A slowdown in the total value of construction and transport contract awards in September has sparked fears that Dubai’s projects market could be starting to slow ahead of the Expo in 2020.

There has been an anticipation over the past two years that the value of contract awards in the emirate will start to dip ahead of the event as work awarded within three years of the Expo’s October 2020 start date is unlikely to be completed on time. Research by MEED at the start of this year using data from regional projects tracker MEED Projects found that contracts completed in Dubai over the last five years with a contract value of more than $100m took an average of 1,492 days or 4.1 years to complete.

 dubai contract awards

Dubai Contract Awards 2013-17

During September there were $640m of construction and transport contract awards in Dubai, down significantly on the $2.2bn that were awarded in August, and down on the monthly average for this year of $2.2bn.

The concern among some contractors is that the slowdown in September might be the start of a new trend. While Dubai tendered a lot of construction work over the summer with nearly $6bn of construction contracts out to tender, according to MEED Projects, many of these projects have been slow to move towards an award, and in some cases are being value engineered of redesigned so that they can meet clients’ budgets.

On the more positive side, October may be a better month for contract awards. In September 2016 the total value of contract awards dipped to $940m the lowest total of that year, before rising to $1.6bn in October 2016.