As we sit nearly 10 years away from Qatar hosting the world’s top sporting event, the question some raise is, whether “Qatar is going too slow” on its commitment to deliver the mega projects linked to the 2022 World Cup. Experts who were actively involved in the planning and execution of key projects in former host countries believe that Qatar is ‘bit going slow’ in its World Cup preparations.
They raise concerns that Qatar, given its climatic conditions and geographical features, would need more time to put in place the huge infrastructure projects. Qatar really have to pace up its actions, they argue.
Citing the fact that a well-developed country like Germany took more than 10 years to set the stage for the 2006 World Cup, experts say Qatar need to push ahead with its plans.
“The clock has already started ticking. Ten years is not too long a period for Qatar. We must remember the country need to host the Fifa Confederation match one year ahead of the World Cup’, a project consultant with a globally reputed firm told The Peninsula recently.
Compared to the former host countries, Qatar’s infrastructure gap is huge and it is far from ideal. Given its weather patterns and the character of its soil, an early preparation is key for Qatar, especially the expansion of its public transportation network.
The sticking point in terms of infrastructure development is the alleged delay in the launch of rail network, a key component in the successful conduct of the mega event. The Qatar Rail Company, which was originally planned to issue the first tender by the end of 2011, has just invited the first phase of the metro rail transit system. It will take yet another year to start work on this project.
“Of the total 358km-long proposed rail network, at least 120km is underground. It is a big challenge. The country’s special soil texture and high temperatures demand a lot of tests ahead of developing the network.
The project works need a lot of earth movements and we have to bring in specialised equipment and the right suppliers for the right price,” Ernst Weber, Partner, Head of Building, Construction and Real Estate, Middle East & South Asia, KPMG told The Peninsula in a recent interview.
Work on the first phase of the Doha metro is likely to start in early-2013, with tenders for the work being awarded by end-2012. The tenders were originally scheduled to be issued by end-2011, but the process was delayed to complete more detailed studies of the project. The project will include four rail lines and will link stadiums for the 2022 soccer World Cup, with an underground component in the centre of the capital Doha. In 2009 Deutsche Bahn and state-owned Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Company had signed an agreement to design the project.
Foreign companies that rushed to cash in on a share of Qatar’s $70bn infrastructure investment, immediately after the announcement of Qatar grabbing the world sporting event, are however not enthused by Qatar’s slowdown on the development projects. The delays in the launch of mega projects linked to the 2022 World Cup are driving away foreign companies out, according to market sources.
Well on track
But Doha-based project consultants and Qatari experts affirm that Qatar is well on its track and the country is capable of delivering its committed projects on time. According to them no competent foreign companies are leaving Qatar and on the contrary, more and more firms, especially from the neighbouring states, are keen to enter the booming Qatari market.
Earlier, talking to The Peninsula, Ahmed Al Khalaf, a local entrepreneur complained that a section of media are distorting facts. He said the mega projects are being launched in a gradual and strategic manner. Foreign companies are desperate to enter into tie-ups with local firms.
Al Khalaf said the problem actually was that only serious and experienced foreign companies and their local partners stood a chance of bagging mega projects. That makes the smaller, less experienced and non-serious players jealous, so it is natural for them to say things that are not true, he said.
“No company which is experienced and serious would leave the Qatari market. In fact, foreign companies, particularly from the region, are making a beeline to make a foray in the local market,” he said.
“Criticism is something natural. All the previous World Cup hosts have faced this. But I am confident that Qatar will complete all its planned infrastructure projects and stadium development programmes on time,” said Jad Achkar, Operations Director of project consultancy firm Decorelle.
“We have 10 more years to go for the event. There is no need to finish the projects immediately and wait for four or five years for the event as maintaining these projects for three or more yeas demands huge money, he said.
Jad, who was in South Africa for the 2010 World Cup, says the country completed the infrastructure projects just shortly ahead the event was kicked-off. “All the developed nations, including the US, Germany and Italy, which hosted the event had faced similar disparagement”, he said.
Confidence in Qatar
It is the incompetent companies that came here and failed to get bids are running the rumour mills. “As a professional in the market for so many years, I have total confidence in Qatar. We heard similar negative campaigns against Qatar when it ran for the Asian Games. But Qatar delivered it on time; and the country showcased one of the classic Asian Games in its history.”
“The tournament was the world’s biggest sporting event that drew 400,000 visitors to South Africa in 2010, when it was last held. Qatar must be ready to welcome two to four million people. It must be able to accommodate all the teams, fans and dignitaries during the month-long competition and ensure they can travel around the country with speed and ease. And most of the visitors will be depending on buses. With Ashghal embarking on $20bn project works, I am confident that the roads would be ready to accommodate the burgeoning number of buses well before the event,” Jad said.
Ashghal also has plans to launch 22 major road projects as part of its five year plan. Some of these projects include the ‘Smart Transportation System’ designed to regulate traffic flow. Once completed, motorists will be able to commute between Al Khor and the New Doha International Airport within 35 minutes. Al Muntazah highway is expected to be tendered out soon. The Arc-Ritz roundabout would link the proposed Doha Bay underground crossing. Construction is planned for a link road from Landmark Mall to the Industrial Area and a Wakrah bypass. Phase II and Phase III of the North Road, a 100km stretch of highway that includes bridges that connects to the Qatar-Bahrain Causeway is under design. Salwa international highway is an 81km stretch with four lane dual carriageways and 10 interchanges, which extends from the Industrial Area to the Saudi border.
Hospitality is another key sector to be developed. Fifa mandates that Qatar must have a minimum of 60,000 hotel rooms available for the World Cup. The bid committee has pledged to exceed this and provide about 90,000 rooms. This will involve more than doubling the current hotel room stock at an estimated cost of $12.4bn. The hotels will be built mainly in Al Wakrah and the capital, Doha. Jad says Qatar is again well on track in carrying out its proposed projects.
Qatar is going ahead with its $17bn on tourism-related infrastructure projects overseen by Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) in the next five years. With at least 19 hotels and around 5,544 hotel rooms currently under construction and in the planning stage, Qatar currently has the third largest pipeline of hotels in the region.
For 2012 alone, more than 2,100 rooms are expected to enter the Qatar market by the end of the year. The aggressive investments in hospitality projects across Qatar are a strong reflection of the energetic growth pace of construction activities in the industry.
Drake & Skull International, a regional specialist in integrated design, engineering and construction, said specialised expertise in hospitality projects will be crucial in enhancing the business potential of engineering and construction companies looking to capitalise on the real estate and construction boom in Qatar.
“The hospitality industry in Qatar will continue to become more vibrant and lucrative in the future as Qatar positions itself as a major tourist, business and lifestyle destination, and an ideal venue for international expositions, sporting championships and other high-profile events. The construction of key hospitality amenities is therefore crucial in realising Qatar’s vision to be a world-class host.” Khaldoun Tabari, CEO, DSI, said on Wednesday.
The government here really knows what it exactly wants, said another project consultant who has vast experience in the region. Some foreign companies are looking for quick money. But Qatar is a different market and the decision makers are really smart. They have proved it during the 2008 financial crisis, he said.