The multiple changes and additions to the prequalification list for the contract to build the Subiya causeway should come as no surprise.

When Kuwait’s Public Works Ministry tendered the contract in February, it used the same list of eight groups that it originally prequalified for the project in 2006. But much has changed since then.

The economic downturn that began in late 2008 has had a major impact on the Gulf construction industry. According to projects tracker MEED projects, $1.1 trillion of projects are currently on hold or cancelled in the Middle East and North Africa.

This has inevitably had a significant impact on the region’s contractors. With a reduction in the number of expatriates moving to the Gulf, contractors have been forced to diversify away from real estate projects and turn more attention to infrastructure projects. And as a result more contractors and consortiums are interested in government-backed infrastructure schemes such as the causeway.

The last two years have also seen a number of changes within the contractors themselves. Some companies have left the region, others have moved in, and in other cases former competitors have now merged or teamed up in joint ventures, and the original Subiya Causeway prequalification list did not take the changes in the market place into account.

Despite the delays however, re-opening the causeway prequalification and setting an August deadline for bid submissions shows that Kuwait is keen to move ahead quickly with the project. With recent reports of delays on the Qatar-Bahrain and Yemen-Djibouti causeways, it is important for the region’s construction industry in the current economic climate that projects such as Subiya go ahead.