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DFC

Doha Festival City rendering

One of Qatar’s biggest upcoming malls has postponed its launch for at least another month.

Speaking to the Peninsula this week, Doha Festival City manager Trevor Hill said the mall has entered its “final development phase.”

It will now open its doors to the public “in March 2017,” he added.

DFC

Doha Festival City rendering

Previously, DFC had been aiming to open on Feb. 1.

And before that, it had planned to launch last fall, but cited issues with the “supporting infrastructure” as a reason for delays.

DFC did not comment on the reasons for its latest postponement.

Offerings

The mall is located north of Doha on Al Shamal Road, next to IKEA.

When fully open, DFC is expected to have around 400 stores, including the world’s largest Monoprix, an 18-screen 4D VOX cinema and an Angry Birds theme park.

By March, Hill said “the majority of the mall” will be ready to receive the public.

Nathan Rupert/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

However, the luxury wing and theme parks Virtuocity, Angry Birds World, Snow Dunes and Juniverse won’t open until at least the second quarter of this year, he added.

He also told the Peninsula:

“Our other innovative offerings include the sports facilities that encourage physical activity and a healthy lifestyle in Qatar.

We will offer a range of green space with outdoor facilities that are free of charge to guests and include two outdoor basketball courts and a 3km trail surrounding the Mall with numerous routes for both running and cycling.”

Competition

Competition in the retail arena is heating up in Qatar.

Rival Mall of Qatar just opened last month, and has already been drawing thousands of visitors weekly with new offerings such as Cheesecake Factory, Pottery Barn and Lefties.

Supplied

Mall of Qatar

Other commercial centers are also planning to open in the coming years, including Al Hazm mall, Tawar Mall and Northgate Mall.

The numerous developments have led analysts to predict a retail glut in Qatar, though many mall managers have shrugged off this possibility.

Thoughts?

The under-construction Qatar National Museum, seen in 2014.

Damon McDonald/Flickr

The under-construction Qatar National Museum, seen in 2014.

A new report has uncovered evidence of human rights abuses involving workers at two of Qatar’s most prominent construction projects.

In a report this week, the Guardian said it interviewed several men working on the Qatar National Museum and Doha Festival City shopping center whose employers had seized their passports, withheld their wages and prevented them from leaving the country.

The men worked for a labor supply company and said they were provided substandard housing and paid QR800 a month, plus an additional QR200 for food.

The report raises fresh questions about the responsibility of large multinational construction firms to police the labor practices of its subcontractors, as well as Qatar’s enforcement of its own laws.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The Guardian report was published the same day that the US government said the Qatar government has taken “limited action to prevent (labor) violations and improve working conditions.”

The assessment is contained in the US State Department’s chapter on the Gulf state, released in tandem with more than 175 other country reports on human rights practices around the world.

On Qatar, the US government says there were “continuing indications of forced labor” and that “enforcement problems were in part due to insufficient training and lack of personnel.”

‘If I had known…I definitely wouldn’t have come’

Qatar’s National Museum, located near the junction of the Corniche and Ras Abou Aboud St, is designed to resemble a desert rose. It is behind schedule after announcing a tentative 2016 opening and has yet to announce a new launch date.

The electrical and plumbing work for the museum is being led by a firm named BK Gulf, whose several shareholders include UK-based Interserve and Balfour Beatty.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Lance Cenar

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

In a common practice used on many construction sites, BK Gulf hired subcontractors and labor supply firms to help it complete its work.

Speaking to the Guardian, several of the employees of an unnamed labor supply firm said they were receiving a lower salary than what they were promised in their home country.

“If I had known I would only get 800 riyals, and 200 riyals for food, I definitely wouldn’t have come,” one man was quoted as saying.

The refrain is a common one among blue-collar expats in Qatar employed by subcontractors.

Qatar Museums did not respond to requests for comment.

In a statement to Doha News, an Interserve spokesperson said its remuneration rates are in line with comparable construction firms in Qatar.

However, the company added that it was investigating the allegations contained in the Guardian article.

“We are fully committed to supporting and protecting the health, safety and welfare of our employees and those working as part of our supply chain,” it said.

The statement also said the company does not seize its employees’ passports or prevent them from leaving the country.

