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Posted On: 8 June 2013 11:30 am
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:13 pm

Qatar: first signs of progress?

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One swallow does not a summer make, is a phrase that comes to mind but optimists out there will have been encouraged and relieved by this week’s revelations that Qatar at last seems to be awarding the big contracts. Aristotle could never have imagined the transformation going on in the world’s richest nation, but while Qatari government officials remain tight lipped, at least $2.2bn - worth of rail contracts have been handed out according to media and stock exchange reports. There are just 108 months until the first match kicks off in the FIFA 2012 World Cup between the Qatar national team and one of the lucky qualifiers in the Lusail Iconic Stadium. The joy of the winning World Cup 2022 bid two years ago has already worn off and as the logistics of the many mega-project builds appeared to paralyse the government like rabbits in the headlights. It is a big job and the pressure increases exponentially as each week passes: complete the new port by 2016 otherwise you won’t get the building materials into the country; redesign the airport but lose vital months on the build - and increase costs by $3bn; continually delay official confirmation of the start of your rail programme, and watch more people lose faith in Qatar. In March the government announced project-management training for some so that “individuals and teams within government can work in ways that may be new to them”. Recognition that change was needed but how long to change the culture of a nation? Could Qatar really mess it up so badly that they’ll make the Brazilians haphazard Olympic and World Cup preparations look like a model of German efficiency? Yes they could... but they probably won’t. Money is not the issue, the Qataris have plenty but shortage of suitably qualified people means no amount of money on earth will guarantee the country is ready on time. And as far as I can see the populace is on board so long as they can see an infrastructure legacy in their country for their children. But for me there are two simple problems the Qataris have to address. First: openess. Tell the truth about what’s going on, what’s been awarded and when. That way you inspire faith in the system and the people responsible for organising it. Second: demonstrate that as a government you will tackle inflationary pressures. In April inflation hit a four-year high of 3.7%. Any shortage of materials will lead to cost rises and that will affect contractors’ profits and THAT can lead to contractor failure. If that starts happening then the trickle of firms which have decided not to risk all in Qatar will become a flood and work won't be done. The eyes of the world are on Qatar and for most people it represents the whole region. If it screws up the World Cup, then that failure will reflect across the GCC. That’s why Qatar must give the world a spectacle people have never seen before.