In mid-2014, the UAE’s construction industry was united in the opinion that more growth would come in 2015.

Since then, oil prices have fallen, real estate has been oversupplied, confidence has been knocked, and a divergence in opinion has developed.

The result is that unlike the previous decade, when virtually all contractors and consultants shared the same sentiment – either positive or negative – on the forthcoming fortunes of the market, this year opinion has been split.

On one side there are consultants and a small select band of contractors that maintain the prospects for the market are good. The consultants say they are busy working on new projects, notably in Dubai, that should be tendered before the end of this year and enter the construction phase in early 2016.

These new projects will join ongoing projects and build on the achievements of 2014 when the UAE’s construction sector topped the peak it achieved in 2008, with a production value of AED295bn ($80bn).

Some contractors share this bullish outlook. They are firms that are well connected with leading clients and have secured significant volumes of work over the past nine months and do not need new work to keep their order books full. Instead, they are focusing on delivery and hiring new staff.

On the other side, the more commonly held view by contractors is that the market is in decline. The downbeat outlook is supported by data from regional projects tracker MEED Projects showing that so far this year there has been $11bn of new construction and infrastructure contracts awards, down significantly on the $21bn awarded during the same period last year.

Some companies are also taking action as the prospects for the market diminish. Several major UAE-based contractors have been shedding staff as they streamline their operations to meet the new more subdued market dynamics.

With the traditionally slow Ramadan and summer period ahead, and few expectations of major contract awards, all will depend on the fourth quarter. If a raft of major contracts such as Etihad Rail phase 2, the Atlantis Resort expansion, and Sheikh Khalifa Medical City are awarded, then the optimists will be proven right, much to the relief of everyone in the market.

If the market remains slow and awards fail to materialise, then the naysayers, much to their disappointment, will have called the market right.

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