Oil prices and 2022 World Cup hits culture budget as Qatar forced to make cuts

by Tom Anstey | 16 Mar 2016

Hit with rising 2022 World Cup costs and declining oil value, Qatar has cut back on its culture spending to try to lower costs for the Gulf state.

The fall in global oil prices has hit Qatar hard, with Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the emir of Qatar, forced to approve sharp cuts across a number of sectors, including culture.

The Financial Times reports that 240 staff members at Qatar Museums – the leading authority for museums and heritage in Qatar, which aims to be a ‘cultural instigator for the creation generation’ – have been let go, while personal allowances and internal spending have been heavily curbed. Of the 1,200 employees who worked for the authority in 2014, less than two thirds remain.

As a result of the cuts, several museum projects are under threat, including the planned children’s and Orientalist museums, which are “not happening for the foreseeable future”, while plans for a pearl museum are also on hold. Spending on the government-funded Katara Cultural Village has also been slashed but the costs for the upcoming Museum of Islamic Art have been guaranteed, according to the report.

Qatar’s most expensive cultural project – the Jean Nouvel-designed QR1.6bn (US$434m, €390.9m, £302.9m) National Museum has also felt the sting of the slump, with its opening now delayed until 2017.

With the country now focused on delivering infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup, which in itself has been battered with allegations of corruption and bid-rigging within FIFA, it must prioritise the tournament so as not to risk losing it if it appears the country cannot deliver.

Qatar does still have several cultural projects in the pipeline, including the Doha Art Mill development and the Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum, though with the uncertainties over finance, it brings into question whether these projects will ever become a reality.

As recently as 2012, Qatar spent more than QR5bn (US$1.4bn, €1bn, £807m) on its cultural heritage as the country strived to develop itself into a regional hub for things of historical importance. Speaking in April last year, Qatar Museums (QM) CEO, Mansoor bin Ebrahim Al Mahmoud, called on the Qatari government to further enhance the region’s museum sector and inspire the country’s youth, saying that cultural tourists spend 63 per cent more on average than other tourists and museums are among the top three family destinations anywhere worldwide.

Qatar World cup  Museums  culture  heritage 
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Hit with rising 2022 World Cup costs and declining oil value, Qatar has cut back on its culture spending to try to lower costs for the Gulf state. The fall in global oil prices has hit Qatar hard, with Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the emir of Qatar, forced to approve sharp cuts across a number of sectors, including culture. The Financial Times reports that 240 staff members at Qatar
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The costs associated with preparing for the 2022 World Cup combined with sharply declining oil prices have led to massive cuts in Qatar's culture budget / Qatar Museums
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