Qatar’s Public Works Authority (Ashghal) is cutting spending on building healthcare facilities by more than 50 per cent this year, as the government reprioritise funds allocation on the back of lower oil and gas prices.

Ashghal, which planned to spend estimated QR7bn ($1.9bn) on building healthcare facilities is now spending only QR2.5bn in 2016, Ahmad Ali al-Ansari, Ashghal’s lead advisor on contracts and project management told reporters on the sidelines of MEED’s Construction Leadership Summit in Dubai on 25 May.

Ashghal had originally planned to tender construction of seven healthcare centres in Qatar, but that number has now been cut to three, he added.

“The government had to restructure and re-plan its priorities. We had plans to build big hospitals and healthcare centres but we have slowed down a bit,” according to Al-Ansari.

Ashghal has also delayed the new master plans for Hamad Medical Corporation to 2017, which the civic body had aimed to initiate this year. Ashghal, however, has not cancelled any of the projects. It still plans to build 60-70 primary healthcare facilities in Qatar over the next 10 years.

“We haven’t cancelled any. They stay as they are and all we have done is that we extended that [their delivery time],” he said adding that the project awards and construction activity is expected to pick up by 2018.

The slowdown in spending has also affected education, mosques and public parks this year.

“Projects related to public buildings have generally slowed down. It’s a 50- 60 per cent drop on average on spending on public buildings,” Al-Ansari added.

The overall budget allocated to Ashghal to build local road infrastructure, expressways, drainage and public buildings has also been reduced for 2016. “The plan was in excess of QR25bn this year, but I think it’s between QR15bn to QR17bn that was given to Ashghal,” he said.

The infrastructure related to FIFA 2022 Football World Cup in Qatar, however, is unlikely to take a hit by spending cuts, Al-Ansari said.

“Projects we are doing to serve the World Cup won’t be affected,” he said, adding that all the different stadiums being built need roads and rail access and Ashghal will carry on delivering those projects.