Major World Cup 2022 contractors draw up plans to leave Qatar amid Gulf row

Qatar is entering a crucial period in its preparation for the 2022 World Cup football tournament, and the current diplomatic row with its Gulf neighbors could unhinge the country’s construction buildup. (Reuters)
Updated 03 July 2017

Major World Cup 2022 contractors draw up plans to leave Qatar amid Gulf row

LONDON: Major Western contractors for the Fifa World Cup 2022 in Qatar are working on departure plans as its continuing dispute with Gulf neighbors could delay the country’s £160 billion construction program.
A World Cup supplier, who declined to be named citing client sensitivities, warned fresh sanctions threatened by the UAE last week could shift the dial in favor of companies leaving, the British newspaper Telegraph reported.
“We have a team working on contingency planning,” the source said. “Should further sanctions come in companies will have to reassess their investment and their presence in Qatar. If the risk profile changes we would take evasive action to protect our investments and our people.”
Qatar is entering into a crucial phase of its build up for the Fifa tournament, with British and American firms, including star architects Foster + Partners, Zaha Hadid Architects, engineer Arup and US program managers CH2M and Aecom, playing leading roles on World Cup stadium projects.
FTSE 250-listed contractors Interserve and Carillion, consultants Turner & Townsend, Gleeds and RLB also have a presence in Qatar.
Qatar has not confirmed the number of World Cup 2020 stadiums, which it plans to build on a staggered basis over a three-year period from 2018-2021, although it is expected to construct eight.
The country however has began cutting some of the peripheral projects for the football tournament as declining gas prices have put pressure on the government budget.
The Telegraph also said that another contractor viewed Qatar’s row with fellow Gulf Arab states as a “difference of principle that is unlikely to go away for months, maybe a year”.
Although the company was not itself working on contingency plans, it added: “I’ve spoken to competitors who are saying we work in Doha and Abu Dhabi, we are going to have to choose one or the other.”
A lawyer working with the Qatari government however downplayed the talk of contingency planning as an ‘over-reaction by weak bosses in boardrooms’ and claimed Qatar’s ally Turkey could step in to help build projects.
The trade and travel blockades have already interrupted or stopped smaller projects in Qatar as contractors struggle to source the materials and labor they need.
Most of the materials required for building World Cup stadiums had been coming by land route through Saudi Arabia, which is now blocked.
However, Ghanim Al-Kuwari, executive director at the Qatari committee overseeing preparations for the World Cup, said that the blockades did not have an effect on World Cup 2022 preparations.
“We have actually organized alternative sources from other areas in order that the work on the project is not impacted,” he said, adding while some goods had come by land, most materials were coming by sea and some other materials are sourced locally.


Lebanese block roads as protests enter fourth month

Updated 21 min 32 sec ago

Lebanese block roads as protests enter fourth month

  • The protest movement rocking Lebanon since October 17
  • The protest movement is in part fueled by the worst economic crisis

BEIRUT: Protesters blocked several main roads across Lebanon on Friday as unprecedented demonstrations against a political elite accused of corruption and incompetence entered their fourth month.
The protest movement rocking Lebanon since October 17 has resurged this week, over delays in forming a new cabinet to address the country’s growing economic crisis.
No progress seemed to have been made on a final lineup, which protesters demand be made up solely of independent experts and empty of traditional political parties.
In central Beirut, dozens of protesters Friday stood between parked cars blocking a key thoroughfare linking the city’s east and west.
“We blocked the road with cars because it’s something they can’t move,” Marwan Karam said.
The protester condemned what he regarded as efforts to form yet another government representing the usual carve-up of power between the traditional parties.
“We don’t want a government of masked political figures,” the 30-year-old told AFP. “Any such government will fall. We won’t give it any chance in the street.”
Forming a new cabinet is often a drawn-out process in Lebanon, where a complex system seeks to maintain balance between the various political parties and a multitude of religious confessions.
Nearby, Carlos Yammine, 32, said he did not want yet another “cake-sharing government.”
“What we have asked for from the start of the movement is a reduced, transitional, emergency government of independents,” he said, leaning against his car.


Elsewhere, demonstrators closed roads including in Lebanon’s second city of Tripoli, though some were later reopened, the National News Agency said.
The protest movement is in part fueled by the worst economic crisis that Lebanon has witnessed since its 1975-1990 civil war.
The protests this week saw angry demonstrators attack banks following the imposition of sharp curbs on cash withdrawals to stem a liquidity crisis.
On Thursday night, protesters vandalized three more banks in the capital’s Hamra district, smashing their glass fronts and graffitiing ATMs, an AFP photographer said.
Earlier, Lebanon’s security services released most of the 100-plus protesters detained over the previous 48 hours, lawyers said.
Human Rights Watch on Friday condemned the arrests and the response of security forces to protests outside a police station on Wednesday night demanding detainees be released.
“The unacceptable level of violence against overwhelmingly peaceful protesters on January 15 calls for a swift independent and transparent investigation,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at the rights watchdog.
Over the past few months, the Lebanese pound — long pegged to the US dollar at 1,507 — has fallen in value on the unofficial market to around 2,500.
The World Bank has warned that the poverty rate in Lebanon could rise from a third to a half if the political crisis is not remedied fast.