The forecast for projects planned and underway in the GCC in 2015 is US$ 172 billion, the highest on record to date, as per MEED Projects. And, as a recent Deloitte report rightly points out, this is all against a backdrop of declining oil prices, continuing political unrest and International Monetary Fund (IMF) growth forecast across the GCC.
A decline in oil prices and this rings a bell - it brings to the forefront the significance of economic diversification. While lower oil prices are affecting all GCC countries, its impact on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and Qatar is less as compared to Oman and Bahrain. However, while widespread diversification can reduce the dependence on oil revenues, this could be an ideal way forward for the gulf countries to tackle their growth trajectory.
Reports suggest that Qatar has been least affected - among the GCC states û with the falling oil prices, and it is just some planned oil and gas developments that have either been postponed or cancelled. And, as the country progresses with its National Vision 2030, its economy is set to witness greater diversification. We hope for the same, as the country´s massive infrastructure programme has been facing its own set of challenges.
Ahmad Jassim Al Jolo, Chairman of The Qatar Society of Engineers (QSE), as quoted in the recent Deloitte report, ´GCC Powers of Construction 2015´, reveals that the greatest challenge for the Qatar infra programme was coordination among various stakeholders despite the efforts of the Central Planning Office (CPO) (Part of the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning, CPO was responsible for coordinating Qatar´s infrastructure programme for all rail, road, metro and other infrastructure projects). Also, one of the toughest challenges has been identifying and relocating existing underground services to enable construction work to proceed. Undoubtedly, it is crucial for all stakeholders to come together to make the country´s infra plan a success.
Also, in construction, safety is paramount. We need to ingrain this in to our minds, to ensure that the accident that Saudi Arabia´s grand Mosque in Mecca recently witnessed does not occur ever again. Even more, avoid accidents of any sort or degree at construction sites. Reported as the deadliest crane accident in decades, perhaps in modern construction history, the debate on the recent crane collapse in Mecca is on: Was it a result of natural factors or is this a clear case of negligence to safety norms? The point that can´t be easily ignored is that although not in operation at the time of the collapse, the crane´s boom and jib were in working position. And, the result: A collapse that has claimed the lives of at least 100 pilgrims and injured more than 230 others. So first, I feel there is a dire need for contractors to abide by safety norms.
In the whole of Middle East, Saudi Arabia enjoys the position of comprising the largest construction market. Government investment of $700 million to develop the country´s electricity network and water supplies and infrastructure and public sector building programmes worth $35 billion, including 600 new factories, schools and doubling desalination capacity are some of the upcoming projects. However, safety levels, if measured by international benchmarks, needs improvement. Increasing awareness of safety regulations, and even more, following safety codes and practices in all aspects - for real estate as well as large infrastructure projects - in a stringent manner is paramount for all gulf countries.
This issue, the focus is on construction opportunities and we have offered a snapshot on 29 leading contractors operating across the GCC countries along with a ranking of the Top International and Global Contractors. Also, read on to know more on Infra Oman 2015 and how it´s geared to boost the country´s infrastructure and industrial markets.
Wishing you a happy read.