Gulf needs more project diversity

25 July 2008
A wider range of projects funded should ensure that economic growth is sustainable.

The growth of the Gulf projects market shows little sign of abating, regardless of the slowdown in the wider global economy.

In the past year alone, the value of projects planned or under way in the GCC has doubled to more than $2 trillion, according to MEED Projects, which tracks project activity in the Gulf.

The growth is heavily concentrated in just two sectors. In the largest market, the UAE, more than 90 per cent of all investment is going into construction or oil and gas, and it is a similar picture in other markets.

Given the region’s historic dependence on hydrocarbons, and the number of cranes and construction sites in cities across the region, this comes as little surprise.

And with high energy prices, there is plenty of financing available for more such projects in the future.

Much of the construction work is to build much-needed housing and basic infrastructure, but a lot of it is also speculative investment.

However, while some of the construction projects will involve hotels and other tourist facilities, the range of project investment needs to expand beyond the traditional oil and gas and commercial property sectors into other areas if governments around the region are to meet their aims of diversifying their economies.

This will be a gradual process, but there are signs that it is happening. Some 80 per cent of activity planned in the UAE between now and 2011 is in the construction sector - a drop of 10 percentage points on today’s figures - while 8 per cent is in oil and gas.

In the region as a whole, construction projects account for 68 per cent of the activity planned over the next three years, while oil and gas schemes will take up 15 per cent of all spending. Greater diversity should ensure that the growth is also more sustainable.

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