Mayor of London Boris Johnson and the British Ambassador to Qatar, Michael O’Neill, with other officials at the press briefing yesterday. Ayub Basfari
BY MOHAMMAD SHOEB
DOHA: Qatari Diar’s ambitious Chelsea Barracks project will go ahead, the visiting Mayor of London, Boris Johnson told reporters here yesterday.
“Our Ambassador to Qatar, Michael O’Neill CMG, has been recently assured by the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister H E Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani that the Chelsea Barracks project will go ahead,” said Johnson.
According to some reports, the project has been on hold for some time as it has come under “sharp criticism” from Prince Charles, heir to the British throne and long-standing critic of modern architecture, due to its contemporary design.
The current status of the project is not known. However, the mayor of London and Ambassador O’Neill are expected to meet the promoters today.
“We are seeing Qatari Diar tomorrow. Chelsea Barracks is a fantastic project. We have to see some progress,” added Johnson.
Chelsea Barracks is one of the most ambitious among Qatari Diar’s overseas projects. The property arm of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund has more than 80 projects worldwide worth about $60bn. Johnson was here to launch a non-profit foundation — Institute for Infrastructure Studies — that aims to become the global centre of excellence in understanding the financing, risk appraisal and management of large, complex infrastructure projects.
Later during the day, Johnson held a media briefing about his meetings with Qatari investors and investment opportunities in Britain, especially in London.
He said: “We have extremely strong economic fundamentals that offer 18 opportunity areas for mutual benefits. Some of them include infrastructure development, housing, transport, airports, higher education, Islamic banking, media and many others.”
“There are a lot of things that we can do together. I have received positive feedback and have seen a lot of enthusiasm among potential investors. Things are encouraging and moving ahead, but need further momentum for deeper and stronger relationships,” he added.
Commenting on Qatar’s investments in Britain, Johnson said they totalled more than $20bn and were mostly in London, excluding the $22bn investment in the recently inaugurated Shard tower. Qatari-British relations had witnessed rapid growth in the last few years, he said.
Asked if it would be prudent to invest further in a nearly stagnant economy, given the IMF’s recent low growth forecasts for Britain, he said: “It is true that the UK economy has been badly affected by the whole ‘European error’ and continuing uncertainties about the euro, but if you look at the London market, I think there are great grounds and optimism due to its incredible economic fundamentals.”
He added that London had many positive factors for investors, including its geographical location, diversity and continuously growing size.
“It is one of the biggest cities of Europe with an increasingly growing population. This is why, after hosting the Olympic Games successfully, we received huge investments from Australia, Malaysia and Qatar and many others.” The Peninsula