UAE firms fail to cash in on Iraq’s reconstruction

The projected boom in Iraq-related construction activity never happened for the UAE. Not a single UAE-based contractor is yet involved in projects, nine months after US President George Bush declared the official end of the war.

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By  Eudore Chand Published  December 1, 2003

The projected boom in Iraq-related construction activity never happened for the UAE. Not a single UAE-based contractor is yet involved in projects, nine months after US President George Bush declared the official end of the war. The UAE, and particularly Dubai, was eagerly looking forward to a share of the construction pie as the war-ravaged country was rebuilt. The UAE was the main staging point for most reconstruction activity in Kuwait following the first Gulf War. Dubai was used as the main transhipment point for project cargo and Kuwait even set up customs post in Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone to process incoming cargo and equipment. The UAE was hoping for a repeat performance after the second Gulf War. Though projects are in plenty, the expectations never materialised due to security and legal concerns of the construction industry in the UAE. “So far we have not had any participation in Iraq,” confirmed Dr. Rashed Ahmed Rashed, general manager of UAE Contractors Association, a body that oversees a sector that has 17 000-plus firms. This is despite the fact that UAE contractors have been offered preferential status. “We have been approached by the Constitutional Provisional Authority in Iraq as well as the Americans who have told us that they are willing to give UAE contractors a preferential status in terms of reconstruction projects in Iraq,” said Dr. Rashed. The authorities in Iraq have supplied a list of offered projects to UAE firms. “They have supplied a list of projects to us. The UAE Contractors Association has formed a committee on Iraq projects and we have approached out our members and circulated the list of projects,” Dr, Rashed said. But the lure does not seem to have worked. “We have received verbal promises for a large number of projects. Our people are willing to participate, but don’t want to go in there blindly. They need a clear picture. They cannot stand the risk of sending equipment and people to Iraq when they are not 100% assured about their security. Security is a major concern. Our members have questioned us about the Iraqi legal systems, organisational matters, dispute resolution, logistics and how to send people and money in and how to get them out – and most importantly - about security,” explained Dr. Rashed. He said contractors in the UAE are waiting for the situation to become clearer. “They are willing to support the Iraqi nation and to assist and help its people. But there are currently practical and technical difficulties,” added the UAE Contractors Association general manager.

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