Qatar’s population was 1.83 million by 2012-end, having surged in the past nine months by over 200,000, to 2.035 million by September 30 this year.
The rate of growth has been in double digits — more than 10 percent — having far-reaching implications on the country’s limited resources.
“One of the outcomes of the current population explosion has been that we need nearly 200 new private schools and at least 20 new hospitals,” says Khalifa Al Muslemani.
Al Muslemani, a celebrated real estate investor and analyst, told The Peninsula yesterday: “We were actually expecting such a population growth. This is extraordinary growth”.
Existing schools and hospitals have outlived their capacities. They just don’t have space and the means to handle extra pressure. “This is just one example.”
Interestingly, it appears the country’s planning officials were also not ready to handle such a heavy influx of foreign workers, as is evidenced from the population growth targets envisioned in the National Development Strategy (2011-16).
The NDS noted in its document that modest increases in population will accompany the expected economic expansion (between 2011 and 2016).
The NDS, thus, forecasts the population at less than 1.9 million by 2016 — which means that there has been an unplanned increase three years before the target year.
“The influx isn’t going to cease. It continues in a vicious circle,” said Al Muslemani.
The thing is, as the population increases, driven by a heavier influx of foreign workers for the mega development projects linked to the 2022 FIFA event, more houses, schools and hospitals would be needed.
“So to build these facilities you would need to get more workers and the population keeps going up.”
Some 80 percent of the newly-recruited workers are coming for specific projects.
But not all could be expected to go back when the projects are over, as some would be shifted to new projects.
The remaining 20 percent workers are professionals and include doctors, chartered accountants, technicians and teachers, among others, said Al Muslemani.
“They are the ones Qatar would be needing over the long term, so they would stay on.”
A major problem, according to Al Muslemani, is housing, particularly for people in lower-middle and middle-income brackets.
There is a shortage of housing for these categories of people, and soaring demand is already pushing rents up.
“What we, therefore, need is to build large housing stocks outside of Doha, and for that the government must develop and provide land.”
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Each township being developed thus should be able to accommodate at least 300,000 to 400,000 people, said the real estate analyst.
One of the hazards of the sudden population explosion, according to experts, is already visible on the roads, particularly in Doha.
“There is total chaos on the roads any time of the day, and you can feel the impact of the sudden population growth more when you are caught in the traffic than anywhere else,” said a motorist.
The problem is the timings of schools and offices clash and most government offices are located in one area.
The Medical Commission that conducts the mandatory health checks on freshly-arriving foreign workers as a precondition to grant of residency visas, is another example of how the rising population is putting immense pressure on services.
Serpentine queues can be seen at the Medical Commission facilities and even though rules suggest that a newly-arrived worker must report to the Commission within a week after landing here, the Commission, unable to handle pressure, gives people appointments after a month or two.
The delays are affecting small businesses in particular as newly-hired workers of eateries, barber shops and many other such facilities cannot be deployed for work unless they have health clearance from the Commission.
Al Muslemani hinted the problems could get aggravated, as due to a string of new infrastructure projects being launched, he said he expected the country’s population to cross 2.4 million by the year 2016. “I anticipate at least 20 percent growth until then.”