Amid criticism, Qatar spends record amount on World Cup

Qatar is spending $500 million a week on major infrastructure projects linked to the 2022 World Cup, its finance minister has said, but the outlay has not dampened criticism over the treatment of migrant workers involved in the construction projects.

The Qatari government has announced reforms, including joint inspections with labor organizations, but many outside the country say no meaningful changes have been made. In fact, Qatar is currently being investigated by the International Labor Organization over its treatment of workers.
Following in the wake of a scathing Amnesty International report published last year, one advocacy group that tracks the activities of the Qatari government told the Gulf News Journal that Doha should be the last place to host the soccer tournament.

“There should be an uproar in general, including from the European countries like Germany, Poland and France,” William Palumbo, of Stop Qatar Now, said. Palumbo is an activist who has expressed serious concerns on a range of issues with Qatar, including alleged links to terror groups.

Qatari Finance Minister Ali al-Emadi said recently that the country will continue to spend at the same level for the next three or four years on stadiums, motorways, rail links and hospitals, to the tune of more than $200 billion, far more than what any other nation has spent on the soccer tournament.

Subways, hotels, an airport, numerous roads, a new sewage system and 20 skyscrapers are currently being built in Doha. Most of the workers on the projects are migrants, mainly from India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

“It has been documented, including in the Amnesty International report, that workers from Nepal, Bangladesh and other countries have been exploited, have died, and have been deprived of their passports, making it impossible for them to leave,” Palumbo said.

The Qatari government argues that its safety record for workers has improved. In a first, a “joint working group” made up of members from the Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) and Qatari World Cup officials carried out an inspection of one stadium. This followed an agreement last year.

"Our delegation was encouraged by the openness of the process to participate in the joint inspections, where we had the opportunity to speak with workers about their working and living conditions," Kyosti Suokas, a BWI representative, said.

Hassan Al-Thawadi, head of Qatar's Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, also defended Qatar’s efforts.

"We have always been open, transparent, and committed to working together with well-respected international partners, who share our vision of achieving sustainable change in this area," he said.

But Palumbo said he remains highly skeptical that the country is reforming in any meaningful manner.

In its report published last year, Amnesty International concluded that migrants from Bangladesh, India and Nepal working on the refurbishment of the multi-use Khalifa Stadium are being exploited.

“Some are being subjected to forced labor,” the report said. “They can’t change jobs, they can’t leave the country and they often wait months to get paid. Meanwhile, FIFA (soccer’s global governing body), its sponsors and the construction companies involved are set to make massive financial gains from the tournament.”