* Jassim Ibrahim Qassim Fakhroo, Shura Council candidate for Al Jisra district, reveals his thoughts and vision for the country's future
Jassim Ibrahim Qassim Fakhroo, who is contesting the Shura Council election from Al Jisra electoral district with a view to serving Qatar and its citizens, said that his target is to promote laws directly related to the citizens' life and to monitor their application without bureaucracy or favouritism, in order to accomplish Qatar National Vision 2030. In an interview with 'Gulf Times', Fakhroo said that “my electoral campaign is based on five axes namely health, employment, labour market, women and education sectors.”
"I have a wide experience through my work and dealing with people’s problems, as I was at the frontline of the institutions where I worked as a public relations manager. At my age I think that I can offer something to Qatar and its citizens, in order to reconcile between the people’s interests and those of the homeland. In addition, people in my district have confidence in me, and urged me to go through this experience because they have known my mindset, loyalty and true engagement to any cause I embrace, without any personal benefits.”
Fakhroo goes on to say: “I am a journalist and a mediaperson, I have been writing on community issues for more than 30 years, most of my articles are on community, people and society.”
Fakhroo holds a BA in Arabic language and journalism from Qatar University, an MA in journalism and public relations from Marshall University, West Virginia, US. “I started my professional life as a journalist at Hamad Medical Corporation where I established many departments and centres, and I also worked in the Ministry of Health, I was advisor to the minister, Q-Tel before it became Ooredoo, and the General Retirement and Social Insurance Authority, where I am currently the advisor to the president. Of course, wherever I worked I left an imprint with the testimony my colleagues, and I am still friends with everyone. I write in 'Al Sharq' newspaper. Now I am writing a few articles but focusing more on tweets, which are short but mine are full-fledged. I have more than 5,000 followers on Twitter, I am patriotic, and I favour Arab, local, and Islamic issues, I write out of conviction.”
Fakhroo sees that “Qatar is a state of law and institutions, and I believe that the law has covered all the issues, almost. The Shura Council’s members are to review laws and monitor public institutions, because accountability leads to good governance. The members of the Council are there to help ministers and are not against them, nor the government. In the end, the minister is a human being and needs support and assistance. We complement each other and do not compete with each other. When we criticise, it is to put the work on the right path, because the citizen has the right to obtain the service that provides him with comfort. Most of the issues are management problems, and there are few legal, constitutional or legislative problems.”
Concerning the health sector, Fakhroo says, “I divide it into three sections: The Ministry, Hamad Medical Corporation and the Primary Health Care Corporation, each of which has a role. The Ministry supervises and legislates the two health institutions, the public sector and the private sector. From a medical point of view, we cannot deny the development that Qatar has reached in terms of advanced, sophisticated and commanding medical services, but the problem lies in the procedures that impede many people's interests. For example, for medical treatment abroad, there are no clear standards that we can refer to decide when treatment is needed abroad. There is an ambiguity in the procedures, which frustrate the patient with delay in getting an answer. The reasons are red tape, lack of speed in completing transactions, and failure to give clear responses. We need to address this issue by setting clear procedures, transparency and governance to render transactions smooth and clear to all parties. We must clarify the criteria to enable doctors to evaluate cases according to them and for the patient or his family to see and understand them in full transparency, by compiling a clear list of diseases that deserve treatment abroad, and the procedures should be quick and easy. If we obtain a seat in the Shura Council, we have the right to demand statistics for verification, guidance and support of institutions.”
Fakhroo is also in favour of encouraging the economy. “We have two aspects, first the complexity of procedures for entrepreneurs, while the state has for many years been talking about good governance, and e-government services. Many entrepreneurs complain about the lengthy procedures and required documents, and the waste of time. Businessmen need to complete all the procedures of opening accounts, credits and workers' affairs in one week, through e-government without having to meet any employee. We want to reach this stage of progress by facilitating procedures related to the employment of workers and their visas. All these procedures must be clear without needing to know one of the officials, this is required. The procedures must be shortened, and transactions should be facilitated for entrepreneurs and completed as quickly as possible electronically, and we are able to do that.
"For entrepreneurs, time is money. Therefore, we need to be more flexible. There are many complaints regarding this issue, from major merchants, owners of small and medium businesses. Furthermore, we need to curb high prices, which are too high for us. The price hike must be stopped with legal and legislative remedies. Indeed, we have an open market, but limits must be drawn to control the private sector. The issue is complex and I cannot give you an immediate solution. As I mentioned at the beginning, the Shura Council is there to assist the country, the citizens and the residents. The members of the Shura Council are the eyes and the pulse of public life, and through their powers, they are able to control matters and achieve comfort for all parties from social and other aspects.”
Fakhroo intends to promote the labour market according to citizens’ aspirations and says “Qatar is a youth state, our Amir is young and our ministers are young. It is assumed that young people have a big role in this regard and they should be responsible for this sector.
