Interview:  Essa Mohammed Ali Kaldari

Considering the government’s focus on infrastructure development, how do you see this impacting large-scale development works in the coming years?

ESSA MOHAMMED ALI KALDARI: Luckily, several large-scale projects such as Lusail City and Msheireb Downtown were started and tendered before the recent wave of infrastructure projects. Currently more than 70% of the infrastructure of Lusail is completed. The majority of large packages have been awarded, and the only remaining tender of considerable size is CP7, which will be released in 2014. Vertical construction has increased substantially in the past year, and contractors have completed some 50-60% of ongoing projects. Our aim was to tender the projects and have the contractors on board before a wave of infrastructure works began. The majority of the projects will be finished, and contractors previously involved with Lusail will be able to participate in the infrastructure drive you mentioned. We were fortunate that during the crisis and the financial recession, Doha was very attractive for contractors so we were able to secure contractors. Looking ahead, the construction industry has to plan for inflationary pressures and cater for it when budgeting. It will happen eventually.

To what extent are you concerned about the risk surrounding material supplies given pressures from the domestic and regional construction industry?

KALDARI: We cannot deny that the current number of construction activities, in addition to those due to begin in the near future both in Qatar and elsewhere in the region, will have an impact on the general construction industry. However, the government is on top of mitigating these challenges by establishing entities and committees to oversee the management and procurement of raw material supplies. Additionally, some projects have taken precautionary steps where possible by building their own facilities in order to receive and store shipments of raw materials such as aggregates and washed sand on site.

How are government projects ensuring local firms participate in the infrastructure drive, and are international firms encouraged to work with local ones?

KALDARI: The government has been and is continuing to encourage local firms to participate in the construction industry. Projects were split into various sizes, and based on their budgets a number of them were dedicated only to local contractors. Larger tenders were evaluated on the amount of real input local contractors would be contributing, and an emphasis was put on true joint ventures between international and local firms to help develop local knowhow and expertise. At Lusail, for example, at least 35% of our contracts must be given to local subcontractors and suppliers.

How can developers ensure contractors are meeting international standards for labourers’ welfare? What more can be done at the government level?

KALDARI: The issue of safeguarding the welfare of migrant workers in Qatar is a major priority for the government, as well as for all large organisations in the country. Genuine progress is being made in terms of ensuring contractors and subcontractors treat their employees with dignity and that the highest health and safety standards are adhered to in the workplace. We will work tirelessly to make sure that these standards are observed by all, and that they do not slip.

At Lusail, we have increased the number of inspectors on site, and adherence to standards at workers’ accommodation is also a priority. Earlier this year we held a workshop for our contractors and subcontractors and made it clear that any firm found to have violated our standards would lose their contracts. Our health managers regularly visit sites, and we are working to ensure that all construction workers employed on our projects are properly looked after and that rest hours are complied with. The government has been conducting inspections, issuing warnings and citations. The Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning is also constructing state-run accommodations for workers.