Qatar: the Wrong Destination for World Cup 2022

It's as if The Onion had been engaged to write a sarcastic paean to the corruption and stupidity of FIFA, the world governing body for soccer, and come up with the most improbable story imaginable. The tiny Arab emirate of Qatar outbid the United States, Japan, Australia, and South Korea for the right to host the 2022 World Cup championship.

How they did it is still something of a mystery. Two members of FIFA's executive committee were suspended after being caught in a sting operation by a British newspaper that had reporters posing as lobbyists, promising cash in return for their votes, but it would be near impossible to bribe enough members of the board to win the right to host the World Cup.

More likely, it hinged on the $100 billion that Qatar is promising to spend on infrastructure prior to the tournament. This includes:

* $25 billion rail network

* $20 billion on new roads

* $11 billion new airport expected to open in 2012, with capacity to handle around 50 million passengers a year

* $5.5 billion new deep water seaport

* $1 billion crossing linking new airport with mega-projects in northern part of the capital, Doha

Plus, Qatar has promised to build nine new stadiums and renovate three others at a cost of another $3 billion.

Western construction and material supply companies are absolutely licking their chops at the prospect of this tiny duchy of a country tossing around that kind of green. Given the connections of FIFA members to the largest corporations in the world, you see why bribery would be a waste of time. The real dough is had by getting on the good side of the amir and his family, who own everything of value in the country and will dole out contracts for that $100 billion in spending. Granting them the most prestigious sporting event in the world is a good start toward grabbing a goodly share of King Solomon's riches.

But really ... Qatar? Like most nations of the world, they are soccer mad, but there are barely enough native Qatarians to fill one stadium, much less 12. There are three times as many foreign workers in Qatar than there are native born citizens, but they will probably not be allowed to attend any of the games.

Why? It seems that FIFA has chosen a World Cup host who tolerates virtual human slavery. From the CIA Factbook on Qatar:

Qatar is a destination country for men and women from South and Southeast Asia who migrate willingly, but are subsequently trafficked into involuntary servitude as domestic workers and laborers, and, to a lesser extent, commercial sexual exploitation; the most common offense was forcing workers to accept worse contract terms than those under which they were recruited; other conditions include bonded labor, withholding of pay, restrictions on movement, arbitrary detention, and physical, mental, and sexual abuse.

Yes, but the amir is working diligently to fix this problem -- sort of:

[T]he Government of Qatar does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so; in February 2009, Qatar enacted a new migrant worker sponsorship law that criminalizes some practices commonly used by trafficking offenders, and it announced plans to use that law effectively to prevent human trafficking; punishment for offenses related to trafficking in persons remains lower than that for crimes such as rape and kidnapping, and the Qatari government has yet to take significant action to investigate, prosecute, and punish trafficking offenses; the government continues to lack formal victim identification procedures and, as a result, victims of trafficking are likely punished for acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.

The amir certainly doesn't seem to be in any hurry to fix the problem. But then, he has 12 years to reform the labor situation before Euro-sensibilities regarding working class Pakistanis and Indians are piqued by their plight.

No matter. If human trafficking doesn't bother you much -- it certainly doesn't worry FIFA -- how about Qatar's financing of terrorism? Or harboring terrorists? This is a snippet from an IMF report on terrorist financing in Qatar:

(A)n interdepartmental committee has been established to coordinate Qatar’s efforts in the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1267 and the international conventions on the fight against terrorism, but its mandate does not cover UNSCR 1373; no authority has been granted the powers to designate terrorists; and there is no legal basis for freezing under the relevant UNSCR. ... It also appeared that, on one occasion, the authorities offered safe harbor to a person designated under UNSCR 1267. No actions were taken with respect to this person’s funds and other assets. (Page 10.)

The preventive measures for financial institutions in the domestic sector fall short of addressing a vast majority of the customer due diligence elements of the international standard. ... The current obligations do not prohibit the opening of anonymous accounts or accounts in fictitious names. There are no direct requirements to determine whether a person is acting on behalf of the customer nor to identify and verify the beneficial owner of the account. The requirements for ensuring that customer documentation, information, or data are kept up-to-date are inadequate. Requirements for addressing enhanced due diligence for higher-risk categories are incomplete. There are no measures in place addressing politically exposed persons and cross-border correspondent relationships. There are no provisions covering the risk associated with new or developing technologies. (Page 11.)

So they have terrorist coddling going for them too.