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Honesty is the best policy for GCC construction

A greater degree of honesty would benefit the Middle East’s construction sector no end

COMMENT, Projects

Everybody makes mistakes. What’s more, we’re all vulnerable to the mistakes of others. You may be the closest thing to infallible that the world has ever seen, but you still stand to lose out when your imperfect peers falter.

In my view, neither of these statements is especially contentious. Humankind’s fallibility has been demonstrated throughout the ages, and there is little sign of it abating anytime soon.

So why oh why do certain individuals within the Middle East’s construction sector pretend to be perfect? We all feel the need to present ourselves in the best possible light, but this really shouldn’t extend to feigned omniscience.

This trait becomes even more galling when the aforementioned people assume that Construction Week’s editorial team will act as an extension of their marketing departments. It will not. Don’t get me wrong, an important part of our job is to celebrate the multifarious achievements of the Gulf’s construction sector. As such, we are eager to learn of your triumphs, but we are equally keen to hear about the things that didn’t go so well.

You might assume that this keenness is driven by another undesirable human trait; the thirst for salacious gossip. Whilst I concede that journalists are more susceptible than most to this particular vice, I would argue that covering the negative aspects of our industry is just as important as celebrating the positives. If the region’s trade press becomes complicit in glossing over the cracks, there is a danger that the real challenges facing the sector will go unaddressed.

So imagine how refreshing it was when I was invited to visit Al Reem Island’s City of Lights. In a candid interview (page 32), China State Construction Engineering Corporation (Middle East) (CSCEC ME) told me about the challenges that have been faced during the course of this project, which was launched in Q1 2008 and originally slated for completion in Q4 2011.

Crucially, the delay was neither the fault of the contractor nor the developer, Tamouh. Cash flow-related difficulties were encountered by both firms as the effects of the global economic crisis hit home. Everybody at the time – and I do mean everybody – was in the same boat.

The fact that these towers are about to be handed over is testament to the persistence of both parties. Even at the height of the crisis, construction at the site continued. The partners worked together to secure finance so that the project could be seen through to completion.

The construction sector’s advancement is dependent on firms being sufficiently self-confident to discuss projects that don’t go to plan. Delays happen, and often – as in the case of CSCEC ME and Tamouh – because of outside, extenuating circumstances.

The regional construction community would benefit massively from this level of honesty. We already take so much from our own experiences. Imagine how much more we can learn from those of others.

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Construction Week - Issue 742
May 23, 2019