DOHA (Reuters) – The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, said on Tuesday that Qatar has faced unprecedented criticism since winning the bid to host the 2022 World Cup, some of which amounted to slander.
“We initially dealt with the matter in good faith,” Sheikh Tamim said in a televised political speech, adding that some of the early criticisms were constructive.
But he said the campaign against Qatar had expanded to include “slanders and double standards that were so fierce that it unfortunately led many people to question the real reasons and motives behind the campaign.”
Qatar, the first country in the Middle East to host the World Cup, has come under heavy international criticism for its treatment of foreign workers and restrictive social laws.
The Emir was addressing a session of the Consultative Consultative Council of the Gulf state at a time when Doha is preparing to host the main global football event, which begins on November 20.
Qatar is expecting 1.2 million visitors during the tournament, creating an unprecedented logistical and policing challenge for the tiny Arab Gulf state.
Sheikh Tamim said hosting the World Cup was a “big test for a country the size of Qatar”.
“We accepted this challenge out of our belief in our capabilities, we Qataris, to deal with the mission and make it a success,” he said.
“It’s a championship for everyone, and its success is everyone’s success.”
Doha has introduced reforms including rules to protect workers from the heat and a minimum monthly wage of 1,000 riyals ($275), and says it is continuing to develop its labor system.
Foreign workers make up 85% of Qatar’s population of 3 million, which is among the world’s largest natural gas producers and one of the richest countries per capita.
Sheikh Tamim said that the rise in energy prices helped Qatar achieve a government budget surplus of 47.3 billion riyals ($12.8 billion) for the first half of 2022, against an expected deficit, and a GDP growth of 4.3%, according to preliminary estimates.
He explained that “the budget surplus will be directed to reduce the level of public debt and increase the state’s financial reserves.”
He said that the World Cup will allow Qatar to showcase its economic and institutional strength and cultural identity.
(Covering) Written by Andrew Mills in Doha, Ghaida Ghantous, Nadine Awadallah and Moataz Mohamed, Editing by Andrew Heavens and Robert Persell
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