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Sat 11 Dec 2004 04:00 AM

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Construction Week Newsletter 11th December 2004

Editorial Leader|~||~||~|While the world is watching

The past couple of weeks have been hectic for the regional construction industry and for those global players who want to be in on what is being billed as the most lucrative construction market in the world today – the Gulf.

The region’s hub port of Dubai was host to two of the industry’s largest annual events, the Big 5 and Cityscape conferences and exhibitions. The organisers of both claim that this year’s events have set records in terms of attendance, size and quality of visitors.

What surprised me most was that though both Big 5 and Cityscape ran along similar patterns, even to the extent of being held in the same premises within a couple of days of each other, to me they appeared to be very different events – though highly successful and complementary.

The Big 5 was primarily peopled by construction industry suppliers who came in from more than 50 countries to sell into the regional market. Cityscape, in contrast, featured the movers and shakers of real estate development, which, in turn, fuels the construction sector.

Its conference had leaders of the regional construction industry rub shoulders with some of the world’s best-known names from the fields of commercial architecture, property design and development, not forgetting major investors from the international arena, looking for new projects and opportunities for development.

While the Big 5 was a networking event for regional and global suppliers, Cityscape was a forum for project promoters, architects and property development professionals and global institutional investors to mingle and look at what the Gulf is doing.According to delegates at Cityscape, everyone in the industry the world over is looking at the region. Dubai is currently said to account for the highest density per square kilometre of construction and real estate activity in the world.

The past few years have seen a dramatic shift in the way the world looks at the GCC, due to a combination of factors, including the liberal policies of several governments. The most dramatic development has been the introduction of bold and forward-looking changes by the authorities, aimed at opening up the property sector. In this revolution, Dubai has been a pioneer, as well as a model for other countries in the region, points out Wahid Attalla, executive director, commercial and operations, Nakheel, a Cityscape participant.

Adrian Smith, consulting design partner for Skidmore Owings and Merrill and the designer of the Burj Dubai, in turn, says that the Middle East is turning to building super tall buildings to help to resolve office and accommodation shortages, and serve as a widely recognisable icon of their city and country. “We are now witnessing strong interest from many countries across the region that want to develop their own iconic buildings as an impetus for future building growth and economic development,” he adds.

All eyes are on the region, which is yet relatively new to the mysteries of ‘waterfront’, ‘reclamation’ and ‘high-rise’ living.

Being the focus of the world allows the region to bask in the limelight. But it also means that each and every move is being scrutinised. Each and every development is being watched. Gulf developers must ensure that they have not only the best projects, but also the very best systems, policies, ethics codes and mechanisms in place for optimal corporate efficiency. Having global projects that might be considered modern wonders of the world is not enough. You have to also have global best practices. When the world’s eyes are on you, you cannot afford to fail.||**||

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