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For Qatari residents: Do you prefer a summer or winter World Cup 2022?

Decision Time!

Written by  Author |   Wed, 12 March 2014 13:13

With 2022 fast approaching and the bulk of the 2030 vision to be executed by then, Qatar cannot afford either delays or compromises on quality

By: Rubina Singh

Across the GCC, more than a hundred construction megaprojects costing over $1 trillion are scheduled to be delivered by 2030 with Qatar among the top spenders.  The country has around $420.12 billion worth of projects planned until 2025 with a construction peak forecasted from 2014 to 2019 - a relatively short span of time considering the magnitude of the projects!

If innovative designs and quality construction is to become a part and parcel of the construction scene in Qatar then there will certainly be a need to smoothen unnecessary time delays for permitting, and while stringent scrutiny is imperative this has to be balanced with efficacy and efficiency in processing approvals.

Peter Hayes, business development manager for the Qatar German Pipes Company (QGPC), part of the Al Sulaiteen group of companies' industrial division, elucidates this situation: "Take for example admixture which Ashghal is requiring to be approved as an ingredient for ready mix concrete, a move that Ashghal should be applauded for since admixture improves the quality of the ingredients and drives the quality of the end product, i.e. ready mix concrete. So we are dedicating time, energy and effort educating public sector clients such as Ashghal, Lusail Real Estate Development, Qatar Foundation, QP and others as well as consultants and contractors about this product's  advantages." QGPC manufactures a range of polymer concrete jacking pipes for micro-tunneling activities and supplies manhole covers and frames as well as a new product called ‘admixture' which forms a part of ready mix concrete, products which Peter says are going to be very important for the future of the infrastructure market in Qatar.

Peter's know-how revolved around infrastructure and construction markets for concrete and plastics materials and with many years' experience working in Europe and the Middle East in sales, marketing and business development capacities He took part in international activities including developing business with local agents throughout the MENA region, Far East and Australia and running multi-cultural teams for project execution. Peter asserts that introducing new technology and products is only half the battle. "While the product is eagerly awaited by the construction industry, getting a product approved can be an extremely time consuming and tedious process, far more than in other parts of the world and far more wearisome than is needed."

"While we have received a no objection letter from Ashghal for our polymer resin concrete pipe range, getting it approved for QCS compliance through the Ministry of Environment has taken us the best part of two years," Peter explains adding optimistically, "we are looking forward to some promising results soon."

So, do approvals take longer because rules and regulations in Qatar are more stringent than in other places? From personal experience in the UAE where he lived and worked for four years, Peter finds that requirements in Qatar are actually quite detailed. "I probably wouldn't use the word stringent but there are particular requirements that have to be met especially with specifications, making sure that you have dotted all the I's and crossed all the T's." 

"The Qatar Construction Standard (QCS) is very much known as the bible of the construction industry in Qatar and if your product is not listed there, then it is extremely difficult to sell it in the Qatari market, and that is what we have been really working on."

"It is difficult to say how that process compares with the rest of the world but having worked in Europe and the Far East, I find that the process of getting your product approved and sold in the market in these regions is far less arduous than it is here in Qatar." Having previously worked in Qatar in 2006 and 2007, this is Peter's second tour of duty and the concern on Peter's mind reflects the anxiety expressed by various other professionals in the industry. "I think the biggest challenge for Qatar has to do with time. If you ask the man on the street anywhere around the world as to where the World Cup is going to be held in 2022, they are sure to mention Qatar. But that's pretty much what they know about Qatar, simply as them being host. I think if you are intimately involved in Qatar's construction market, like I am, you would know that there is so much that has to be completed by that fixed date!"

"Although it is likely that the world cup will be moved to the winter of that year, providing an additional six months for projects to be completed, there are tremendous challenges in terms of what needs to happen to road infrastructure, the Qatar Rail Project, the local Roads and Drainage Program as well as a major sewer project IDRIS. When it comes to the world cup, Qatar will have to build nine new stadiums, refurbish three existing ones provided of course an additional sixty, or seventy thousand hotel rooms need to be built by then. Here we are in 2014 and 2022 is approaching like an express train! I believe decisions need to be taken quickly in terms of where the contractors can really begin."

Peter adds, "So there are tremendous challenges - logistical challenges, availability challenges, as well as time challenges which are going to confront the entire construction industry and all the stakeholders are going to have to get involved. Whether it's the client, the consultant or the contractor, it is going to affect everybody."

The thrill of a new adventure and the excitement of scaling a new height have all been enjoyed with winning the hosting rights to this prestigious event translating into a construction boom and major infrastructural development projects but perhaps time is ripe to put things in motion and take appropriate action to pre-empt avoidable delays. The fiery question on everyone's mind is: Is Qatar going to have everything wrapped up in time for the 2022 bonanza?

"I would honestly like to think that it is possible," says Peter "but we must recognize the challenge that everybody faces in order to make that happen."

"The clock is ticking and unless some of these major infrastructure projects are going to be awarded in the coming months, I think Qatar may be a little bit behind schedule and will be under greater pressure in 2017-2020 to actually get it done in time. I am sure people like me who were here for the 2006 Asian Games, remember only too well what was almost a panic situation to actually get all the road works completed. In fact some of them were only finished temporarily and when the games were over, all the surfaces were ripped up and then replaced with proper roads" Peter reminisces, adding on a positive note "I'm sure that the country's leaders simply don't want to repeat that scenario."

While Peter is circumspect that things are moving differently this time, he is also hopeful. "I think there is obviously a serious intent amongst officials who should be following a critical path and making sure that all the pieces are actually fitting together towards 2022".

"Like it or not, 2022 is very much seen as the milestone, and although we all know that there is a 2030 vision in Qatar, from what I understand after talking to clients throughout Qatar is that the bulk (75%-80%) of the 2030 vision is going to be executed by 2022.  You can imagine how intense the activity will be over the next seven to eight years," he points out.

Considering that in the construction industry speed and quality don't always go hand in hand, is it too late to set the ball rolling and expect desired results? "Time isn't the only challenge on the horizon," says Peter. "Across the city one see's the slogan - ‘Qatar deserves the best'! Well yes, but I think, we all deserve the best, don't we?" questions Peter with utmost frankness.

"If we are not going to pay mere lip service to that concept then I believe quality is going to be of paramount importance. Any decision to supply a contractor is very much driven by price. Not only is there pressure on the contractors to execute their projects in time but also within tight budgets. And when such quick fixes are the norm, quality can often suffer as a result! There is an old saying that ‘cheap is expensive in the long run'.  I think there is a lot of price pressure on the suppliers and contractors and while that is natural, it should be done in a way that ensures there will be no compromise on quality."

Peter believes the dilemma is not out of reach and while everyone involved has to raise the bar, he considers that the greater weight rests on the consultants' shoulders. "The consultant has a tremendous opportunity to promote quality to his clients because at the end of the day, the client is invariably the man with the money and the one financing these projects. If Qatar really does deserve the best then I believe the long term sustainable solution has to be the key."

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October / 10 / 2014
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