"There are currently three problems according to me. The first is related to the employment of graduates. We find graduates from the best international universities who stay at home for a year or two without a job, and this is not acceptable in Qatar, which has a small population, at a time when there is a great need in the country for a workforce.
"We have a ministry responsible for youth employment, but I don't know where the problem lies, and what the reasons are. Is it because of inaction or poor study or is it lack of co-operation from other ministries with regard to employment. It is necessary to employ young graduates, they are citizens and they must serve their country. We must make sure that graduates work and the state has the duty to develop their skills to serve it. I do not see any logic in delaying the employment of young graduates from both sexes.
"The second issue with regard to employment is related to early retirement. I work in the General Pension and Insurance Authority. I see cases of young people in retirement who are in their thirties. This retirement disregards a person’s future and has a negative impact on the national economy. Early retirement is very harmful to all parties, the individual, the family, society and the nation. I read some statistic which indicated that 65% of those who go on early retirement are less than sixty years old. The reasons are that young people prefer self-employment, or have a private business, so they leave, lose their job and later regret that. Therefore, legislation must be passed to protect young people from early retirement, especially in companies in which the government is a shareholder, and I want to work on this issue.
"The third issue related to the labour market is Qatarisation in the public and private sectors and it is related to the first point -- we rely heavily on non-Qatari residents and experts in running the affairs of our country, so we need residents, there are professions in which we need experts and professional residents because the needs are great in the country and the number of our population is small. So, the importance of the non-Qatari is as important as that of the Qatari, and there is no preference among them. But I think that Qatarisation should be done according to professions, specialisations and gradually. When I have a job filled by a non-Qatari expert, I hire a young Qatari to work with him to get trained, so that the expert is aware that his work will end after two years and must train the Qatari employee to take over the work.
"We must speed up the process because every Qatari youth must work and should not be without a job, we are a rich country with a small population, and we have a diversity of ministries, institutions and bodies, nothing prevents us from reaching full employment for Qataris in all sectors.”
Fakhroo is very keen to advance women’s cause. "Of course, women are men’s partners in everything. Women in Qatar enjoy a great respect be it as a mother, or an employee, or an official, or a minister, and there are many women leaders in Qatar, and I am personally proud that Qatari women have asserted themselves in all fields, and I have worked with women since my first job, and I witnessed their capabilities, in terms of seriousness and sincerity at work, diligence and keenness to work, and with the support of the government, they reached very advanced positions.
"However, a woman has many more responsibilities than a man, as she is a wife, a mother and has to teach her children, she is an employee, an official, a director and a minister. So, there must be a merciful law for her, because a man’s comfort comes from that of the woman, and the comfort of the home from that of the woman in the end. If a woman bears all the pressures of life, everything will go wrong.
"Of course, I am very pleased with the recent government decision to reduce women's work to 50%, and I tweeted to thank the government and the Prime Minister for this good step. But there are other aspects that must be taken into account in this regard, such as the issue of annual leave and retirement, for example. As for retirement, we suggest that it should be at the age of 55 with full privileges and rights. I believe that this aspect should be reviewed, so that they get their full pension, but if she wants to continue working, we leave the field open to her with all flexibility. This is what I see with regard to the issue of women, as well as the legislation related to working women, which must be reviewed in an integrated manner. This is my view.
"As for the issue of housing and social security, the laws exist and they dealt with all aspects, but it is time to review them, especially the rights and allowances for needy women according to the benefits mentioned in the law, from widows, divorcees, the needy, etc. We need to consider whether the grants allocated to them are appropriate at this age or need to be modified. There is a need to take into account the customs and traditions of the community. This is what I want to focus on.”
Fakhroo considers “that there is an amazing development in education because we have reached advanced levels, whether in schools or university education. But I will talk about the teachers who are well paid, but unfortunately there is no interest in this profession, even those who join the profession leave it after a while. What is the reason? We need teachers; who will be assured of going through this experience. I think that legislation should be enacted to protect the teacher. The teachers are currently complaining about the many pressures imposed on them and the responsibilities placed on them, and this is the reason why many of them leave the profession. While the teacher wants to focus on his specialisation and field of work, he/she has to bear the responsibilities of participating in many committees, and side work which impacts negatively the teacher psychologically and in his/her performance. The financial aspect is important, but so is psychological comfort. The teachers need protection to enable them to perform their task properly and comfortably. In addition to giving them a kind of psychological and practical appreciation, with regard to their needs, and by answering their demands. The idea is to propose a good management system and legislation which give teachers, principals and other workers in the field of education some power, protection and respect.
All problems are real and there are solutions for them with the will and co-operation of the members of the Council. He concluded by saying that “through the council, given the psychological and intellectual harmony among all the people of Qatar, we will form a dam to protect our children, our families, our land and our country. We will be supportive and complementary to the government in its endeavour to develop the country for the better, scientifically and morally,” Fakhroo added.