Report: As more expats leave Qatar, businesses struggling

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Antony Satheesh/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The recent exit of thousands of professional expats from Qatar has been hurting many businesses here, company CEOs have told Reuters.

Some mall owners are now dropping rents to attract tenants, hotel rooms are reducing prices and shops and restaurants that rely on Qatar’s middle class for trade are closing due to a lack of demand, the report said.

Although Qatar’s population remains fairly steady at around 2.5 million people for now, companies have been laying off thousands of well-paid expats over the past two years, in response to falling oil prices.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Reem Saad / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Meanwhile, the number of blue-collar laborers working on large infrastructure projects continues to grow.

But while these workers are vital to Qatar’s development plans, they do not have the spending power required to keep many businesses afloat.

Large-scale layoffs

In the past two years, several companies here have laid off significant numbers of staff.

Qatar Petroleum (QP) made an estimated 3,000 redundant in 2015, and its subsidiary RasGas and Danish oil company Maersk also cut hundreds more jobs.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Lesley Walker / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Meanwhile in January, Hamad Medical Corp. (HMC) culled more than 1,000 positions from its payroll, and in March, Al Jazeera laid off 500 members of staff across its networks.

Many of these workers were professionals who had brought their families with them to Qatar, and so each employee who leaves Qatar takes several more people with them.

This has a knock-on effect on schools, shops and restaurants, which rely on these families for business.

Too many malls

Amid the exodus of white-collar professionals, several new shopping centers will be opening in Qatar in the coming months, including the Mall of Qatar (October 2016) and Doha Festival City (February 2017).

Their entrance into the market comes as retail experts forecast an oversupply of space and increased vacancy.

Mall of Qatar construction as of March 2016

Peter Kovessy / Doha News

Mall of Qatar construction as of March 2016

Mohammed Al-Emadi, whose new luxury mall Al Hazm opens next month, conceded that a glut of retail offerings may pose a problem for Qatar.

He told Reuters that he believes his project will be unaffected as it is aimed at an “elite” clientele, but other malls aimed at middle-class shoppers are struggling:

“Ten to 12 malls are currently being built in Qatar and soon they will open,” Emadi said, adding that some mall owners were having to drop rent prices to attract tenants.

“This is not a good sign. In the current economy … the market can’t handle any more malls.”

Have you noticed things changing in Qatar? Thoughts?

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