In addition to the rise in cement production, there was a year-on-year fall of 10 per cent in cement stocks, supporting the evidence of a pick-up in construction. Local sales rose by 16 per cent.

Jeddah-based The National Commercial Bank (NCB)chief economist Said al-Sheikh says that the value of publicly awarded construction projects in the first five months of the year rose to SR 8,000 million ($2,133 million) from SR 5,000 million ($1,333 million) in the same period last year. NCB estimates the figure represents only 20 per cent of all construction contract awards in the kingdom, indicating that the total figure is about SR 40,000 million ($10,667 million). ‘It’s been very obvious since the start of 2002 that there has been a sharp growth of construction in the kingdom,’ says Al-Sheikh. ‘The increase has been driven by strong public sector spending and the continued economic growth through last year and into 2002.’