The state of construction projects in the MENA

The state of construction projects in the MENA

New figures from GlobalData shed light on the state of construction projects in the Middle East and North Africa and around the world. Here they are as per Investment Monitor.

The state of construction projects in the Middle East and North Africa

By Ben van der Merwe

New figures from GlobalData show that the construction sector in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is healthier than in most other regions and is continuing to improve.

The MENA region has received an overall score of 0.87 in GlobalData’s January 2022 Construction Project Momentum Index, which provides an assessment of the health of the construction project pipeline at all stages of development from announcement through to completion.

Every construction project in GlobalData’s database is assigned a score of between 5 and -5 based on its current progress, a score that is continually updated over time. These are then weighted by the value of each project in order to arrive at overall scores for countries, regions and sectors.

That score puts the MENA region in third place out of 11 regions, and is an increase on its score from December 2021 (0.62) when it ranked in seventh place.

One reason for the region’s relatively good performance in the index is its energy and utilities sector, which scores 1.21, putting it in first place out of 11 regions worldwide.

The MENA region’s institutional sector, by contrast, has performed somewhat worse, with a score of 0.48 (putting it in ninth place globally).

Within the MENA region, construction projects are proceeding with fewest obstacles in Qatar, which scores 2.15 in the index. The situation in Oman, however, is somewhat less positive, with a score of -0.02.

The improving health of the construction pipeline in the MENA region is partly due to the resolution of issues in the region’s energy and utilities sector, which has seen its score in GlobalData’s Construction Project Momentum Index move from 0.51 in December 2021 to 1.21 in January 2022.

The construction sector is also seeing fewer and fewer problems in Qatar, which has seen its score on the index go from 1.07 in December 2021 to 2.15 in January 2022.

The Construction Project Momentum Index

GlobalData’s Construction Project Momentum Index is based on analysis of thousands of individual construction projects around the world.

Each project is continually monitored for updates, with updates indicating progress increasing the project’s score, while updates indicating delays or cancellations reduce the score. The score always sits between 5, the best possible score, and -5, the worst.

The scores for individual projects are then weighted based on their significance in order to create combined indices for each region or sector.

Events that can reduce a project’s score include the project being cancelled or put on hold, delays, the rejection of applications or tender bids, or the reduction of the project’s scope.

Events that can increase a project’s score in the index, by contrast, include the completion or commencement of construction, the awarding of major contracts, or the approval of applications.

Ben van der Merwe is a data journalist at GlobalData Media, specialising in FDI. He joined from the Reach Data Unit, where he was a fellow of the Google News Initiative. His investigative journalism has previously appeared in the Observer, VICE, Private Eye and New Statesman.

The top featured image is for illustration and is credit to InvestorMonitor

Oman reinforces commitment to sustainable development

Oman reinforces commitment to sustainable development

Times News Service reports that Oman reinforces commitment to sustainable development; for that it will organise Oman Sustainability Week in March

The image above is for illustration and is of the Corniche, Muscat; Credit to GAVIN HELLIER / NATURE PICTURE LIBRARY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Oman reinforces commitment to sustainable development; set to organise Oman Sustainability Week in March

Oman reinforces commitment to sustainable development
Oman reinforces commitment to sustainable development; set to organise Oman Sustainability Week in March

Muscat: Acknowledging the need for sustainable development to achieve economic growth, attain social inclusion and protect the country’s environment, the Sultanate has been committed to the principles of sustainability and has spearheaded innovative programs that advocate its quintessential role in the development of the country.

In a recent press conference organised on January 31, 2022 at Crowne Plaza Qurum, Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), CONNECT (Oman Exhibitions Organizing Company LLC), in partnership with Oman Environmental Services Holding Company (be’ah) and the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) announced the dates for the Oman Sustainability Week (OSW) event to be organized under the Ministry of Energy and Minerals. A national-level event dedicated to sustainability, OSW will be hosted under the patronage of His Highness Sayyid Theyazin bin Haitham Al Said who will inaugurate the week on March 14, 2022, at the Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre.

The press conference highlighted the role of sustainable development and Oman’s stance in the matter and also featured distinguished panelists including Abdul-Amir Ajmi Al Ajmi, External Affairs and Value Creation Director at PDO, Dr. Mohab Al Hinai, Head of Center for Sustainability and Circular Economy, be’ah, Chokri Ben Amor, Committee Chairperson of the Gaia Summit, Muhanad Al Kiyumi, Business Partner – CEO Alternative Energy from OQ, Ghada Al Yousef, Executive Manager of Nama Group and Malak Al-Shaibani, External Relations Country General Manager of Shell Development Oman.

