QATAR RUSHES TO SKIRT SAUDI BOYCOTT
Nation reaching further abroad, laying out more cash to replace suppliers next door
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.
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.