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Sat 13 Jun 2009 04:00 AM

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Qatar – watch this place

As promised, I'm going to give you a lowdown on what happened in Qatar last week.

As promised, I'm going to give you a lowdown on what happened in Qatar last week.

I trust you already know, we had the Construction Week Qatar Briefing 2009 that some say, was a success.

The room was certainly not bursting at the seams with people thronging the doors to get in, but there were a few more seats vacant than was expected. And that's as honestly as I can put it.

But, and here's what's interesting, people in Qatar aren't really used to the concept of conferences, I was told by many. It is still a growing trend. Maybe that explains the rather laidback atmosphere, but it also gives a not-so-correct impression about Qatar's construction industry.

On the other hand, from my rounds of the city, the impression I got was that the little emir state has hardly been affected by the downturn.

Construction activity was in full swing in every corner of the capital - whether it was on the outskirts of the city centre like Wakra beyond the old airport, the new airport itself, roads all over the city, the town centre in West Bay - everywhere, construction was ongoing.

I met with many people at the conference and outside of it, and everyone seemed to be quite positive about the future of construction in Qatar.

Al Wa'ab City president and COO Brian Meilleur, who I shared a coffee with at the conference, said he was amazed at how no one had mentioned Qatar's potential to be the next boom town.

And he's right in a way. If one takes a closer look at why Qatar is still in the game, you will realise a few subtle truths. One, the country didn't go overboard with construction, like some of its neighbours have done in the past and therefore hasn't burnt it's fingers; secondly, it focused on projects that were needed for its development as a whole, like the ongoing airport construction and sensible commercial and residential space, and thirdly, it sits on 15% of the world's gas reserves.

So, the question is not if Qatar has the resources and the capability of becoming the next construction major, but if it chooses to go down that road.

And until that happens or does not happen, all we can do is wait and see.

Conrad Egbert is the editor of Construction Week.

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