Apr 21 2012
|more articles from|
'Rail is the future' in ME transport sustainability
JEDDAH - In light of the Arab Spring and seismic shifts in availability of global finance, Middle East (ME) governments are placing more emphasis on social infrastructure to create sustainable communities, job opportunities and comfortable living, industry experts say.
In a region comprising unequal distribution of wealth, now is the time for the Middle East to work collaboratively in order to survive the recent political and economic turmoil, the experts warn, while identifying rail and affordable housing as areas relatively ignored during the construction boom time at the end of the last decade.
A white paper "Building a sustainable framework for the Middle East" released ahead of the Arabia Summit to be held alongside World ecoConstruct and Cityscape Abu Dhabi on April 22-25 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, stressed on the need for government to increase spending on social infrastructure projects in order to prevent the economy from shrinking, maintain job creation and capitalize on lower market prices. The report underlines the need to create sustainable workforces.
Experts call for construction industry professionals to increase their levels of pride and job satisfaction and to create a sense of legacy in a region which has produced buildings displaying feats of engineering such as the Burj Al Arab and Burj Khalifa.
"Countries across the globe are increasing public investment on needed infrastructure, even with the austerity measures many are enforcing, to boost employment and give a long-term stimulus to their economies," said panelist Ivan Woods, Head of Project Finance Advisory, BDO Corporate Finance (Middle East) LLP.
In terms of opportunities in infrastructure in the Middle East, Dr. Ziadat identified the creation of a rail network and believes the region was left behind in the railway transportation age.
"For sustainability in transportation, rail is the future. It is more sustainable in terms of carbon emissions but you need long-term investment programs to achieve it."
Woods added "there are significant shortfalls in a number of areas. Affordable housing has not been made available in sufficient quantity and this has been recognized in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman."
He points to countries like Kuwait and Egypt which have successfully utilized public-private partnerships (PPPs) to help vital infrastructure projects get off the ground.
"PPPs can be of great benefit, particularly to maximize the private sector's involvement and added value. The challenges of implementing PPP properly, however, and ensuring value for money for the government and the wider public, must be addressed upfront."
The white paper concludes that now is the time for the construction industry at large to take stock, evaluate and identify how it can work more efficiently and provide better quality service to the population and environment in the future.
Matthew Plumbridge, Consultant, Environment and Sustainability Planning, Department of Municipal Affairs (DMA), believes that by committing to a more sustainable workforce, the industry takes a step closer to engendering a sense of legacy in the region. "Your building is your legacy," he said. "We have to consider the quality of our work as the core in what we do and to have pride in every nut and bolt."
With recent research valuing GCC infrastructure projects (including roads, bridges, rail, sewerage, wastewater and marine) at $408.8 billion, construction companies are increasingly looking to obtain opportunities being provided to those with a commitment toward sustainable building practices.
© Copyright Zawya. All Rights Reserved.