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The definition of liveability seems to be an infinitely complex question. What makes a city liveable slots in with the sustainability equation.
Qatar as a country has several short and long term goals in relation to sustainability for cities like Doha. Vision 2016 and Vision 2030 are two of these visions which layout a framework for achieving sustainable growth while balancing economic, social and environmental factors (amongst others). This is a difficult process which has to account for the changing ratio of expats form various countries and social backgrounds all living and working together in a foreign environment.
If one had to poll a diverse segment of the Qatar expat population as to whether Doha were a liveable city, one would have varying responses from differing groups’ dependant on their socio-economic status. Catering for the needs of every single sector of Qatar’s population is a daunting task in a country such as Qatar which is currently being transformed on such a massive scale. Learning from the successes and failures of Dubai is possibly a good policy to follow but cannot be used as a blueprint “cut and paste” model, as Qatar is distinct in its cultural heritage and personality.
So what makes a city liveable specifically for an expat? There are 5 main aspects to consider.
Environment accounts for several factors. Weather, nature, architecture, geography to name a few.
Qatar can be considered a harsh environment due to its high temperatures and occasional sand storms. Summer temperatures can reach up to and over 50 degrees Celsius and winter nights can drop to 10 degrees Celsius. With its little rainfall and high winds Qatar is not naturally a very green environment, however, large green belts have been established in Doha, most notably at Aspire Zone, Katara Cultural Village and the MIA (The Museum of Islamic Art) Park. Outlying suburbs have fewer green areas and newly developing suburbs to the north of Doha have even less.
For a nature lover, Qatar will be a challenging environment to move to and live in.
HEALTH AND SAFTEY
Qatar has embarked on very large scale medical developments for its own population which expats can benefit from. SIDRA is one such development also known as Sidra Medical and Research Center that define themselves as “an ultramodern, all-digital academic medical center which will set new standards in patient care for women and children in Qatar, the Gulf region and internationally”
Qatar’s National Health Strategy (NHS) 2011-16 was launched by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser in April 2011. The NHS is the first, six year plan for reform of the health sector and is designed to benefit all people currently living in Qatar as well as future generations by providing “a comprehensive world-class healthcare system whose services are accessible to the whole population”.
Qatar is a relatively safe environment to live in for expats. Crime is very low and tends to be of a petty nature. According to The United States Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security (OSAC) report on Qatar for 2014, burglary is at a rate of 25 per 100,000 inhabitants in Qatar as opposed to the global average of 100 per 100,000.
EASE OF INTEGRATION
Integrating into life in Qatar is relatively easy especially for expats who have lived in other Arabian Peninsula countries but for expats arriving from western countries, the relocation and adjustment to Qatar life can be challenging. Dress codes are not as liberal as Dubai or Bahrain but not as restrictive as Saudi Arabia. The road structure is easy to learn with slight variations from other countries and general driving behaviour may be described as more challenging to deal with for some expats.
Most government departments are easy to deal with but can be frustrating for certain nationals who are not familiar with procedures and practices in The Middle East. Qatar is a very “westernized” country so western expats find integration very easy.
There are a limited amount of accredited international schools in Qatar offering IB, American and British curriculums. The better schools tend to be filled to capacity with waiting lists in place and the procedures to follow in enrolling students can be daunting. A Residents Permit is required before enrolling, previous school records are required which need to be legalized for use in Qatar and assessment tests are required amongst other procedures.
The economy of Qatar is robust and property and housing prices are high and on the increase. Rentals are on par or higher than Dubai and Abu Dhabi. This has caused pressure on salaries and quality of living for certain expat populations. Drinking alcohol is only allowed in private expat homes and in 5 star hotels which means going out for a night on the town can be a very expensive exercise.
As one of the richest countries in the world (per GDP) Qatar is an expensive city to live in as it caters a lot for its local population who have high amounts of disposable income. There are cheaper options for food and entertainment available in Qatar, but the whole spectrum of the economic collage is certainly not catered for. Food prices are higher than those of countries like Saudi Arabia and so are fuel prices and the ability to save money after paying cost of living is far less than Saudi Arabia or Bahrain.
Doha certainly does not rate as the best and most liveable city in the GCC region. Where on the scale it sits really depends on the particular expat and the salary compensation they receive. It is essential for companies and recruitment agencies to consider the personality of a prospective employee being recruited to work in Qatar so as to ensure the best possible retention rate and return on investment for the employing company.
By Frederick Goss – Relocation Specialist – Coreo
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