Under the agreement signed with the government in early April, UDC has been given six months to prepare a detailed masterplan, which will be submitted to the authorities for approval. The government is then expected to take about three months to approve the plan, allowing construction of the island to begin in the first quarter of 2004. Completion of the island and its infrastructure will take about two years.

Some 1,500-2,000 villas are expected to be built on the island, which will be connected to the mainland by a 500-metre-long bridge. In addition, the plan calls for six-eight boutique hotels to be built, along with marinas, themed areas, restaurants and recreational facilities.

Besides offering investment incentives and exemption from taxes, the agreement with the government also provides for non-Qataris to invest and own property on the island. Under the plan, investors will buy the land and build residences on plots, based on one of 30-40 designs on offer. Marketing of the plots is expected to begin at the end of the year.

UDC estimates that total investment in the island will reach about $2,000 million, spread over five years.

UDC was established in 1999 through an initial public offering and has more than 2,300 local and Gulf investors. In addition to the West Bay island scheme, it has interests in a number of industrial schemes and is promoting the Ras Laffan aluminium smelter (Qatar, MEED Special Report, 7:3:03, page 34).