Sunday, September 15, 2013

Population Growth, Vehicle Growth

In an intriguing coincidence, just a couple of days after my post about traffic congestion local newspapers have published a study by the Statistics Authority and QNB discussing population growth over the last nine years and also how many vehicles have been added to the roads.

For 2013 and 2014 the study expects the population of Qatar to grow by around 10.5% a year. 10.5%! That would be equivalent to Canada gaining 3.4 million people in one year. Imagine the place you live (or used to live) growing by 10% a year. Not surprisingly that will make Qatar the country with the fastest-growing population in the world. It also means Qatar has to somehow keep the infrastructure-building going to stay ahead of population growth of 200,000+ people each year. Yikes. Is it any wonder there's construction everywhere?

Even more shocking it states that from 2004-2009 the population grew on average 15.5% a year! When I arrived in 2006 the population was just under 1 million, now it's almost at 2 million just over 7 years later -- and that was including the slowdown due to the global financial crisis.

It also notes that by the end of 2012 there was 876,000 vehicles, compared to 287,000 in 2000, a growth rate of around 53,000-58,000 a year on average. That means my initial estimate of 75 new vehicles a day on the roads of Doha is way too conservative -- it should be more like 140 cars a day. How can the road system keep pace with that kind of traffic?

I'm not sure the housing construction can keep up with that kind of growth either. Yes, most of the new arrivals will be laborers housed in dormitory-style accommodation, but if even 5% are people who will be renting accommodation that is still 10,000 new apartments/houses needed every year. Looks like rents will start soaring again, much like pre-2008 when they were going up 20+% a year. And even now I'm told it's very hard to find places at decent schools and I doubt new school openings will be able to keep up with 10% population growth either.

Looks like a rough few years ahead. I expect that by 2017 things will settle growth-wise (almost all of the staff needed for building things like the 2022 World Cup infrastructure will be in the country by then) and then 6 to 9 months later the construction of accommodation will catch up and the supply/demand curve will stabilize. Until then I don't think traffic and rents are going to get any better.

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