BY MOHAMMAD SHOEB
DOHA: With rising influx of foreign workers for mega infrastructure projects, Qatar’s population is expected to grow by more than 15 percent over the next couple of years. It is estimated to reach 2.4m by 2015, putting extra pressure on resources, said a senior official yesterday.
Frank Harrigan (pictured), Director, the Department of Economic Development, the Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics, said: “Currently the population is about 2.07m, but it will continue to increase over the next two years. And by 2015 we could possibly have a population in a range between 2.3m and 2.4m.”
The population was 1.83m by 2012-end. More than 200,000 newly-recruited foreign workers have arrived in the past nine months, taking the population beyond the 2m mark.
He said the population will start flattening out after reaching its peak level of 2.5m after the 2022 World Cup.
“By 2015 or 2016 when most of projects should be working in full capacity, the population will reach its peak level. But as these projects reach their completion many workers will start returning home, and we would see the population declining,” said Harrigan.
However, he cautioned that population is a very sensitive topic in Qatar. “This is my opinion, and there are many other views too.”
Speaking at the opening of Qatar Energy and Water Efficiency Conference 2013, he said the issue is not just the scale but the composition of the population is also very important for forecasting demand for power, water and other infrastructure services, including schools and hospitals.
“Today’s population is heavily tilted towards lesser skilled expat workers. The demand for services they are placing is quite different from the demand that would be placed in future by a larger Qatari population and population of expats with high human capital content, with more women and children,” he said.
Asked if Qatar would follow the Dubai pattern, he said: “You will see a replacement of construction workers by a workforce who are more service-oriented, but whether it will happen on the same scale what Dubai witnessed is a choice Qatar has to make, and I think Qatar National Vision 2030 speaks quite clearly about it.” He praised Kahramaa’s power and water efficiency drive, ‘Tarsheed’ but hinted that high state subsidies are impediment to achieve energy efficiency.
“About 20 percent of fiscal revenues in the GCC are going into energy subsidies — equivalent to 12 percent of GDP of these countries,” he said.
Harrigan suggested that Qatar, like its neighbours Saudi Arabia, Oman and the UAE, should focus on controlling from the demand side these utility services by establishing an independent regulatory institution under a strategic national energy policy which is missing. It will help enable an environment that improves power and water efficiency.