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A vision for an organisation like Qatar Foundation would be ambitious if it emerged today. The scale of this ambition was even more staggering in the 1990s. But turning ambition into actuality requires financial resources – and, at the start of its journey, this was one of the greatest challenges facing the nascent Qatar Foundation.
In The Untold Stories of Qatar Foundation, HE Yousef Hussain Kamal, former Minister of Finance and one of the key figures in the establishment of a unique organisation, explained how overcoming this challenge rested on Qatar’s recognition of the economic importance of investing in education.
“It is no secret that, in the mid-1990s, Qatar did not have the financial capacity to invest in a project such as QF which required significant sums of money to achieve its aspirations, because at that stage, as economists, we focused our attention on oil and gas projects,” he told the discussion.
“However, investing in education was a noble goal for the country’s leadership, which stressed that supporting the education sector was a priority. And at the time, I noticed how insistent our leaders were about this. ”When we discussed the idea for QF, I felt that it was a noble national project for all Qataris: one that would contribute to consolidating Qatar’s legacy and enhance the role of Qatar on the global economic scene. This meant that investing in education would be a profitable investment.”
At the time, Kamal pointed to decisions being taken by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which classified spending on education as an investment and this reinforced the vision for QF.
Speaking about why QF also decided to invest in scientific research at a national level, in the context of sustainable economic development, he said: “Investment by QF in this field at the beginning of its journey was based on promoting Qatar’s participation in global research that aligned with the national needs and attracting researchers to the country with the aim of localising knowledge and then investing in it for the benefit of the national economy.”
He also used the discussion to call on Qatar’s private sector to invest in research, development and innovation, and highlighted the importance of innovation in building a sustainable economy - pointing to the renaming of Qatar Petroleum as Qatar Energy and its key strategic focus on environmentally friendly technology.
”It is imperative for companies to enhance their contributions in the field of scientific research, in parallel with their contributions in fields such as sport and community, especially the companies registered on the Qatar Stock Exchange,” he said, “because any investment in the field of development and innovation will bring profit to the national economy.”
Fellow Untold Stories of Qatar Foundation speaker Dr Ibrahim Al Ibrahim harked back to the economic landscape of Qatar in the mid-1990s, during the early stages of establishing QF, saying: “The economic situation at that time was effective, but investing in education was a goal.
“Just a few years after QF’s establishment, aspirations had matured, flourished and were being reflected in Qatar’s national vision. Through to today, QF is supporting the country to achieve the objectives of all the pillars of this national vision - human, economic, social and environmental development.”
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