Ashghal recently signed contracts for building six new health projects. What do these projects entail for Ashghal's involvement in the health sector?
In line with the Qatar National Vision 2030, Ashghal's building master plan continues to focus on the development of the health sector. Ashghal has implemented 24 health projects between 2004 and 2018. In fact, during the last five years, in cooperation with the Ministry of Public Health the authority has constructed double the number of health centers that were implemented in the past. We recently signed contracts for new health projects worth approximately QAR1 billion (USD274 million) that include five new health centers located in various areas and serve around 3,500 visitors per day. This is in addition to constructing the National Health Laboratories building. All our projects are implemented using international best practices. The construction criteria are set by Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS), as operational and architectural consideration are taken to accomplish a three-star environmental level in terms of energy saving and environment preservation.
How have cost fluctuations affected Ashghal's operations after the blockade, and which countries have gained prominence as suppliers?
Frankly, the blockade has worked to our benefit. Despite persisting challenges, we embarked on a new phase marked by acceleration in the pace of project implementation and delivery, which has resulted in robust operating and performance outcome. We have demonstrated over the past four months our success in strategic planning through managing our resources and maximizing our reliance on national resources through several initiatives. In cooperation with the concerned government entities, we have commenced initiatives that qualify and accredit Qatari factories, enlist Qatari manufacturers in Ashghal's approved supply chain, and also accredit local industrial products that meet the technical requirements, specifications, and the standard quality levels in order to enable them to supply materials for projects at the national level. Simultaneously, a strategic plan has been developed to provide other sources of building and construction material, and supplies have been provided from several countries including Oman, Turkey, India, China, and others to overcome any challenges affecting the work progress. We receive materials at an optimized cost and high quality.
What is your approach when it comes to engaging with SMEs?
SME contractors have been vital contributors to the construction sector. As part of our ongoing efforts to support this sector, we recently launched the small-scale contractors initiative that aims to provide local entrepreneurs with the opportunity to execute small projects that will qualify them to implement strategic projects in the future. As an initial step, we took on a large project, separated it into five smaller projects, and made these projects available to SMEs that we had not worked with before. We wanted to get new contractors into the mix and work with new people. We offer many opportunities for smaller firms to compete, which creates a valuable legacy for them moving forward. In collaboration with Qatar Development Bank, we also launched another initiative “Ta'heel” targeted toward rehabilitation and accreditation of the existing national industrial factories. With these ongoing initiatives, Ashghal has succeeded in attracting a number of national competencies to implement Qatar projects.
How do you work to promote sustainability in your projects?
As part of Ashghal's strategy, the authority is committed to adopting high standards in environment protection, recycling, and sustainability across all our programs and projects. We encourage our partners to adopt stringent requirements on sustainability, which forms a critical part of selection criteria during tendering. To this effect, Ashghal is implementing GSAS standards in all its public buildings in Qatar, specifically in educational and health buildings, for which the authority in cooperation with the Gulf Organisation for Research and Development Group (GORD) has been awarded the three-star GSAS certification in design and construction. Ashghal was granted two Sustainability Awards in 2016 in health and education facilities by GORD, the first performance-based system in the MENA region. In 2018, Ashghal won the Qatar Sustainability Award for implementing GSAS in the design of its building projects in education and health sectors, in addition to being awarded the GORD Sustainability Eco Champion Award at the Sustainability Summit in Doha.- Ashghal's Doha North Sewage Treatment Works (STW) project is the first facility with comprehensive odor control system to minimize the impact on the surrounding environment. Ashghal has taken the initiative, the first of its kind in Qatar, to grow trees over approximately 12sqkm within the buffer zone surrounding the plant using treated sewage water.
Ashghal also has a number of sustainability initiatives including an initiative to recycle car tires and use it in the asphalt mix, which increases the elasticity and durability of the roads. Another initiative is recycling the asphalt layers and reusing it in Ashghal's projects. The authority has also started to collect the waste of excavation and concrete crushing 4 years ago and prepared a recycling plan to eliminate construction waste. Since then, we succeeded in using approximately 60 million tons of excavation waste in sand layers for some road projects.
What is your assessment of Ashghal's investments plans in the medium term, and which sectors will be subject to further development?
In alignment with the government's directives, Ashghal's priority and focus is on developing infrastructure to serve the residential areas and citizens' sub-divisions in all parts of the country, and opening them as per schedule and according to the required quality. Ashghal has developed a plan to implement the roads and infrastructure for 10,400 plots in new citizens' sub-divisions, 1,819 of which were served by end of 2017. We are also working on completing the roads and infrastructure in existing areas to serve 5,644 land plots in 2018 within Al-Shamal City, Bani Hajer, and Muaither. Our plan for 2018's project award included 19 projects serving a total of 18,529 plots, out of which six projects were awarded to serve 5,099 plots, and the rest will be awarded before the end of the year to serve 13,430 plots. Ashghal has transitioned from an authority entrusted with awarding and executing efficient sustainable infrastructure projects for the state to an entity that focuses on the operation and maintenance of the state's road networks and drainage networks and delivering quality services and solutions in managing projects and assets. As we move closer to 2022, we will work on developing this area extensively in the coming years.
What would be your advice for any company wanting to start working for Ashghal?
Ashghal always looks to partner with leading companies in Qatar and the world to deliver state-of-the-art projects and infrastructure for Qatar, regardless of whether this is in terms of design, construction, or the operation and maintenance of our projects. The process of selecting partners and/or contractors is done based on certain conditions and criteria that take into account important factors such as quality, safety, and expertise, as well as capability and commitment to implementation within the set schedule. Ashghal operates an open and transparent compulsory competitive tendering process whereby tenders are advertised on its website and in relevant publications. With major projects, Ashghal also holds pre-tender briefings to ensure companies are aware of the tender requirements for each stage of the project. We encourage all qualified companies to take part in our project bidding process and share their knowledge, expertise, and technical know-how in implementing some of the largest infrastructure projects in the world.
What is your outlook for the year ahead, and which projects do you have in the pipeline?
Our outlook for the coming year is extremely positive. As we deliver some of the largest infrastructure projects, our purpose remains unchanged, which is unwavering commitment to improving performance. We are implementing our corporate strategy considering it as the track of Ashghal's journey for the next five years (2018-2022). This is the base of development that Ashghal relies on across all its activities to achieve its vision of “excellence in delivering and managing efficient sustainable infrastructure,” as envisioned in the Qatar National Vision 2030. Our projects in the pipeline are set across our core sectors covering infrastructure, drainage, buildings, and asset management. Our special emphasis is developing sub-division infrastructure, so those projects will be a priority in the coming years.