Local states are spending billions of dollars in overhauling infrastructure, with Qatar alone set to spend $100bn – or 87 percent of GDP – on modernising the emirate. “To see a rise in PPPs you have to start with infrastructure spending, and the Middle East is massive for that,” said Clement Walsh, director of infrastructure finance at PWC. “There are huge projects out here, in the UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.” If just some of the infrastructure projects planned for the Gulf take place, he added, “it will be a big market” for PPPs.
As governments work to further develop and rejuvenate their economies in the wake of the global economic crisis, they are increasingly turning to private funding. Dubai’s state transport agency said in January it would offer about a third of its infrastructure projects over the next five years as PPPs in a bid to scale back its exposure to risk and costs. In Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia, big projects such as inter-country rail lines and causeways have also opened to private sector involvement. In Qatar, the Ministry of Business and Trade has also assigned a unit to examine PPPs as a possible source of funding for its infrastructure spree.
PwC is one of the PPP facilitators that will be making a significant investment in the Middle East in the next twelve to 36 months, said Neil Broadhead, partner in charge of advisory services. “Capital projects and infrastructure practice in the Middle East is a very significant investment,” he said. “It’s included on everyone’s agenda.” PwC currently has 30 engineers, accountants and other PPP facilitators on the ground in MENA, in offices from Dubai and Abu Dhabi to the newly opened arm in Ramallah.
Broadhead said the biggest demand was for professional service advice – ensuring that capital is managed effectively during the building of projects. Those projects include everything from transportation to waste treatment facilities. “Most governments looking at [making] big expenditures look at PPPs to reduce the burden on the public purse and as the best value for money,” Walsh said. “Because that’s the measure for success. Over a project’s life cycle they offer a better value – but they’re not cheap. They emerged from very mature economies… they are a way of managing risk to the public.”
Both said the Middle East and GCC – with a recovered economy, emphasis on building and projects tied into the Qatar World Cup and other initiatives – would be a PPP hotspot in the next year.“One year ago there was no capital projects team in the Mid East – now there’s Abu Dhabi, Doha, Saudi, Ramallah, capital projects in Dubai,” Broadhead said. “To work with these clients we need to be in their markets.”