Wednesday, September 17, 2008

More than 150 projects in GCC currently on hold

(Are we in the GCC experiencing economic slow down before the bubble is burst?)

By Joseph George on Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Work on more than 150 projects across the GCC is currently on hold, according to statistics released by companies monitoring construction projects.
The UAE accounts for the largest number of the projects, followed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait. However an industry expert says the phenomenon is simply part of a global trend.
Some of the most common reasons cited for putting projects on hold are a failure to obtain approval for designs, disputes between contractors and developers over payment and delivery, design changes and the rising cost of materials.
Other reasons include site changes, investors backing out, sale of projects to other users, premature announcement of project details, information leaks before the finalisation of design details and a lack of water and electricity connections.
Research firm ProLeads says Gulf projects valued at $48.4 billion (Dh177bn) are either on hold or have been cancelled. They include at least 88 projects in the UAE, 54 in Saudi Arabia and 15 in Kuwait. Sean Hearn, Sales and Marketing Manager at ProLeads, says the rising cost of construction materials is one major cause.
"I believe the majority of cancelled or on-hold projects in the region are caused by materials costs," he said.
"Disputes arise between developers and contractors regarding ownership of the risk if the cost of materials increases after a project's budget is agreed."
Obviously the credit crunch and global economic slowdown force some investors to pull out of certain projects.
"BNC Network, an online construction product database, says 25 per cent of the GCC projects currently on hold are in the UAE. Saudi Arabia follows closely with 22 per cent, Qatar and Kuwait stand at 14 per cent, Oman at 13 per cent and Bahrain at 12 per cent.
BNC Network says delays are caused by factors such as regulatory hurdles including non-approval of projects and the withdrawal of permission by municipalities and other authorities.
Contractual disputes and rising cost of construction materials are the most common causes of delays in Dubai, while a lack of electricity and water is the leading cause in Ras Al Khaimah.
Ben D'Souza, Chief Operating Officer of BNC Network, said the reason the UAE leads the list was because of the enormous number of construction projects in the country.
"The number looks big but it only reflects the construction boom in Dubai," he said. "It is in proportion to the size of the market. In countries such as Bahrain, where there are relatively fewer projects, the number of projects on hold is also less."
A senior industry expert from a leading engineering consultancy says it is too early to reach a conclusion based on the present trend.
"We are working on projects worth several billions but none has been put on hold or cancelled. Neither is the market slowing down. According to him, the market is getting busier, especially in Abu Dhabi."
He said the only matter of concern was project delay. Many developments were running late or are being delayed due to various factors.
"But the delay is a global problem, and with the steel and cement crisis easing out the problem should ease a bit," he said.
Meanwhile, developers say demand for property is set to increase, resulting in a further escalation of prices.
Ali Al Rahma, CEO of international property consultants, said: "The Dubai Government is spending billions on infrastructure development. We see the government putting things on fast track. The demand for property is still there."
Commenting on the number of projects cancelled or on hold, Yadvinder Singh, President and CEO of Aakar Developers, said: "More than 90 per cent of plot owners cannot be considered as developers. There are so many projects announced without proper design and study. It is natural for these projects not to take off. To become a developer one needs to put the infrastructure in place. Therefore, it is wrong to consider such projects as cancelled or being put on hold."
Singh said he believed the market was becoming more mature.
"Most of the properties launched are sold. Even if there is a slowdown in construction or if some of the projects are cancelled, prices will not fall. There are areas such as Burj Dubai and The Palm Islands where prices went up by almost 100 per cent last year. Prices will continue to rise but at a much slower rate."
Ahmed Shaikhani, Managing Director of Memon Investments, said: "The supply is currently linked to demand and hence there shouldn't be an issue. The demand for properties will continue to increase, resulting in further escalation of prices."
He said though a few projects had been delayed he did not believe developments would be cancelled on a mass scale.
"The demand for properties will continue to increase, resulting in further escalation of prices. A correction in prices is possible but on a routine basis only."
The Global Construction Survey released earlier this year identified poorly defined scope and design creep as the two most common reasons for projects being delayed around the world.
When asked about the three most common causes of delays, 57 per cent of respondents pointed to poorly defined scope and an equal number to design changes. The other reasons cited were lack of approvals and contractual disputes.

