SELDOM in recent times has our country been under so much international scrutiny and criticism as it was during the last week, prior to the FIFA ExCom meeting in Zurich. More than the summer vs winter debate vis a vis the 2022 World Cup, the heat was turned up on us on issues of labour rights and plight of construction workers.
FIFA went public, saying it was very concerned about media reports on this subject and its chief Sepp Blatter announced he would soon visit Qatar and take up this matter with the country’s higher authorities.
The Qatar ’22 Supreme Committee, often left all alone to defend the country’s image at several international forums, on its part assured FIFA that officials at the highest levels of the government were engaged on the issue to ensure that it was handled in an appropriate manner. Apart from this, it has also appointed a reputable law firm to conduct a study and come up with suggestions to solve the problems.
Qatar’s Ministry of Labour has also initiated some measures to address the problems faced by migrant workers. It has promised to conduct a thorough investigation to check abuse of labour rights and punish any individuals or companies found contravening the law. It may sound we’ve done enough by issuing these statements, but frankly speaking, we need to do more.
We should remember that we’ve had all relevant laws to tackle these issues enshrined in our system. Yet, we couldn’t stop abuse of workers’ rights or to ensure health and safety, equality, dignity, and ideal working and living conditions across all sectors.
Of course, in sectors like oil and gas, we can take pride for ensuring international standards, but in several others, the existing laws proved ineffective and we haven’t enacted new ones.
I think we need to seriously think of abolishing the exit permit system, fixing minimum wages in various sectors, appointing welfare officers at all companies and also gradually allow the freedom to change jobs.
Let’s start doing what’s necessary and then do what’s possible. Then, I’m sure we can do the impossible and the whole world will applaud us.