links between research centers such as this and educational establishments both nationally and internationally.

When discussing Qatar’s economic development and global interconnection, the three special economic zones must not be neglected. These provide new opportunities for foreign investors, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and high-tech companies. “We need to establish main anchors for the international companies that can add value to our market,” said Adel Waly, Business Development Director at Manateq, who introduced the zones during the study trip.

The Head of the Center for Middle East and Africa Business, Khaldoun Dia-Eddine, a frequent visitor to the region and himself of Syrian origin, organized and accompanied the study trip. He was particularly pleased to see how much students enjoyed learning about business and culture in the Middle East and how enthusiastic they were about exploring business opportunities in that region in greater depth. This opportunity is given to students through the analysis of many regional issues as part of a series of term papers and assessments which the Center for Middle East and Africa Business supervises and evaluates.

Links between Qatar and Switzerland should not be overlooked either. Some of the above-mentioned international investment has also been in Switzerland. Whether in the Bürgenstock Resort near Lucerne (US$ 500 million), Hôtel Royal Savoy in Lausanne (US$ 100 million), or the Schweizerhof Hotel Berne (US$ 45 million), they all reinforce the tourism industry in Switzerland.

The Center for Middle East and Africa Business is already serving tourism industry through multicultural training courses and workshops offered to members and branches of Switzerland Tourism. This in addition to specialized workshops offered to some Swiss hospitals, police forces and businesses.