Doha Festival City

However, a spokesperson declined to answer questions about how it enforces similar standards on its subcontractors, which the Guardian accused of forced labor at Doha Festival City.

The shopping center north of Qatar’s capital is one of several under-construction mega-malls and recently pushed back its opening date to February 2017.

Aerial view of the mall

Doha Festival City

Aerial view of the mall

The Guardian interviewed a man who said his employer refused to let him return to his home country after he tried to quit when his salary was cut from QR1,100 to QR900 a month, quoting him as saying:

“I have told the (manager) I want to go … but the company said, ‘There are no staff now so you have to stay here for two months and then you can go.’”

A spokesperson for Doha Festival City said it had no comment on the Guardian’s report.

Labor supply firms

Human rights experts say employees of small subcontractors and labor supply companies are particularly vulnerable to abuse for several reasons.

These smaller companies are more likely to be on site for shorter periods, have informal employment arrangements with workers and be in a financially precarious situation, which could cause them to cut corners if they start running out of work, Amnesty International researcher Mustafa Qadri previously told Doha News.

While it’s not clear what steps the lead contractors at Doha Festival City and the Qatar National Museum took to prevent abuse in their labor supply chain, other organizations have also had difficulty keeping abusive subcontractors off their sites.

Construction at Khalifa Stadium

Peter Kovessy / Doha News

Khalifa Stadium

Last month, Amnesty published a report that said employees of labor supply firms that sent workers to Khalifa International Stadium for the World Cup project were subject to human rights abuses including deceptive recruitment practices, retention of passports, inadequate accommodation, delays in payments of salaries as well as failure to provide and renew residence permits.

That’s despite local organizers having welfare standards in place that apply to all workers on its site.

Responding to Amnesty’s report, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy said the offending firms had been banned from its projects and had strengthened its oversight measures by hiring an independent auditor.

Thoughts?

Rendering of Doha Festival City

Doha Festival City

Rendering of Doha Festival City

One of Qatar’s biggest under-construction malls has pushed back its opening date by four months, due to issues with the “supporting infrastructure,” the chief executive of Doha Festival City said today.

The mall, which is north of Doha on Al Shamal Road, had previously planned to open its doors to the public this fall on Sept. 29.

Kareem Shamma, the CEO of the mall’s owner and developer BASREC, said in February that he was confident of meeting that deadline and that there was a “day-to-day plan” in place to ensure the facility would be finished and ready to welcome its first customers.

However, Shamma said today that while the construction of the mall would still be finished by the end of September, the completion of other infrastructure would not meet that deadline.

Speaking to Doha News, he said:

“The decision (to delay opening) had to be made to give the retailers and the customers the best possible experience. Will they get that best possible experience at the end of September with the current infrastructure? No.”

Shamma declined to give details about which part of the infrastructure had caused the delays, adding: “There are factors outside of our control – the supporting infrastructure that we don’t have control over.”

No blame

Shamma described his relationship with the Qatar government, which runs the roads, telecoms and utilities operators, as having been “great” thus far.

“I’m not going to put the blame on one authority or another.

They (the government) have a very difficult situation on their hands with the massive amount of development going on in the country,” he added.

Aerial view of the mall

Doha Festival City

Aerial view of the mall

All the mall’s retailers have already been told of the delay. “They have been very supportive, Shamma said, adding that there has been no need to compensate stores for the later opening.

The news will doubtless come as a disappointment to shoppers who were anticipating the imminent opening of the mega-mall, which will have around 400 stores including the world’s largest Monoprix, luxury department store Harvey Nichols, 18-screen 4D VOX cinema, an Angry Birds theme park, a themed role play zone, an e-sports gaming arena, F1 and flight simulators and a snow park.

Shamma said “the majority” of stores and entertainment in the 433,000 square meter development will be open on Feb. 1, with the remainder still on track to launch by Spring 2017.

Shamma rejected the idea that the delay would allow Mall of Qatar, which has said it will open its doors in August this year, to steal potential customers.

“We are very confident of our offering and we wish Mall of Qatar all the success – these new malls are helping Qatar’s retail landscape and are driving everyone to do better and better,” Shamma said.

Thoughts?