Qatar imports a large proportion of its construction materials, as well as other essentials such as food.
Most of these imports have historically come through Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, which cut diplomatic ties with the country in June.
After the start of the blockade total imports to the country fell 40% compared to last year, prompting emergency measures such as businessman Moutaz Al Khayyat’s plan to airlift 4,000 dairy cows into the country from the US and Australia.
“Projects are on hold in many cases,” Mark O’Connell, CEO at investment advisory firm OCO Global, told Business Insider, “so you wonder about what the realism of being able to deliver that tournament is.”
“Just getting in and out of the place now is much harder than it used to be,” he said, and if the blockade “doesn’t stop the building process, it’s certainly slowing it down and escalating the cost.”
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut off air, sea and land ties to Qatar in June, after accusing the country of supporting terrorism. But the country still plans to host the 2022 World Cup.
Thousands of South Asian workers are employed in Qatar’s construction industry, which relies heavily on imported materials coming through Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, and now risk losing their jobs if not enough materials are imported.
“It’s a mathematical question: how can you replace those imports with the Doha ports?” David Roberts, author of Qatar: Securing the Global Ambitions of a City State, told the i newspaper in June.
Under the “Kafala” system, foreign workers in Qatar must seek permission from their employers before changing jobs or leaving the country. Trying to leave without first applying for an exit permit — or if employers fail to provide a permit — can result in workers being fined, unable to get another job and stranded.
If the stadium is built in time but the blockade continues, there are also questions about how easy it will be for World Cup ticket holders to travel to Qatar.
In June, FIFA officials told Reuters they were in “regular contact” with the organising committee behind 2022 World Cup, but did not comment directly on the political situation in the Gulf.
The World Cup Local Organising Committee in Qatar could not be reached for comment.
O’Connell is hopeful the blockade won’t last long: “I think they’re just on the naughty step for six months,” he says. The Saudis, he goes on, were “emboldened” by US President Donald Trump’s visit, during which the President expressed sympathy for allegations that Qatar was supporting terrorism, after which the blockade was announced.
But Trump “did not grasp the implications for his own country,” says O’Connell, pointing out that Qatar is home to America’s largest Middle Eastern airbase, as well as being the headquarters for US military operations in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
O’Connell does a large portion of his work with some of the more populous Gulf countries, including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Investment in the Gulf corridor in general, he says, is “ratcheting up,” particularly from British businesses: “I’ve never had as much interest in that part of the world from British companies,” he said.
But Qatar remains a country with an uncertain future. Other consultants working in Qatar, he says, are struggling: “I don’t work with Qatar,” he said, “I’d be quite nervous if I did.”
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