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Skill shortages are Dubai's biggest headache

SHORTAGE OF engineers is the biggest challenge facing the Middle East construction industry, the head of one of Dubai's largest property developers said this week.

'As a developer we have felt since late 2004 that contractors, consultants and engineers are under-capacity, ' said Dubai Properties chief operating of'cer Hashim Al Dabal.

'This is not because they are bad companies but because growth is exceeding supply.

Human resources is the biggest challenge to the industry, ' he said.

Dubai Properties is responsible for £8bn ($14bn) of infrastructure investment in the Emirate. This is expected to double over the next three years.

But to achieve this, developers must work more closely with the supply chain to enable companies to ramp up resources, he said.

'We have learnt that we need to work more closely with the supply chain and have had to build our relationships. It is no longer just the consultant who talks to the contractors. We are taking a strategic approach with the value chain.

'We now share our five year projections. I let them know what I have coming up so that they can equip themselves to deliver, ' he said Consultants Halcrow and Mace agreed with Al Dabal. Both are looking to recruit engineers in the region.

'We want to increase our staff numbers from 950 now to 1,800 in 2008. At the moment we have over 400 vacancies, ' said Halcrow regional development director Jim Fyvie.

Infrastructure investment is being driven by governments in the region using budget surpluses created by high oil prices.

They are developing roads, water infrastructure, ports, residential and office accommodation and power supplies.

'Construction is really kicking off. Some people may say it is a bubble, but we have analysed the data and our track record shows that we can continue with this growth. Investors can see that the government is investing and they have con'dence, ' said Al Dabal.

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