Construction industry experts believe that many schemes in Saudi Arabia are being rushed and that construction work is starting before the final drawings have been completed.
Taking part in a panel discussion at the MEED Saudi Mega Transport and Infrastructure Conference in Riyadh on 16 September, six senior construction experts gave their honest appraisal on the current state of the market.
Projects are being rushed and you are looking at a situation where many jobs are expected to be completed in two years, which would be done in four or five years in other countries, said one senior executive from a construction consultancy. What always happens in this situation is that they end up being badly delayed.
Another official from a construction company stated that while the rise in megaprojects in the kingdom is welcome, it has put an incredible strain on resources.
A lot of project activity looks good from the outside, but it can be a nightmare, the official said. Finding labour is proving to be extremely challenging and while we want to source local engineers, it is impossible. There are simply not enough Saudi civil and mechanical engineers to go around. The government is trying to help and putting in place regulations, but it is still very challenging.
Solutions offered included the introduction of guaranteed maximum price (GMP) contracts, which would enable early works to start without the need for a full design. Clients taking on more of the risk was also suggested, as well as a more realistic view on price.
Another proposal called for apprenticeships that properly train workers.
When you look at Western construction schemes, they probably use a quarter of the workers used in the Middle East and usually finish the job faster, said a senior manager of an international consultancy. This is because they are trained properly; until you train more and more workers in key trades, you will have these problems.