As the recession stalls many of the region’s development plans, Qatar is pressing ahead with large-scale plans to upgrade and expand its transport infrastructure.

Qatar’s population is expected to grow from the current level of 1.3 million to about 2.5 million in the coming years and Doha is aware that such a vast increase requires a significant overhaul of the country’s infrastructure.

The emirate is currently tendering a number of large road projects. In addition to the QR2.5bn ($687m) Lusail Expressway, which is currently in for the prequalification stage, the Public Works Ministry (Ashghal) has received bids for the estimated QR1bn Barwa road development and the estimated QR1.5bn Najma road. The works authority hopes to have awarded eight major highway contracts by the end of 2010.

It is not just an expected population growth that is driving Qatar’s infrastructure plans. Doha is vying to rival Dubai as the region’s main transport hub and is investing significant funds in developing it airport and port infrastructure. The first phase of the $11bn New Doha International Airport is scheduled to open by 2012.

Moreover, bids have been submitted for the first phases of the New Doha Port. Phases one and two are now to be completed in 2014 to create a port with capacity to handle 4 million 20-foot equivalent units a year

Qatar has the funds available to proceed with the large-scale infrastructure development plans. Rising liquefied natural gas exports and high oil prices are currently generating more income that the country is able to spend.

Infrastructure development is a key element of Qatar’s economic diversification plans and Doha is keen to ensure that these major projects move ahead as planned.