Region must leverage event opportunities

28 December 2021
Hosting major events puts the Middle East in the global spotlight and can drive long-term growth, says Bassam Halabi, GHD regional general manager – Qatar
With Expo 2020 Dubai now under way, and the Fifa World Cup kicking off in Qatar next year, what can Qatar, the UAE and the rest of the Middle East do to capitalise on these opportunities?

You cannot put a price on the exposure our region is getting. Despite all the challenges of 2020, to have come out of it on the other side, hosting two of the greatest shows on earth within a year of one another, is astonishing.

Not only are these wonderful spectacles for the whole world to enjoy, they are also extremely important to the GCC’s long-term goals. From Qatar’s 2030 National Vision right through to the various strategies of the UAE and beyond, the drive to stability, innovation and sustainable growth is front and centre.

We want people from all over the world to look on enviously at what is happening here in the Middle East and be part of it, whether in terms of investing here, coming to live and work, or just to visit for leisure. Expo and the World Cup play a big role in demonstrating our region as an increasingly mature, confident place.

How can the region keep up the momentum after the World Cup and the Expo?

It is not enough just to put ourselves in the shop window – we need to make the region “sticky”. What I mean by that is that when people come here to work, for leisure or to invest, they want to stay for the long haul.

If we are going to make this a reality, putting people at the heart of our urban design is a must. It is no longer enough to build something and expect it to succeed. Expectations have shifted hugely in recent years and cities must respond.

To lead as innovators and become more competitive on the world stage, cities must show their heritage and individuality, become increasingly sustainable and build inclusive communities that make others want to be part of it.

We are at a natural advantage as we do not have the same legacy issues as long-established cities in the US and Europe. There is so much ambition here and if we get it right, we can look forward to a very prosperous future. The projects GHD has contributed to in the past two decades all have this ambition at heart and we are looking forward to what the future holds.

What more can regional governments do to diversify their economic position, create a skilled workforce and attract inward investment?
Governments have been responsible for a huge amount of change since we opened here 20 years ago. The sheer weight of investment that governments have facilitated has been staggering. In recent years, Qatar has invested billions of dollars in infrastructure, while many other Gulf states have also significantly grown the scale of their investments in placemaking, transport and energy.

Looking specifically at energy production, the UAE is aiming to ramp up clean energy and reduce the carbon footprint of power generation. This means that innovation and continued investment in green energy, water production and agriculture is key. Therefore, I expect to see sizeable investment in alternative energy sources, solar farms on roofs and more water-capture devices, as well as more green space in the built environment.

To make life in the Middle East more sustainable and enjoyable, the future of the community and the health and wellbeing of people lies in greenery, in every sense of the word.

Published in partnership with GHD

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