by Fari Macham, AIPS Young Reporter, Zimbabwe
DOHA, February 10 2016 – Qatar is taking “cost effective” steps in their plans to erect extravagantly designed stadia ahead of the 2022 World Cup but has ruled out crashing oil prices as having anything to do with it.
Oil prices have slumped to below $30-a-barrel amid warnings the rout could reach as low as $10 posing some concern for the significantly oil producer.
The situation has been compounded by looming problems in natural gas, a sector where Qatar is the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, and has the third-largest proven natural gas reserves in the world.
According to a Columbia study Qatari natural gas revenue could plunge to $37 billion within the next decade as a result of alternative natural gas sources for emerging Asian economies that currently purchase gas from Qatar.
However, Nasser Al Khater, Assistant Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC) says events in the economic sector will not affect the pace of construction.
The Qatari government is expected to spend several billion on the 2022 World Cup and related projects that include a new metro rail system, expressways and infrastructure development.
“We put in place the budgets for the World Cup some time back, so we are going as planned,” Al Khater told AIPS.
“We haven’t had any reason to reduce our pace or slow down because of the prices of oil. However, we did want to make sure we are as efficient as possible and we have taken steps in being efficient not linked to the price of oil.”
The SC deputy chief admitted it w not going to be easy to satisfy diverse needs of the millions of world cup spectators that will descend on this gulf state of just over 2,1 million people.
“Every world cup is an opportunity for the host country to reflect their culture. When we were in South Africa we didn’t only see the South African culture but the African culture…we saw how the entire continent was rallying behind Ghana even after South Africa were eliminated…..You got a spirit of Africa,” he said.
“Here in the Middle East we have a unique tradition and this is a time for us to showcase our culture especially when we have so much wrong perception of our culture. It’s an opportunity for people to witness first hand that “Qatar is an open country, 88 percent of the population are non Qatari. So we want to make sure we maintain the essence of hospitality, we are conservative but we are also cosmopolitan.”
The question of whether fans will be able to freely partake alcohol has also been a cause of concern.
The SC has moved to put in place plans to have designated spots to cater for fans “who may want to enjoy their drink,” Al Khater said.
Currently there are select hotels and bars in Doha where you are allowed to drink.
“Alcohol is legal in Qatar,” Al Khater said.
“It’s not as readily available as many countries and therefore less visible. However, for the fans who want to come and enjoy their drinks. It will probably mean they will be designated areas where people can enjoy their drinks.”