Running to catch up

Can GCC companies now keep up with Qatar in the lead up to 2022?

Carlin Gerbich
Carlin Gerbich

If 2010 taught us anything, it is that unless you are prepared to move with the times, you will be left behind.

Nothing brought this more to the fore than in the days following Qatar’s winning bid for the 2022 FIFA Soccer World Cup where, having survived through to the final round of voting, the tiny Gulf nation gazumped the US in an ultimate David vs. Goliath thrashing.

I was in Qatar a day after the announcement, purely by chance, to cover the first QPM-Construction Week HSE in Construction conference – and the sense of achievement and anticipation was palpable. Who could blame them? Had I felled one of the largest sporting nations in the world in a fight for the most lucrative sports tournament in the world, I would have been bouncing off the walls with excitement.

Thankfully, that is not the Qatari way of doing things. With typical grace and reserve, QPM’s chief Dr Nasser Abdul Rahman Kamal told me simply that the nation must now deliver on its promise to deliver the best World Cup ever.

With that came the realisation that Qatar, and contractors from the wider GCC countries who hope to get a piece of the action over the coming 11 years, are going to come under an unprecedented level of scrutiny in delivering projects on time, on budget and to the levels Qatar expects.

It is not just ensuring every tap, lightswitch and bulb works, and that major infrastructure projects help lubricate the wheels of tourism – but that every contractor lifts its game and tackles every project with complete and total professionalism.

Now, that is not to suggest that contractors do not do so at present – but adopting standards and having sustainable, workable health and safety initiatives is going to be key if firms want to work in Qatar in the future.

Any firm that hasn't already rubbed the liniment of HSE deeply in to its corporate muscle is running the risk of being sidelined and forgotten forever over the next few months.

Some contractors take this responsibility a great deal further than others by redefining their roles within a project. Without naming names, one contractor told the group that they saw it as its responsibility to not only design projects, but to include HSE initiatives in to its designs for construction phases, helping to reduce the risk of workplace injuries and accidents.

Being able to eliminate ‘buildability’ issues early on and continue to refine the process over several major projects, the contractor has been able to increase its repeat business, reduce injuries and save project time and costs.

It is this level of detail that contractors need to be operating at to have any chance of securing work in Qatar in the lead-up to the World Cup. And, rest assured, once developers become aware of the value they are getting for their construction dollar from forward-thinking contractors and consultants, those who fail to react will be left behind – not just in Qatar, but throughout the region. It is not a matter of if; it is a matter of when.

Part of the formula rests on clarity and assurance. If a business can prove it has procedures in place, and takes an active stance in quality control, then gaining contractor confidence becomes a lot easier. And, having gone through the process of developing best working practices, no contractor worth its salt would risk dealing with a company that has not made that same level of commitment.

While a string of major contracts for the World Cup may still be some time off, developing cohesive and fundamental changes to any business structure for long-term growth is not an overnight process. It takes months to perfect, and requires a drive from board level to permeate every facet of the business. It also takes monitoring, reporting and refinement.

As QPM’s HSE director Wayne Harris advised, if you have not yet sat down in your organisation and asked ‘what are we going to plan for the World Cup?’, you are going to miss the boat, because when you come to tender, the requirements are going to have changed – and you are going to have to be ready for that.”

Carlin Gerbich is a Senior Reporter for Construction Week

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