Can The Big 5 thrive in today’s economic climate?

The GCC construction sector is waiting with bated breath to see whether The Big 5 2015 is able to deliver against a challenging economic backdrop – and with good reason

COMMENT, Projects

The GCC construction industry has witnessed robust levels of activity during 2015, and many analysts are predicting that this growth will continue until at least 2018. The UAE is expected to account for the largest value of this year’s projects, followed by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman. On the face of it, the regional construction sector appears to be in rude health.

It’s important to note, however, that this momentum has been gathering against a backdrop of uncertainty. Almost 18 months of low oil prices have caused Gulf governments to pursue economic diversification, and rethink their short- to mid-term spending strategies. Meanwhile, reduced national incomes have resulted in lower levels of infrastructure investment.

But this situation should not necessarily be viewed as a problem – more an opportunity. The GCC is aiming to attract higher investments in its construction sector through large-scale events that present it as a global hub for business and tourism. Shows such as The Big 5 form an important part of the Gulf’s strategy to attract investment from other regions.

The Big 5 2014 attracted more than 2,800 exhibitors from over 60 countries. During the course of the gathering, 55 workshops, 60 seminars, and 30 live demonstrations took place. The show was hailed as a success by organisers and attendees alike.

Encouragingly – and despite the current state of the market – Andy White, vice president of show organiser dmg events MEA, expects The Big 5 2015 to be bigger and better than ever (page 6), with more exhibitors, more workshops, and – if all goes to plan – more visitors.

Personally, I will be watching the success of the show with great interest. As the Middle East’s largest construction event, The Big 5 event does more than simply reflect the state of the market; it informs the way in which the market perceives itself.

If White and his colleagues at dmg are correct and The Big 5 2015 surpasses previous iterations, it could provide a much-needed shot in the arm for market confidence. It might also offer evidence to suggest that GCC construction will ultimately be a benefactor – rather than a victim – of efforts to reduce the Gulf region’s dependence on oil.

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