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MIDDLE EAST REPORT

The economic development of Gulf states over the past century owes a lot to the investments made in major infrastructure projects -particularly in the transport sector.

Civil engineers are well aware that without the £2bn investment committed to Jebel Ali Port in the late 1970s, Dubai would not be one of the world’s top 10 container ports. And had the decision not been taken to create a free trade zone adjacent to the port, there would not be more than 6,000 companies operating in the 49km2 area.

It is this knowledge that led engineers surveyed by NCE to identify the scheme as the region’s most important piece of engineering. Governments in the region are now looking to replicate the success in the shipping sector by making similar investments in aviation. Every state is expanding its airports, if not building entirely new ones, and logistics parks and freight storage facilities are being built alongside them.

Dubai World Central airport is under construction and once complete will have the capacity to handle 12M.t of cargo per annum, alongside space for 120M passengers. In 10 years time the proposed Gulf Cooperation Council railway would provide further freight connections from this hub to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman.

The governments of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain were similarly forward thinking when they decided to link the two states via the King Fahd causeway which began in 1981 and was completed in 1986. More than 16M passengers used the link in 2007, and Saudi visitors are the backbone of Bahrain’s tourism sector.

Causeways are now planned between Qatar and Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE and even Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Oil revenues have financed these super-sized schemes and the foresight that led to the completion of Jebel Ali will be applied to other projects. By plunging cash into infrastructure, non oil GDP will begin to support Gulf economies when oil and gas begin to dwindle.

Despite the global economic downturn and concerns over how cash should be invested, major transport investments will always prove their worth.

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