Construction Week Newsletter 16th April 2005

When war-battered Iraq does eventually come to be rebuilt, there will be no shortage of suppliers to hawk their wares from across the Middle East and beyond.

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By  Sean Cronin Published  April 16, 2005

An uphill struggle? Tempting the contractors to rebuild Iraq|~||~||~|When war-battered Iraq does eventually come to be rebuilt, there will be no shortage of suppliers to hawk their wares from across the Middle East and beyond. But finding contractors to buy them, assemble them and incorporate them into new buildings and infrastructure projects may not be quite so straightforward. At least not on the evidence provided by the exhibitors at the Rebuild Iraq show in Jordan, where the organisers have been trotting out the big reconstruction numbers of late. They point out that no country in the region has more business-generating potential than Iraq. And this is true: The US government has stumped up almost US $19 billion to rehabilitate Iraq’s infrastructure, while donors from around the world have committed a further US $13 billion. There is also an estimated two and a half thousand projects to tempt product suppliers and manufacturers throughout the region. Spending on this scale is usually more than enough to provoke an excited response from the big league of the construction industry. But this time the predicted stampede has not materialised, and this lack of interest was reflected in the composition of exhibitors at last week’s show in Jordan. This year’s Rebuild Iraq show illustrated how the initial enthusiasm of the sector for reconstruction opportunities in the country has now been tempered by a more realistic appreciation of the situation on the ground. While companies from Saudi Arabia and Turkey (the most aggressive of the international construction brigade) were well represented at the Amman event, firms from the US and UK were more noticeable by their absence. Just a few dozen companies from both countries made the trip, and within this group only a handful of firms were selling into the construction industry. No firms from Oman or Qatar seem to have made it onto the exhibitor list for the show, and apart from Saudi Arabia, the only other big showing was from UAE-based suppliers. Perhaps more than most other industries, construction has long been a pioneering business with contractors being prepared to boldly go where no other corporate has gone before. That is changing fast. Working in hazardous but lucrative war zones is no longer the big draw it once was for construction companies. They are finding it increasingly difficult to persuade their staff to choose Iraq over more stable markets in the region where the industry is booming. The problems encountered by the likes of Bechtel and AMEC in getting reconstruction work started while trying to overcome persistent security issues have been well documented. Contractors continue to be targeted, and finding staff willing to risk all by working in the country is not getting any easier. Now it seems the risk-takers have become the risk-averse. And who could blame them with so many opportunities elsewhere in the region that do not come with the unsolicited bonus of a random rocket propelled grenade attack?||**||

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