CW Expert Interviews | Pinsent Masons on the impact of COVID-19

Pinsent Masons’ Mark Raymont speaks about a range of issues COVID-19 has had on the built environment

In our latest episode of CW Expert Interviews series, Construction Week's deputy editor Anup Oommen speaks to Mark Raymont, Partner - Energy and Infrastructure at Pinsent Masons about the impact of COVID-19 on the construction and infrastructure sectors.

Raymont speaks about the impact of COVID-19 on project financing, pressures on supply chain, problems around materials being delivered, issues around labour and workforce,  projects that have been put on hold and suspended, payment issues, and more.

He said: "There's definitely been a slowdown. We've seen delays in approvals; delays in granting of licenses. Mainly, this has been due to a degree of caution and reluctance, particularly in relation to committing new funds. But in terms of existing projects one of the really interesting developments is the focus on requests for contingency plans in respect to those projects - to how to deal with COVID-19 issues."

Raymont alludes to the "new normal" brought about by COVID-19. He says that the construction sector will need to change: "There's going to be a change in the physical - the built environment; and the cultural - the way we do business and organise ourselves in the construction sector."

He added: "Issues around payment delays, issues around financing, and issues around handover - I don't see them going away. The construction sector in the UAE has been struggling over the last few years because of budgetary issues. COVID-19 has had a huge impact, but also coupled with that, the oil crisis has also impacted the availability of funds, the appetite for investment - in relation to new projects and existing projects."

Raymont also points to the "good things out there" when he speaks about the major investment plans from the GCC governments, stimulus measures, and the increase in ADNOC's capacity and investments.

He also touches upon the importance of health and safety, now and in the future, especially with the "infections noted in the labour camps."

Raymont said: "Even if you get your projects commissioned, if people can't work; if they're sick; it's going to be a problem. And this means, taking a careful look at labour accommodation, labour transportation, and project durations - and there's going to be a need for more realistic approaches to deciding the duration of construction projects, and so on."

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