“Sustainable development is not a choice but a prerequisite for development. It is essential that we strike the right balance between economic growth and conservation of our environment,” said Mr. Al Ajmi. “In line with the goals laid out in Oman Vision 2040 to achieve a developed, diversified, and sustainable national economy, there has been an immense concentration on the efficient utilization of technology and optimization of resources to ensure a sustainable approach to increasing consumption and GDP. Strategic national events like OSW will reinforce sustainable development as a key feature of governance and highlight its critical role in the diversification of the economy. With several projects already underway, Oman has been dedicated to achieving a green economy through green strategies and renewable energy production.”

Aligning itself to the UN Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) and engaging the national development stakeholders to present Oman as a model for sustainable development, the week-long event will comprise of an exhibition, conference, thought leadership summit, site visits, and awards. While the Oman Sustainability Week Expo will showcase an exhibition featuring the latest sustainability technologies, solutions, and initiatives from across the world, the International Sustainability Resources and Technology Conference (ISRTC), which is set to be held from 14 to 16 March, will connect local and global stakeholders to foster constructive debate and enhance cross-collaboration. The C-level thought leadership, Gaia Summit, will be scheduled from 13 to 14 March, and the OSW site visits on the final day of the week will offer attendees an opportunity to visit projects that are at the forefront of building a sustainable environment across the country. Meanwhile, the OSW Awards, which is slated to be held on 13 March, will honor the vital contributions to sustainability that have helped businesses to set themselves apart from competitors.

OSW foresees the active participation of over 100 companies from more than 20 countries and the attendance of 5,000 individuals, including industry stakeholders, policymakers, sustainability experts, and industry leaders from Oman, the wider GCC, and other parts of the world. In accordance with the prevalent COVID-19 situation, all protocols will be adhered to during the course of the event including maintaining a 50% capacity, temperature checks, proof of vaccination, and the wearing of face masks.

In line with Oman’s National Energy Strategy and to achieve the country’s sustainability goals of building a green and circular economy that addresses national needs and moves consistently with the global trends, OSW will further encourage energy independence, generation of revenues from non-traditional natural resources, and innovation in infrastructure to produce affordable and clean energy for the protection of the climate and environment.

Mohammed Al Harthy, Executive Vice President – Strategic Development, be’ah said, “be’ah and sustainability initiatives go hand-in-hand. It is an honor for be’ah to be part of the OSW, which is a platform to learn, share, and educate as Oman takes a bigger and more determined stride towards a sustainable future.”

With PDO, be’ah, Nama and OQ acting as Strategy Partners of the event, OSW will reaffirm the Sultanate’s position on the global map as a country that prioritizes, incorporates and advocates sustainability in all its initiatives

Environment Agency boss says 2022 must become the year of climate adaptation

Environment Agency boss says 2022 must become the year of climate adaptation

In the recent Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow, all agreed that adaptation, meaning becoming resilient to the inevitable effects of climate change would be as important as actions to lower greenhouse gases. Here is CLAIRE SMITH in New Civil Engineer elaborating on why an Environment Agency boss says 2022 must become the year of climate adaptation. In effect, 2022 will matter for climate action especially in the MENA region and above all in the least developed countries (LDCs). But first, let us see why in the advanced economies.

Environment Agency boss says 2022 must become the year of climate adaptation

20 January 2022 

Environment Agency chair Emma Howard Boyd has called for this year to become one that is focused on climate adaptation in order to deliver climate-resilient infrastructure.

In a speech delivered yesterday at the Coastal Futures conference, Howard Boyd also pushed for a review to assess the true cost of climate impacts and the value of investing in resilience.

However, she warned that lack of public awareness on flooding will compound the future risk the industry is working to mitigate against.

Howard Boyd urged for the adaptation emphasis to follow on from the climate focus delivered during COP26 last year and to build on industry knowledge gained in the last 70 years since the 1953 floods in East Anglia.

“In 1953, 307 lives were lost on land and more than 177 people were lost at sea in the east coast surge,” she said. “Caused by a mixture of high spring tides, low pressure and strong northerly gales, it led to significant developments in flood protection, forecasting, and warning and informing systems. The effectiveness of these improvements means that today, many people do not realise they are artificially shielded from disaster.

“For instance, halfway through COP26, millions of people were protected from the highest tide of the year because we operated the Boston Barrier, the Hull Barrier and the Thames Barrier.

“It’s self-evidently a good thing that people can live without fear but, lack of awareness compounds future risks.

