QATAR RUSHES TO SKIRT SAUDI BOY­COTT

Na­tion reach­ing fur­ther abroad, lay­ing out more cash to re­place sup­pli­ers next door

New Straits Times - - Business / World -

DEEP pock­ets and a fiveyear lead time are keep­ing Qatar’s dream of host­ing soc­cer’s 2022 World Cup from turn­ing into a boy­cott-bat­tered night­mare.

A four-na­tion em­bargo led by Saudi Ara­bia has cut off Qatar con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als it was count­ing on to build at least eight sta­di­ums, lay dozens of miles of rail work and erect a brand new city be­fore the world’s most­watched sport­ing event. But as the diplo­matic and com­mer­cial boy­cott ap­proaches its third month, the gas-rich na­tion says it is cast­ing fur­ther abroad and lay­ing out more cash than planned to re­place sup­pli­ers that live next door.

Malaysian steel was re­plac­ing Saudi’s. Oman would pro­vide ma­te­ri­als orig­i­nally or­dered from the United Arab Emi­rates.

China was step­ping into the breach with dozens of prod­ucts, and even Qatar was sud­denly erect­ing fa­cil­i­ties to build bleach­ers. Some sup­pli­ers from boy­cotting na­tions are rerout­ing ship­ments through Omani ports.

“For ev­ery chal­lenge that we face, there are so­lu­tions that keep pop­ping up,” said sec­re­tarygen­eral of the Qatar World Cup Supreme Com­mit­tee for De­liv­ery and Legacy Has­san Al-Thawadi in an in­ter­view here.

“We are work­ing with our con­trac­tors to make sure we ac­tu­ally de­liver long-term supply chain so­lu­tions and al­ter­na­tives.”

Nei­ther he nor an­a­lysts ven­tured es­ti­mates for the cost over­runs.

The out­size tab would be paid for cour­tesy of vast nat­u­ral gas re­serves that al­lows Qatar’s 2.6 mil­lion res­i­dents to en­joy the world’s high­est per-capita in­come.

It is that en­ergy wealth — plus more than US$335 bil­lion (RM1.4 tril­lion) worth of as­sets around the globe — that has also al­lowed it to stand firm in its stand­off with the Saudi-led al­liance.

The bloc on Sun­day re­it­er­ated a list of 13 de­mands it wanted Qatar to meet be­fore talks to re­solve the rift could start.

Even be­fore the boy­cott tacked on costs, Qatar had com­mit­ted US$200 bil­lion (RM854 bil­lion) to build new sta­di­ums, a US$35 bil­lion metro and rail sys­tem, and a new city for 200,000 peo­ple. It also set out to dou­ble the size of its air­port to han­dle 53 mil­lion pas­sen­gers a year.

‘‘The World Cup is a do-or-die project for Qatar and it will pay for it,” said Adel Ab­del Gha­far, vis­it­ing fel­low at the Brook­ings Doha Cen­tre.

“It’s a mat­ter of pres­tige and na­tional pride and they are fully in­vested in it, so I don’t see work for the project be­ing stopped.”

Cranes swung con­crete slabs into place and the whine of jack­ham­mers pierced the air last week at the 40,000-seat Al Wakra sta­dium, where as many as 1,800 labour­ers work around the clock to try to fin­ish it by the end of next year.

BLOOMBERG PIC

Qatar wants to build at least eight sta­di­ums, lay dozens of miles of rail work and erect a brand new city be­fore the world’s most­watched sport­ing event in 2022.

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