Innovative projects such as smart cities create a demand for accelerated infrastructure development. The Middle East is evolving into a cluster of futuristic cities built across the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Egypt. This creates growth opportunities for the construction sector, hit by delays and labor shortages during the pandemic. Construction in Saudi Arabia is racing towards pre-pandemic levels with a 78% rise in the number of contracts. The findings were revealed by the US-Saudi Business Council, which expects the growth to continue in 2022. Contracts worth $142 billion were awarded in Saudi Arabia in 2021 alone. The boom is backed by the Public Investment Fund’s projects, including NEOM and Red Sea Development project. The oil and gas industry played its part in the growth as PIF increased investment in Saudi Aramco for higher production. The estimated investment for NEOM alone is expected to be around $500 billion. Apart from sustainable buildings, NEOM will have a 170 km urbanized stretch, which will be car-free. The connectivity for this city will rely on a 31 km long, underground network of tunnels. NEOM’s construction has been fast-tracked this year, and about 44 contractors are currently developing the site. The kingdom’s sustainable tourism hub, the Red Sea Development Project is expected to have 50 hotels and 1300 residential properties. It’s expected to add almost $6 billion to Saudi Arabia’s GDP upon completion in 2030. Construction work for the project is underway on 90 islands, in a way that doesn’t damage the environment. Apart from these, the country has started work on one of the world’s largest green hydrogen projects. As part of NEOM, a floating industrial city called Oxagon will also be built in the Red Sea. But currently, the oil and gas sector, power industry, and real estate are bagging the highest number of contracts in Saudi Arabia. Activity for the kingdom’s construction sector is currently at a six-year high.
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Patrick Chalhoub on his passion for art, culture and retro-futurism