The start of a new business year finds the Middle East offering a wide variety of construction prospects. It also provides stark contrasts. New building activity is thriving in some markets. In others there are slimmer pickings due to the sluggish performance of the economy and constraints on government spending. Prudent budgets can be expected again this year in the key Middle East countries and the trend towards greater reliance on private sector business will be more pronounced.

Oil is still the engine of the region’s economies and the energy sector is likely to produce the biggest contracts in the Gulf in 1996. Opportunities range from the various downstream oil and gas schemes planned in Qatar and the UAE to the upstream Shayba development in Saudi Arabia. The UAE also boasts a vibrant private sector which is funding a rapid expansion of hotel, commercial and residential property which has made the market the most dynamic in the region.

Lebanon is turning out to be a major attraction. As the reconstruction process enters its fifth year, a new set of prime real estate projects is due to start. The government is also adopting innovative methods of financing, opening up infrastructure to private build-operate-transfer (BOT) proposals. In the survey below, MEED writers outline the prospects for the year ahead in 17 regional markets: