GHASSAN OUEIJAN

Qatar 2020 | REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION | INTERVIEW

Nakheel Landscapes is one of the five companies selected by Ashghal as part of the framework agreement, in line with the Qatari government's USD1.36 billion budget for landscaping and beautification projects.

Ghassan Oueijan
BIOGRAPHY

Ghassan Oueijan holds degrees in economics and computer science from the US. After graduating in 1987, he began his career in Kuwait at Palms Agro Production Company until 2001. He then moved to Qatar as general manager of AG Middle East, Landscaping Company. In early 2009, Oueijan moved to Al Nakheel Agriculture & Trading (now Nakheel Landscapes) as a partner and managing director.

What are the most recent projects completed by Nakheel?
One of the major projects completed recently is the training pitches for the FIFA World Cup 2022. We provided 30 pitches in various locations around Qatar. The project was completed in May 2019, and many teams have been practicing on the pitches already. We have also completed four projects with Lusail as a main contractor. Moreover, we completed three projects as sub-contractors for The Public Works Authority (Ashghal), namely the East Corridor, Lusail Expressway, and Al Wakrah Bypass.

What is your view on the opportunities for landscaping and beautification projects in Qatar?
The government has allocated QAR5 billion (USD1.36 billion) for landscaping and beautification projects, and Nakheel Landscapes is one of the five companies selected by Ashghal as part of the framework agreement. We were awarded several jobs in 2019, and we expect more to come in 2020-2021. A huge amount of attention is being given by the government to greenery and landscaping jobs over the next three years.

How do you expect this beautification work to change Qatar?
Some QAR750 million (USD204 million) out of the QAR5 billion budget announced by the government has already been released into the market to various contractors. Ashghal has also announced it will plant 1 million trees and create 10 million sqm of green space and landscaping, other than trees. These are exciting and challenging numbers, but doable. It will take coordination between many parties and stakeholders, and Nakheel Landscapes is just one of the players who will be helping to deliver on these promises.

What does Nakheel Landscapes have in mind for its growth over the next year?
We are not expanding because we already have sufficient scale. We have completed QAR2 billion (USD544 million) worth of projects over the past three years alone. There was a bit of a slow period between when the major construction work finished and the landscaping projects were kick-started, but momentum is slowly increasing again. I expect us to start recruiting again somewhere in 2H2021-2022. We have been through this before at various times, like for the 2006 Asian Games. There will come a time when we need to expand our current team of almost 4,000 people, but that will probably be more towards 2H2021. We employ expert landscape laborers and hire from the local market on a when- and where-needed basis.

What is Nakheel Landscapes' market position?
We are ranked first by far. But there are many of players coming up fast. We are involved in hard and soft landscaping and infrastructure and have a team of considerable technical ability. These skills and services are not available among the majority of the typical landscaping competition, which puts us in a unique position in the market. Our business model sometimes works against us because we sit somewhere in the middle—Nakheel Landscapes is not a construction company, nor is it a straightforward landscaping company. Our particular business model with our capacity does not really exist anywhere else in the world. Landscape companies in this region are global leaders because here we are having to go against nature to create this environment.

What environmental initiatives has Nakheel Landscapes introduced?
Nakheel Landscapes uses the latest irrigation technology to save water and use water efficiently. We are active in planting indigenous plants that are native to the Qatari desert. We have 70-plus native plants that are all good for landscaping. We try to encourage people to use locally appropriate planting schemes. We are active in our social responsibility programs. We give away free plants from our nurseries. There are many projects being done now because when Qatar submitted its FIFA bid in 2010, the country promised major improvements in carbon emission percentages and standards. Many jobs are going toward that aim, and numerous environmental measures are being put into place. Indeed, numerous areas have been turned green over the past few months alone.