As 2018 starts, construction companies across the region will be planning for the future, and their experience since late 2014 has shown that Dubai is a market that can be depended on for new opportunities whereas other major markets, notably Saudi Arabia, are likely to disappoint.
While the past can be a useful gauge for predicting the future, there are signs that things are finally starting to change. Although contractors remain busy tendering for work in Dubai and scratch around for new opportunities in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the region, consultants are now telling a different story.
They say that there are fewer new opportunities for work in Dubai than there had been in the past, and instead they are busy completing for work in Saudi Arabia. During 2017 Riyadh launched a slew of major projects – including the $500bn Neom City – that have started to engage consultants for project management, design and engineering.
Contractors have also started to be approached. Companies have been invited to express interest in working on several major schemes, and there has also been a move by the Public Investment Fund and Saudi Aramco co-own a super contractor with foreign and local partners.
As these projects in Saudi Arabia progress and move towards the construction phases they should counteract any slowdown in Dubai.
It is not just about volume. The way that Riyadh has hitherto engaged the supply chain suggests that it intends to do business differently from now on. Firms hired so far say that the kingdom is serious about delivering projects more effectively in the future, and if that sentiment can be turned into action, then it could have a knock on effect for the entire region.