The British engineering giant Atkins has won a deal to help Qatar plan billions of dollars of infrastructure projects. The £70 million (Dh395.8m) contract is the second major order in Qatar won by Atkins in recent months and will include the planning of projects linked to the 2022 Fifa World Cup.
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The central planning office (CPO) will help the ministry of municipality and urban planning create the infrastructure to support the country's diversification drive.
"The establishment of the CPO is the next step for Qatar in driving their 2030 vision, the transformation into a non-carbon economy," said Keith Clarke, the Atkins chairman for the Middle East, after the deal was announced yesterday. Under the Qatar National Vision 2030, the world's biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas is intent on further improving living conditions in the country, building Doha into a thriving metropolis that will compete with Dubai and Abu Dhabi as a business hub.
"They see themselves as a place where people would like to do business.
"It's the same vision that the UAE had in the early 2000s," said Gurminder Sagoo, the head of business development at WSP Middle East.
The new Atkins contract follows a £65m deal in November to upgrade Doha's roads and drainage system, and earnings results last year that were impaired by a slowdown in Abu Dhabi.
A swelling project pipeline in the emirate had provided Atkins and its competitors with some relief after the property market in Dubai collapsed in 2008, leading to a drastic decline in building activity there.
In November, Atkins reported a 3.7 per cent drop in profit for the first half of the fiscal year as a consequence of "a slowdown in the release of projects" in Abu Dhabi. Several flagship projects, designed to boost Abu Dhabi's appeal as a tourist destination, have recently been delayed. These include the Zayed National and Guggenheim museums on Saadiyat Island.
"The real growth will come from Qatar, and maybe a little bit from Oman," Mr Clarke said.
"The Emirates will be relatively quiet for a few years."
Mr Sagoo believes Saudi Arabia will also be a growth market in the coming years.
WSP recently won a five-year contract worth an annual 120 million rials (Dh121m) with the public works authority Ashghal.
Qatar's growing infrastructure will connect and accommodate big projects such as the Education City complex and the Pearl residential development in Doha, all leading up to the 2022 Fifa World Cup.