$48.4bn: Value of Gulf projects either on hold or that have been cancelled. They include at least 88 projects in the UAE, 54 in Saudi Arabia and 15 in Kuwait 22%: Percentage of projects on hold in Saudi Arabia. Qatar and Kuwait stand at 14 per cent, while Oman at 13 per cent and Bahrain at 12 per cent

Research presented to Britain's House of Commons by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) shows complex construction projects in the UK are likely to be finished more than six months late due to poor time control. And the same is true in the GCC, the institute's recently elected President told Emirates Business.
"Delays are a problem not just in Dubai or the UK," said Keith Pickavance, who in addition to his CIOB role is Senior Vice-President in charge of construction risk manager Hill International's Hong Kong office.
"The CIOB recognises that delayed completion is an issue for the industry globally and one that we want to address. Our research results indicate the growth in training, education and skill levels within the industry in the use of time-management techniques has not kept pace with the technology available."
There is a need for the CIOB to promote an increased awareness of the importance of project planning and scheduling in the industry. We are focusing on finding ways to deliver projects on time and on budget and are developing codes of best practice, training and qualifications that will provide some of the solutions to the challenge.
Pickvance is only the second architect to lead the CIOB since it was founded in 1834. The institute, which has more than 42,000 members, is the international voice of the building professional, representing a body of knowledge concerning the management of the total building process. Members have included Arup, Costain, Shepherd, Laing, Lutyens and Winston Churchill.

Emirates Business spoke to Pickvance about the organisation's plans for the Middle East.

What are your plans for setting up a CIOB in the region?
We plan to establish a CIOB Middle East with five centres in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain and an office and staff covering the region. Preparation is beginning now and an interim infrastructure is due to be in place by early 2009.

Do you have courses or workshops that deal with local issues such as delay and disruption in the UAE and can non-members attend?
Our international branches run a variety of continuing professional development courses. Delay and disruption has not been a specific focus of the branches, but the CIOB has worked with Hill International and invited members to attend delay and disruption courses in Singapore, the UAE, Australia and Hong Kong. We held two last year here and are planning another in early 2009. They are open to anyone to attend.

Can you elaborate on time management on projects in terms of rising prices, materials shortages, lack of skilled labour and deadlines?
Effective time management means creating a time model from which the effect of slippage and events can be calculated. By identifying what will happen in the future the predicted effect can be managed pro-actively. Currently, most people see the programme as no more than a picture of diary dates against which they monitor historically, by how much the dates have been missed. That is not time management, or indeed management of anything. Of course, time management can do nothing to ameliorate the problems with rising prices, materials shortages and skills shortages. On the other hand, whenever there is a risk of delayed completion causing economic loss effective time management during the course of the project is essential. Otherwise the effects of missing the completion date can be catastrophic. Fast-track deadlines only enhance the importance of effective time management.

Can you tell us more about the activities that will be carried out by CIOB centres in GCC? Activities will centre around providing events for members and other industry professionals and providing training in construction management leading to CIOB qualifications. We currently have about 350 members in the region, many holding senior positions. (Sonia Nambiar)

Kejadian aneh di padang golf kerana tidak peduli AZAN

(Catatan - Ada yang menghantar emel mengenai isu azan...mereka masih salah faham yang saya tidak pernah pertikaikan azan, seperti Mufti Perlis atau Abdar Rahman Koya, isu yang ditimbulkan ialah kuliah/ceramah yang menganggu kenteteraman....harap mereka dapat membezakan dua perkara ini:)

Pelbagai pengalaman misteri uji keimanan insan sering terlalai ketika seruan azan berkumandang

PERMAINAN golf bagi mereka yang ketagih dengan sukan boleh menenangkan jiwa itu, kadang-kala berdepan dengan pelbagai kejadian pelik tetapi benar-benar berlaku di padang golf di negara ini.

Daripada berbicara tarikh 16 September yang diuar-uarkan sebagai tarikh keramat peralihan kuasa tetapi berlalu begitu saja atau membincangkan isu politik yang saban hari semakin rancak, mungkin lebih elok kita bercakap mengenai sesuatu yang boleh mendatangkan keinsafan sempena bulan mulia ini.

