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Qatar in Focus

Mark Ainger, Faithful+Gould’s Qatar Country Director, talks to Construction Business News about the company’s ongoing activity in the Gulf state and the outlook for the construction industry.

What are some of the main projects you’re working on in Qatar? 

Faithful+Gould is currently involved in some of the Qatar’s most prestigious projects. We are proud to be programme managers on Doha Oasis, an unprecedented development offering a high end residential low-rise compound, a retail complex, an exclusive 7 Star high-rise hotel tower and a world class indoor theme park.

Mark Ainger e1496299082236We are involved in several aspects of the multiple award winning and recently opened Doha Festival City, the largest retail mall in Qatar, and the largest under construction at present in the Middle East. We are also Project Manager for the Shaza Hotel, a 5 *, 4 storey hotel. We are providing cost, commercial and controls to Ashghal on several projects across their building and infrastructure portfolio, expressways and local roads and drainage, programmes and we are also providing advisory services at a strategic level.

What are the key construction market trends in Qatar at the moment?

The Qatar market has been constrained to a degree by the suppressed oil and gas prices on the world market. Qatar has seized this opportunity to review and prioritise its pipeline and assess timelines for completion to match growth predictions and national development demands. Overall this has brought restrictions to the number and level of awards but we remain hopeful that this period of review will lead to a more robust pipeline in supply of projects developed out of necessity to meet both the Qatar 2030 National Vision and the more short term and immediate demands of the FIFA World Cup 2022.

To what extent is the World Cup propping up the market?

Overall underlying market growth is driven by the Qatar National Vision 2030 and the nation’s development strategy around this. To date this has been supplemented by the National Vision 2011 – 16, shortly to be replaced by the National Vision 2017-22. A number of requirements within this have been accelerated and flexed to meet the shorter term demands of the Fifa World Cup 2022. The World Cup has added a further degree of immediacy to development and has provided focus to accelerate several infrastructure and tournament specific projects. This is where we see the demand rising for companies such as Faithful+Gould, with vast experience and unrivalled expertise in fast tracking projects and a need for us to provide much needed project management services to meet looming deadlines.

What are the main challenges facing construction companies in Qatar right now?

Cash flow is often noted as a challenge by many parties within the current market. Challenging and at times punitive contract terms often provide challenges, often with risk apportioned to parties that may not be best placed to manage such risk can at times limit innovation and provide restrictions on what could be achieved by closer collaboration and a stronger partnering approach to delivery.

Which sectors are providing the best opportunities right now and which sectors are suffering the most? 

All sectors present opportunities for companies with a demonstrated depth and strength in delivery within the local market in a country with such ambitious development plans as Qatar.  One risk that is often noted in the recent market however is a potential oversupply in certain sectors, such as retail and hospitality, as a large number of developments commenced in recent years come to market simultaneously. A new balance across the market to suit demand will take some time to be achieved to reassess underlying market conditions.

Infrastructure growth on a local level for roads, expressways, metro and rail systems remains strong although many of the major commissions have been let. National plans around international travel continue unabated and will provide growth for some years to come if predictions prove true.

Qatar’s business landscape and commercial centres are also fluid which provides challenges to foresee underlying market conditions. West Bay remains a business hub yet Msheireb and Lusail continue to develop and come on stream as significant commercial and mixed use residential and retail areas of the future. The Pearl as a residential centre can be seen to be maturing. All these and others are signs of a rapidly developing and maturing country growing steadily towards its 2030 National Vision.

What’s your outlook for the next five years?

Overall the outlook for the construction market remains positive. With specific market changing events programmed for five years from now it is impossible not to consider a short to medium term peak in construction projects as these events become closer and more immediate. Overall the outlook is good, but the market needs to progress past and through the current hiatus with sufficient and locally deployed resource to adequately meet these future challenges.

It is critical for all sectors that the release of funding for those programmes required for 2022 and 2030 commences with a degree of positivity and urgency in the short term to enable those companies committed to supporting Qatar with its development to meet the future challenges and satisfy client needs.