Staying Onside

Staying Onside

Qatar is well and truly on the map. With its successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup, the small gas-rich state in the Gulf is under an intense media spotlight.

At a time when business is still slow for many of the GCC’s architecture firms, Qatar appears as a land of opportunity that is spearheading a recovering in the region.

Virtually all of the industry experts I interviewed for my first issue as editor of Middle East Architect had one common message about Qatar – there’s a heck of a lot of work to be done and not enough people to do it. Just like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Qatar needs international experts to help develop its built environment.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the diminutive nation is now the fastest growing economy in the world, with an expected growth rate of 20% in 2011.

The report added that the upcoming World Cup has positioned the country as the most valuable construction site globally in dollars per square metre. An estimated US$100billion in planned investments will take place over the next 12 years, including US$4billion for constructing and renovating 12 high-tech stadia.

But there is a potential spanner in the works. The allegations in the UK’s Sunday Times that Qatar paid millions of dollars in bribes to win the bid has sent shockwaves through the industry.

Furthermore, Sepp Blatter, the president of football’s governing body FIFA, has not ruled out a recount of the vote following an investigation, meaning that the 2022 event could slip away from Qatar’s grasp.

Will Qatar’s construction programme come to a grinding halt if it is stripped of the World Cup? Almost certainly not.

A Q3 2010 infrastructure report by Business Monitor International stated that Qatar would outperform other countries in the region to 2014. This was several months before the World Cup bid result was announced in December last year.

In fact, economically, the hosting of the World Cup could be a burden on Qatar. A chief economist from Citigroup said that the World Cup was unlikely to be “net beneficial” to Qatar from a “cost-benefit” perspective, as reported by Bloomberg.

However, there’s no getting away from the fact that a ‘guilty’ verdict would have a major impact on the country’s global image, as well as big ramifications for consultants involved in the delivery. International consultants – such as stadia designers Albert Speer & Partner (AS&P), Aedas and Foster + Partners – will currently be on tenterhooks, while local firms on the ground would also lose business.

For the sake of the region’s architects, engineers and interior designers, let’s hope that the 2022 event remains set for the Gulf region.

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