Pernah satu hari, seorang teman bersama tiga rakannya bermain golf hingga berlarutan pada waktu malam dan ketika menghampiri dua lubang terakhir, mereka terpaksa berhenti agak lama kerana ada orang lain sedang putting di atas green, kira-kira 100 meter di hadapan mereka.

Dalam permainan golf, pemain boleh membuat aduan kepada marsyal jika permainan pemain di hadapan terlalu lambat. Selepas menunggu begitu lama, empat pemain yang kelihatan seperti warga Korea itu, masih melakukan putting berkali-kali sehingga tempohnya tidak boleh diterima akal. Berikutan itu, lelaki yang bergelar Datuk tadi menghubungi rumah kelab dan mengadu kepada marsyal untuk menegur empat 'warga Korea' itu supaya bermain dengan laju.

Marsyal itu menjawab: "Datuk.... flight (sepasukan empat orang) Datuk adalah flight terakhir, tak ada orang lain dah kat fairway (padang) waktu ini." Mendengar jawapan itu, mereka terus bergegas masuk ke dalam buggy dan segera pulang ke kelab, dengan tidak lagi meneruskan permainan.

Rupa-rupanya empat 'warga Korea' itu bukan manusia. Di kelab itu kemudian heboh mengenai kejadian aneh itu. Kapten kelab datang dan bertanya secara lembut, sama ada mereka berhenti menghayun kayu golf apabila terdengar azan Maghrib berkumandang dari masjid di pinggir kelab golf eksklusif itu.

Semuanya tergamam dan saling memandang antara satu sama lain. Bayangkan, jika waktu di padang golf itu, mereka menghampiri 'pemain Korea' di atas green, entah apa akan terjadi.

Penolong Pengarah Institut Latihan Islam Malaysia (ILIM), Syeikh Zamihan Al-Ghari ketika diminta mengulas berkata, kemungkinan yang dilihat itu adalah malaikat atau jin Islam kerana syaitan akan lari sejauh mungkin hingga ke hujung dunia sehingga dia tidak lagi mendengar bunyi azan.

"Seruan Allah mengajak kepada kebaikan dan begitu juga dengan seruan azan yang mengingatkan kepada tanggungjawab menunaikan solat. Oleh itu kejadian pelik yang berlaku kepada kepada pemain golf ini boleh dilihat sebagai bonus daripada Allah untuk menyedarkan mereka supaya berhenti sebentar untuk mendengar azan dan solat sebelum menyambung permainan.
"Bagi manusia biasa, hatta yang banyak melakukan dosa juga tidak mustahil menemui kejadian pelik ini untuk diberi kesedaran dan ini menunjukkan kekuasaan serta kasih sayang Allah," katanya.

Malah, apa saja kegiatan termasuk ketika seseorang sedang berucap di khalayak ramai perlu berhenti seketika sewaktu azan berkumandang. Namun, banyak lagi cerita pelik berlaku, kebanyakannya menjurus kepada sikap pemain golf yang tidak berhenti seketika apabila terdengar azan sama ada apabila masuk waktu Zuhur, Asar, Maghrib atau Isyak, bagi yang bermain golf pada waktu malam. Sesetengah padang golf di sekitar Lembah Klang, memang ada menyediakan tempat solat di tepi padang golf.

Di padang golf yang lain pula, tidak berapa lama dulu, seorang rakan bersama kawannya 'sesat' apabila tidak terjumpa tempat tee-off (pukulan pertama untuk setiap lubang) seterusnya selepas selesai bermain di lubang ke-12.

"Seminggu sebelum itu, saya juga bermain di tempat sama, tiada masalah dan memang mustahil untuk tidak menemui tempat tee-off seterusnya. Tetapi kali ini, saya mendapati laluan untuk ke lubang ke-13 itu bagaikan tertutup.... saya pergi ke kiri, nampak semak... ke kanan pun semak dan ke depan lagi semak. "

Jalan keluar ialah berpatah balik dan waktu itu jam sudah melewati 1.30 petang," katanya yang nyata juga tidak berhenti bermain ketika azan Zuhur. Sehingga kini, beliau masih tertanya-tanya insiden itu.

