Political Contingency and the Implementation of Qatarization
This paper represents an exploratory study that examines political contingency in a less liberal regulatory regime such as the ‘positive state’ or the ‘developmental state’. As an example of a state-led policy, the implementation of a workforce localization policy is examined through an intensive case study on the oil- and gas-based industries (OGBI), the most significant economic sector in Qatar. In particular, the paper identifies the strategies and mechanisms that the government utilizes in its efforts to gain commitment from public enterprises to replace its expatriate workforce with nationals. The empirical analysis focuses on two main themes: state influence on public organizations and the HR practices that are used to enhance workforce localization. The findings reveal that the government has adopted some innovative control strategies that are not widely acknowledged within the literature. These include its continuous re-shuffling and replacement of decision-makers and key personnel in state enterprises. Moreover, the government dominates by playing an active role in forming OGBI strategies through appointing the Minister of Energy to the highest hierarchical positions such as chairman and managing director in the industries. However, state enterprises’ reactions to the state-led localization policy vary considerably. The study provides new evidence that public organizations do not always comply with politically-determined policies. The evaluation of the implementation of localization strategy shows that there are three approaches toward what may be called ‘Qatarization’, namely, strategic adaptation; pragmatic acceptance, and implicit avoidance. The approaches are strongly associated with understanding the policy aims and linking the policy to HR practices.