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In the last few years, Qatar has become one of the world’s fastest growing economies. As the country continues to prosper, the government has launched many initiatives and projects in various crucial sectors such as health, education, roads and infrastructure and the environment, to name a few, in order to improve the lives of the people living in the country.
The plethora of initiatives and the economic support given by the government, a common problem has been plaguing some of these projects — the inability to fully achieve their goals. Why is it that a lot of these initiatives have either failed or are struggling to succeed even with all the funding and resources available for them?
One reason could be that many of these initiatives have not been properly examined and studied before their launch. And some are not promoted properly, thus failing to reach their target audience.
Most of these projects require the involvement of the whole society but very few people are aware of them and actually participate in them.
Another reason could be that after the initial hype surrounding the launch these projects, they lose steam because they are not properly followed through. There is no evaluation mechanism to assess the progress of the initiatives, to find out whether they have been effective or not.
In 2010, the Supreme Council of Health (SCH) launched an anti-smoking campaign in order to put into effect 2002 Law No. (20) regulating the use of tobacco products. According to the SCH, 1,690 violations were recorded in 2010 during the 2,362 inspection visits at commercial complexes and other public places where smoking is banned. Taxes on tobacco products were also increased and it was made mandatory to place graphic images of the hazards of smoking on cigarette packs. Yet despite all these procedures in place, there are many people who openly smoke in malls and other public places without being apprehended by the authorities. Minors have easy access to cigarettes.
This is just one of the many examples of projects or initiatives struggling to achieve targets. Aside from this, there is also the campaign to reduce obesity and other lifestyle diseases. There has been a lot of hype but very little outcome.
It is not only health sector initiatives which are struggling to succeed. Projects and initiatives in the education sector are also having problems. One example is the Independent Schools initiative. When it was first started, the Independent Schools were supposed to revolutionise the country’s education system since they were given the freedom to fulfill their objectives despite being government-funded. Ten years have passed and we are yet to see concrete improvements in the country’s educational system. Moreover, a lot of initiatives and projects started by Qatar Foundation, which is also important for the community, are not properly marketed and promoted to the public, resulting in a lack of awareness and support for them which leads to their failure, while they could have benefited a large number of people.
One way to solve the problem is to create a government committee or organisation which will be responsible for overseeing the marketing, promotion and evaluation of these initiatives/projects by various government agencies. This committee or organisation, which can be placed under either the Cabinet or the Heir Apparent, will be in charge of preparing the society by educating them so that the projects and initiatives will not only be well-received but also will be effective in the long-run.
A crucial issue is the weak delivery of the message to the Qatari society. Most of these initiatives require the involvement of the community because some government agencies or organisations who started them do not have the knowledge and skills to market, promote and evaluate them. What happens is that people start to complain through the media which creates a negative image. This discourages people from further supporting the project, resulting in a failure to achieve its purpose.
This is why there should be a government committee that will act as an advisor and provide the necessary help in the marketing, promotion and evaluation of projects but without interfering in the daily operations of the project. They also need to involve more than one ministry or organisation in order to be successfully implemented. This is where the committee comes in and can act as a bridge between various government agencies and entities.
For example, the Traffic Department’s campaign to reduce accidents should not only be limited to that particular government agency. Currently, the Ministry of Interior has a “Schools without Accidents” campaign but this should not only involve schools but also the media and even telecom companies since it affects the entire community.
Initiatives such as this cannot be successfully implemented without government support. Therefore, it is important that the government act now and take the first step in consolidating all these initiatives before an elected Advisory Council comes and starts to criticise, along with columnists and other media. After all, it is Qatar and its people who will reap the benefits of these projects in the long run.