Qatar’s Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, minister of state for internal affairs, was named prime minister as the new Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani formed a cabinet, state-run Qatar News Agency said.
The new premier will replace Hamad Bin Jassim Al Thani, who’s led Qatar’s government since 2007 as both premier and foreign minister. The announcement came after Sheikh Tamim gave his first televised address to the nation a day after his father Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani abdicated after 18 years in power.
Ali Shareef Al Emadi, the chief executive officer of Qatar National Bank SAQ since 2005, was made finance minister, according to QNA. He replaces Yousef Hussain Kamal. Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah, minister of state for international cooperation, was made foreign minister, while Mohamed bin Saleh Al Sada retained his post as energy minister. The cabinet also included a woman, with Hessa Al Jaber becoming communication minister. Ahmed Bin Jassim Bin Mohammed Al Thani was named minister of business and trade.
Abdullah bin Nasser, who was also made interior minister, was educated in the U.K. and at Beirut University, according to his official biography. He served as commander of Qatar’s internal security forces and chairs the country’s anti-terrorism committee. He visited Washington earlier this month, meeting Senators John McCain, Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Michael McCaul, according to a press release on the Ministry of Interior website. He is married with five children, according to his biography.
The new prime minister will assume leadership of a country of 1.9 million people that is also the world’s biggest liquefied gas producer and richest country per capita, according to the International Monetary Fund. Qatar also plans to invest $200 billion before hosting soccer’s 2022 World Cup, even as economic growth is slowing and gas exports are leveling off.
With his security services background, Abdullah bin Nasser will add a new dimension to the premier’s position.
“The appointment of the new prime minister, who possesses a strong domestic portfolio, certainly shows that the new emir is keen to focus on domestic issues and to develop the country internally,” Michael Stephens, a researcher at the Royal United Services Institute in Doha, said in a phone interview.
Hamad Bin Jassim was chairman of Qatar Holding LLC, the foreign investment arm of the country’s sovereign wealth fund, at a time when the fund bought stakes in Volkswagen AG and J Sainsbury Plc. The emirate’s money helped to support Barclays Plc during the 2008 financial crises and bought London’s Harrods department store in 2010.
Bin Jassim often played a hands-on role in investments. In a late-night negotiating session at London’s Claridge’s Hotel last September, the prime minister helped to pushed Glencore International Plc’s then-Chief Executive Officer Ivan Glasenberg to raise the offer for Swiss miner Xstrata Plc, in what became a $29 billion acquisition.
He also pushed a foreign policy that involved backing Syria’s armed rebels in their fight to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, sending warplanes to Libya to help NATO in its mission against Muammar Qaddafi’s forces, and lending Egypt’s Islamist post-Hosni Mubarak government $8 billion.
“People are quite happy that Tamim and the prime minister are going to focus more on the domestic needs of the country,” Stephens said.
Qatar plans to build a new $35 billion rail and metro network as well as stadiums, roads and a new port. Economic growth slowed to 6.2 percent last year from 17 percent in 2010, according to a report in May by Qatar National Bank SAQ. Gas exports leveled off after the last of 14 liquefaction plants was completed in 2011, raising the country’s capacity to make the fuel to 77 million tons.
The QE Index of companies listed on the Qatar Exchange rose 0.9 percent today, the first increase since June 17. The index recorded the second-biggest gain in the Middle East today after Egypt’s EGX 30, which rose 2.4 percent. Qatar’s exchange was closed yesterday after a national holiday was declared.