Of machines and tulips

How much building is there in the UAE? Let's reawaken the argument about what percentage of the world's cranes are in Dubai.

Just how much building is there across the UAE at the moment? Does anybody know? In this issue we reawaken the argument about what percentage of the world's cranes are in Dubai.

There is the oft-quoted 'statistic' of about a third, but one mathematician reckons the real number could be as low as one percent.

Various companies have set up offering expensive market reports, but we are sceptical that any such thing could have value, as simply put, they are basing their forecasts on guesswork. The machine market is big, but how big and how mature it is, in Dubai at least, is anybody's idea.

While machine suppliers, traders and repair shops are doing a roaring trade - and long might this continue - there have been questions raised about the solvency of some of the developers, and their commitment to actually building some of the developments that investors have poured money into.

At PMV, we don't know if such incidents will affect our sector. Nor do we know whether the current wobbles are just a natural part of having hundreds of projects on the go at the same time, or if it is symptomatic of something more serious.

At this point media commentators would usually start banding around words such as 'bubble' and' crash'. We think this is an over reaction. There have been plenty of instances of large-scale construction or re-construction that have yielded nothing but positive benefits.

However the Dutch'Tulipomania' phenomenon of the seventeenth century and more recently, the dot-com fiasco of the late nineties smell the same.

Over the coming months, we in the construction industry will be sailing into uncharted territory. We will see how 'free' the free market really is. Long term there probably isn't anything to worry about though. The UAE remains a place where people will want to live and work, whatever the swings and roundabouts of the money markets.

Greg Whitaker is the editor of Plant Machinery Vehicles Middle East.

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Construction Week - Issue 767
Sep 01, 2020