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Dubai contractor ECC optimistic despite construction 'slowdown'

Kareem Farah said slowdowns can help to weed out poor engineering service providers

ECC's Kareem Farah says he is optimistic after noting a current slowdown in the UAE construction market.
ECC's Kareem Farah says he is optimistic after noting a current slowdown in the UAE construction market.

Despite what he calls a slowdown in the UAE’s contracting market, the head of Dubai-based ECC Group’s contracting arm is "optimistic" about the market, stating that reduced activity weeds out those offering poor quality engineering and contracting services.

“The UAE has gone through its cycles as the whole world has gone through, but it still is a very young country – it’s grown over 30 years,” said Kareem Farah, chief executive officer at Engineering Contracting Company (ECC), when asked by Construction Week about what he believes are the current challenges in the UAE’s contracting market.

According to Emirates NBD’s Dubai Economy Tracker August report, the growth rate of Dubai’s construction sector slowed in the month compared to June and July 2018, with the construction index declining to 55.3.

“There is a slowdown in the market, but it is a cycle, and I’m an optimist. I’ve always said these slowdowns are necessary for this young country – it is a correction,” Farah explained. 

READ: Money troubles dent Middle East construction jobs

“It is to ensure the survival of the fittest,” he added, noting that during times of slowdown, companies are afforded time to “reflect internally and make their companies more efficient and more lean”.

Farah added: “[Slowdowns] weed out all of the bad quality and the companies that are only here for the short term. You are then left with better quality companies; the professional companies that do want to give back and are looking to be here for the long run.”

With this in mind, he said the longevity of ECC Group relies on its reputation, which he added is built on the pillars of deliverability and quality.

READ: Emirates NBD says Dubai construction growth dipped in August

He continues: “Our chairman has always said ‘I’ve built this company in 43 years and you can damage it in 24 hours’. We’ve also grown organically and sustainably simply to ensure that we always maintain control of our projects while keeping quality at a level which we aspire to give.”

Discussing the group’s approach to prospective projects, Farah believes the more challenging a project is, the better: “They do not necessarily have to be commercial or residential; just anything that we feel is a good challenge.

“We pick and choose our clients,” he added. “Our name is on that building at the end of the day – we’re building a building that is not just for the client but also for ourselves. We look at it as our building because long after we are gone, people are still going to know the contractor that built it.

“We want to make sure that there is no issues with it. We want people to say ‘this was a good development and a good contractor’ because there are no issues with the building.”

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Construction Week - Issue 749
Sep 15, 2019