Baru minggu lalu, kejadian aneh turut berlaku di sebuah padang golf lain di kawasan Subang Jaya apabila seorang rakan yang melakukan pukulan kedua melungsurkan bola jauh tetapi menuju ke arah pokok sawit, hingga seakan menyeberang ke fairway di sebelah, memungkinkan bola itu jadi 'OB' (out-bound).

Apabila buggy yang dinaikinya bersama rakan yang juga seorang Datuk berhenti di atas track berdekatan pokok sawit, bola tidak kelihatan, hilang. Tetapi kira-kira lima minit kemudian, tiba-tiba bola golf melantun balik ke arah fairway, bagaikan dilambung atau dicampak oleh seseorang.
"Saya tengok di celah-celah pokok, kemungkinan ada pekerja yang mencampak bola tetapi tiada seorang manusia pun di situ," katanya yang terselamat daripada dikenakan penalti dua strok kerana bola hilang.
Penulis sendiri yang menaiki satu lagi buggy di belakang mereka turut hairan tetapi saya tidak nampak bola itu apabila ia 'tercampak' semula ke arah fairway.
Banyak lagi kisah pelik seperti bola beralih tempat atau tiba-tiba 18 biji bola berada di atas green yang sepatutnya cuma empat biji selepas empat pemain mahu melakukan putting, memberi pengajaran berguna.

Di sini, kita perhatikan satu alkisah. Diriwayatkan bahawa Siti Zubaidah adalah seorang wanita bangsawan yang kaya, hobinya suka mendengar muzik. Dia memiliki pentasnya sendiri serta beberapa penyanyi yang menjadi penghiburnya. Apa yang menjadi kelebihannya ialah apabila terdengar saja seruan azan, dia akan segera memerintahkan penyanyi dan pemuziknya berhenti untuk seketika bagi menghormati azan.

Selepas selesai dan menjawab azan, barulah disambung semula, hanya itulah amalan yang sentiasa dijaganya. Selepas dia meninggal, ramai di kalangan orang salih bermimpi bertemu dengannya; tanya mereka, "Ibadat apakah yang menyebabkan Allah mengampunkan dosamu, adakah kerana kamu menggali sebuah kolam air antara Makkah dan Madinah?

Jawab Zubaidah, "Allah mengampunkan dosaku dengan banyak mengucapkan syukur. Sebenarnya aku tidak banyak beribadah kecuali satu, ketika hayatku dulu iaitu apabila terdengar saja azan sedangkan waktu itu aku sedang berhibur dan mendengar nyanyian, maka dengan serta- merta aku menyuruh mereka memberhentikannya bagi menghormati seruan azan.

"Itulah ibadat yang aku benar-benar menjaganya. Sebagai balasan, Allah berfirman, "Kamu dilarang menyeksanya, jika tidak kerana iman yang ada di dadanya masakan ia mahu menyebutKu dalam keadaan leka."

Penulis menerima banyak e-mel, khidmat pesanan ringkas (SMS) dan panggilan telefon daripada pembaca termasuk rakan serta mereka yang tidak dikenali mengenai tulisan saya di kolum ini minggu lalu bertajuk 'Kisah misteri alam roh beri pengajaran berguna.'

Ramai juga pembaca memberi maklum balas menyatakan mereka atau ahli keluarga mahupun kawan pernah mengalami kejadian misteri yang serupa apabila koma.

Antara maklum balas paling menarik ialah cerita berikut: "Seorang kawan saya bukan saja mat rempit, malah kaki judi, minum arak dan suka berfoya. Suatu malam, dia terbabit dalam kemalangan hingga patah tulang rusuk dan kaki kanan serta keretakan tukang belakang. Beberapa hari dia koma di hospital. Pendekkan cerita, apabila sudah keluar hospital kemudian, maka dia bercerita mengenai kejadian misteri. "

Dia mendakwa melihat alam neraka, ditunjukkan kepada dia, menyebabkannya rasa takut yang amat sangat apabila disebut perkataan neraka. Sejak itu, dia sudah bertukar menjadi seorang manusia yang sempurna, tidak pernah tinggal sembahyang dan meninggalkan semua kegiatan tidak berfaedah sebelum ini," katanya.


Oleh Kadir Dikoh
Penulis ialah Pengarang Rencana dan Laporan Khas, Berita Harian