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Mon 3 Sep 2012 11:44 AM

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Britain should follow Abu Dhabi’s infrastructure approach

Leading construction expert said UK risks being left behind if it continues to dither over infrastructure investment 

Britain should follow Abu Dhabi’s infrastructure approach
(Bloomberg)

Britain should follow Abu Dhabi’s approach to infrastructure in order to get vital projects such as the proposed third runway at Heathrow airport off the ground, the chief executive of the Abu Dhabi Ports Company has said.

Tony Douglas, one of the UK’s leading construction experts, said Britain risked being left behind more innovative countries if it continues to hesitate over decisions on investments required for a competitive economy.

“In the UK you have public inquiries where you wonder if the starting pistol trigger will ever be pulled. Over here there is a high-level decision and, once that’s made, that’s it,” he told The Telegraph.

“The other difference with Abu Dhabi is that all investment is sovereign backed with a triple-A rating, so you know you'll have access to the capital markets.”

“At the moment GDP is just over $100bn a year, with about 60 percent coming from oil and gas. It’s targeting $400bn by 2030, with 60 percent coming from industries other than oil and gas. So it's plotted a route map that says what investment do you need to get there – such as on aviation, seaports, rail links, education.”

Abu Dhabi is investing billions of dollars in infrastructure, real estate and tourism projects as it moves to diversify its economy away from oil. The emirate launched operations at its Khalifa Port on Saturday.

The $7.1bn port and industrial areas has an annual capacity of 2.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU), which the emirate expects to increase to 15 million by 2030.

Douglas, who oversaw the opening of Khalifa Port and led the construction of Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport, criticised the speed at which Britain deliberates significant infrastructure projects.  

“Aviation requires stimulating in the UK if we're going to maintain our position and a third runway at Heathrow is essential,” he said.

"The problem is we’re now spending another five-year government talking about it. And in the end we won't end up with a third runway or Boris Island, we'll end up with nothing and lose further ground. I find that quite depressing,” he added.

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Peter Cooper 7 years ago

Yes the endless public enquiries in the UK often end up costing more than the actual project, and then they find a rare toad likes to live on the site and you are in real trouble.... In addition there is the obsession with preserving the past however poor the architecture and buildings might have been. Meanwhile, the UAE gets the best of everything, brand new, on time and usually at the lowest global cost. It is a formula for business success.... spot the superior system.

realiste 7 years ago

and that is the problem with democracy, you have to listen to everyone!

That also increases costs as you cannot just import low labour to build whatever you want, where ever and under any condition you like.

A nice balance is called for in all aspects.
Does Utopia exist?