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Economic patriotism

April 17, 2014 - 4:59:40 am

We read about and understand most of the teachings of Islam, but little do we abide by these teachings in our daily life. As the Prophet (PBUH) said: “A believer to another believer is like walls of bricks supporting each other”. The Islamic scholar Ibin Taymiyyah used to say that humans cannot live without cooperating with and helping each other.

Almighty God created humans and required them to cooperate with each other. Life is never complete without cooperation among people. This is why I chose the title for my article. “Economic patriotism” is a new term. I hope this term is used from now on to refer to the positive attitudes of individuals, commercial companies and government institutions supporting the national economy in word and deed. They do this by helping citizens, whether they are individuals or companies.

The term also refers to close links with our homeland, affiliation to it and pride in any economic support offered to the affiliates of this homeland. Economic patriots are those who are keen to serve their country and feel proud to help other patriots who take the initiative. 

Economic patriotism is a feeling and national duty that must be felt and carried out by every Qatari. It is the duty of government officials to back initiatives and national projects, not to complicate procedures for the completion of these projects. 

What made me write this article and use this new term is the initiatives of Hussein bin Ibrahim Alfardan, vice chairman of the board of directors of Commercialbank, managing director and chairman of the board of directors of Alfardan Group, and Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Subaie, executive chairman of Barwa Group and head of the executive committee of Qatar Rail.

Both these men have struck a balance between profitability for the sake of the shareholders of the companies they lead and boosting the profits of other national companies. The experiences of these two men need to be studied and generalised. 

Hussein Alfardan never hesitates to offer advice to those who seek it, regardless of whether they are individuals or national companies. He offers the expertise he has for free. He reduces the amount of risk in initiatives and then leads these initiatives so that they achieve his aspirations by producing the results he wants.

Al Subaie has ushered in a new concept -- the need for everybody to offer support and encourage Qatari companies. For him this country and its citizens – regardless of whether they are Barwa Group shareholders or not – are the objects of his goodwill. He tries to help people who take initiatives to put their ideas into action. This in turn improves the condition of these people, and increases demand for the products of Al Subaie’s company. Both parties benefit at the end of the day, and also get everyone involved in the development of the country.

Still, there are many disappointing stories out there. Even the little we hear of these stories makes us disappointed and open our eyes wide. For instance, we hear of a government official who made his approval of an initiative conditional on him or others being made partners in it. Another official linked his approval to being made the main shareholder in a proposed company. A third government official said Qatar did not need more than one project in the same field. Stories like this abound.

At the personal level, I once proposed an innovative project for a government entity. The project aimed to reduce daily pressure on the institution, reduce spending, and save on staff salaries. The project also aimed to create more job opportunities for Qatari youth while at the same time keeping unchanged fees the government agency collects from the public. Still, the government agency insisted on getting a huge percentage of the profits of the companies that would have worked on the project. 

I realised that the project needed to be adopted by a major company or supported by a senior state official in order to be approved. The sorry thing, though, is that officials in major companies want those who propose such projects to make compromises so that the companies can adopt the projects. Those who propose the projects must agree to all the terms of the officials of the companies. 

We have strong confidence in our ruler and in our government. They encourage us to propose ideas. Therefore, we look forward to seeing the government establish an office affiliated to the Prime Minister to solve problems in this regard. The office will receive ideas for national initiatives, discuss them and then adopt the good initiatives. In doing this, it will not let people prey on those who propose these initiatives. 

The resultant partnerships will usher in a united nation, one in which everybody acts as a member of one team. This office will contribute to achieving the following objectives:

1) It will boost the concept of economic patriotism. 

2) It will enrich the national economy.

3) It will encourage citizens to propose and present their initiatives at a safe place without fear or hesitation. 

4) It will ensure that people who propose initiatives are not exploited. 

5) It will translate initiatives into action within a national strategy.

6) It will boost economic partnerships between the private and public sectors. 

To sum up, enlightened countries are those that have a comprehensive vision and offer appropriate tools to pave the way to progress for all citizens. They are countries that allow their citizens to propose initiatives without being exploited. 

To Hussein bin Ibrahim Alfardan, Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Subaie and others who act with economic patriotism, I would like say thanks for their attitude and goodwill.