Project activity across the region is booming, as evidenced by the news that MEED’s Gulf Projects Index has reached its highest ever level. Following a two-year period of intermittent growth, the index has risen a healthy 30 per cent so far this year, as confidence has returned to the projects industry.

Much of the growth has been driven by the launch and revival of major rail schemes, with the highlight being the award of $22.5bn of construction contracts for the Riyadh Metro. Not surprisingly, Saudi Arabia remains by far the region’s largest projects market, driven by sharp population growth and the government’s desire to improve infrastructure.

Growth in the UAE, the Gulf’s second-largest projects market, has been fuelled by a resurgence of the property sector, particularly in Dubai, leading to the launch of several new schemes. Strong growth is also being seen in Qatar, which is preparing to host the Fifa 2022 World Cup, and in Oman, which is spending heavily to develop its infrastructure. 

Perhaps the biggest surprise is Iraq, which has seen its projects market jump by 87 per cent, the largest increase in the region. The country’s oil industry has staged a remarkable recovery in 2013 to date.

With the region’s economy gathering strength and many more stalled projects waiting to be revived, the potential for further growth is huge. But whether the market takes advantage of this opportunity remains to be seen.