Bestowing the 2022 World Cup upon the diminutive nation of Qatar is one the best things that could have happened to UK construction. But there is a catch - and it’s not that England won’t be hosting it…
As we report here a fabulous $100bn (£64.7bn) will be spent on building work in Gulf state in the next five years alone and who better to handle it than the growing outpost of British firms there.
The immense volume of work required is because Qatar, a nation of a mere 1.5m people (and over two thirds of this comprises expats, mostly parachuted in quite recently to work in the country’s exploding oil and gas industry) has the best part of none of the facilities it needs to host the event. It probably needs to conjure up 25 new hotels a year between now and the event, for example.
However, as World Cup-fuelled construction fires up, the lack of, well, pretty much everything in Qatar will also make it one of the most challenging places in which to build. It will literally be a logistical nightmare.
Strolling around Qatar’s seaside capital Doha can feel being in a scene from the film The Day After Tomorrow – except with sand rather than snow – so quiet are the streets. So when you consider that in the next five years this sleepy place is going to be the building site for the equivalent in terms of volume of construction as ten London Olympics, you wonder how it will cope.
Qatar construction insiders are already saying that the place doesn’t have the road, airport or port capacity to handle the imminent startling influx of materials, manpower and construction professionals.
Neither does it have enough facilities to house, feed and entertain these hoards. On top of that, processing their visas and arranging the required facilities remain processes likely to be bogged down in bureaucracy for months.
Tales of mind-bending administrative wrangling in Qatar abound. (Just try googling Qatar and bureaucracy.) But one of the most recent reported examples is of a film director attempting to work in Qatar and having to deal with seven different government ministries.
However, while people have good reason to be concerned, it’s worth remembering if that if anyone can throw money at a problem it’s the Qataris.
The Telegraph reported earlier this month that Qatar spent some £27m on PR for its World Cup bid last year alone, which is apparently more than that the entire two-year bidding budgets of South Korea, Japan and the US. This shows the country’s determination and financial ability to make the 2022 World Cup work. Lets hope this is now channelled into smoothing the way for construction to happen.