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Will Qatar keep its World Cup Construction to itself?

Earlier this month delegates from as far as the United States, Pakistan and the UK flocked to Doha to hear how they might benefit from a market invigorated by the 2022 World Cup.

About £90bn will be poured into infrastructure investment over the coming decade and projects that seemed dead only six months ago have suddenly been resuscitated, with the Qatar-Bahrain Causeway a great example.

However, winning work in the world’s richest nation can be a lot trickier than it seems.

At the moment contracting ventures in Qatar, must be majority owned by local sponsors.

Abu Dhabi-based contractor Tristar Transport and Contracting executive manager Sabah Khattar says it reminds him of operating in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) several years ago.

“The treatment [Qatar] gives to GCC companies - well, it does not favour them,” he says.

“It reminds me of the UAE five or six years ago. There were a couple of major local contractors and they did big projects and got the work… I see that replicated here. In a couple of years I hope it will be open to international contractors as well.”

Khattar was in Doha to check out the market and decide whether it was indeed worth his while to get involved.

With his experience and control of large pool of resources, he knows he can outplay the local contractors, but only so long as the terms are right.

He adds that any firm setting up there to win work can own only 49% of it - 51% has to be owned locally.

Foreign firms also have extra taxes imposed on them too.

Further to these concerns, US contractor Parsons transportation planning manager Ibrahim El Sanhouri says that the Qatari government and public works authority must ensure that their regulatory and legal frameworks are ready to deal with the huge number of projects in a short space of time.

“Aspects of the regulatory environment may need to be revisited to ensure the current regulations will not result in bottlenecks,” he says.

He also worries that local contractors may lack the size and capability to provide the labour and materials needed for the massive works programme ahead.

In addition, the Qatari Government places restrictions on visas for some foreigners which may reduce the labour pool in future.

Parsons also has experience of the fickle nature of clients in the region.

Last week it was asked to submit a revised bid for project management work with railway operator Union Railway - after its joint venture contract with France’s Systra was unexpectedly cancelled.

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