“Last year, 200 people died in Germany’s floods. It was reported that people did not know what to do when they heard warnings. Following that tragedy, we reviewed the situation in England.

“Here, 61% of people living at flood risk do not understand that they are. In November, Storm Arwen hit the coast leading to waves over 10m tall. Had these waves coincided with a high or spring tide, impacts could have been worse than in 1953. We cannot put this down to luck.”

According to Howard Boyd, the data analysed by the Environment Agency shows that climate change “is making it harder to hold weather-related shocks at arm’s length”.

She added: “Climate change is taking existing risks and it is increasing their severity, frequency and duration.”

Howard Boyd’s comments follow on from the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2022 being presented to parliament earlier this week. The report said: “The evidence shows that we must do more to build climate change into any decisions that have long-term effects, such as in new housing or infrastructure, to avoid often costly remedial actions in the future.”

Howard Boyd pointed to the Treasury commissioned review on the economics of biodiversity and called for a similar review to assess the true cost of climate impacts and the value of investing in resilience.

“The Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment (CCRI) – which I co-chair – can help,” she said. “The CCRI currently has 120 members, featuring both governments and investors, with over US$20trillion in assets.

“By pricing climate risks, particularly for infrastructure, and including them in upfront financial decision-making, the CCRI is showing how to incentivise a shift towards greater climate resilience.”

Howard Boyd concluded by saying that 2022 must become the year of climate adaptation in order to ensure the success of the UK’s COP26 presidency and drive the ambition of the Green Industrial Revolution.

2022 – The year to redefine cities as first tiers of urban governance

2022 – The year to redefine cities as first tiers of urban governance

2022—The year to redefine cities as the first tiers of urban governance is by SAYLI UDAS⎯MANKIKAR, published in Observer Research Foundation might hold some inspiring words for the MENA region’s own particular and diverse built environment. Seriously would 2022 be the year to redefine cities as first tiers of urban governance anywhere else than India? Does it really; let us find out.

A holistic restructuring of federal, systemic, and financial governance is required to empower our city governments

Nations debate over issues of climate change and pandemic response amongst others, but it is finally the cities that have the unenviable task of executing the ambitious agendas set up by the national elites. Cities find themselves burdened and crippled to deliver on these promises due to the following factors. First, the lack of adequate authority, federally, to run a city. Second, the funds allocated to cities do not quite match the duties they have to perform. And third, is the lack of capacities to plan, monitor, and execute tasks adequately.

It is time that the first responders to crisis, our cities, are no longer treated as mere urban local bodies that ensure water flows through our taps, garbage is picked up, and roads are tarred, but are actually treated as the custodians of urban governance in India.

In 2022, we must make serious federal and systemic amends to enable and strengthen cities to play out this role, and not only criticise these pale urban structures when they fail to respond to our large requirements. With the Glasgow Pact endorsing ‘the urgent need for multilevel and cooperative action’ at the local level, it was for the first time that the role of cities was officially appreciated and recognised in a COP summit. The new pact has also highlighted the need for climate adaptation through planning at the local government level. This is a cue that, globally, the way cities are being perceived is changing.  Decentralisation and devolution of power should be the axis around which federal reforms should be implemented and reimagined in cities. While we constantly invoke the 74th Amendment  of the Indian Constitution, which brought in the concept of devolution, the three tiers of government which placed urban local bodies at the lowest level, must be redefined 25 years after its conception. We have to assess the reasons why most cities were not able to implement many of these reforms.

With the Glasgow Pact endorsing ‘the urgent need for multilevel and cooperative action’ at the local level, it was for the first time that the role of cities was officially appreciated and recognised in a COP summit.

During the pandemic, even within the cities, a strong and successful model that emerged in high density population areas was ward-level management. Formation of ward committees, and the involvement of citizen voices and a local say at the hyper local level was a part of the 74th Amendment, which haven’t found resonance with many city authorities. There is reluctance, even within city governments, in passing over power to the lowest level and empowering citizens and their direct representatives.

The Second Administrative Reforms Commission, 2008 recommended that cities adopt a bottom-up approach of functioning on the principle of subsidiarity, which puts wards as the first level of governance that has people closest to it. The tasks are then pushed upwards to higher authorities when the local units are not enabled to perform them. The delegation of work is bottom-up. Such citizen involvement has been tried in Mumbai through its Advanced Locality Management (ALM) groups, and in Delhi through the Bhagidari scheme, where Resident Welfare Groups are set up to work on local civic issues. However, these were never empowered in their participation, through funds or functions. Recently, cities like Vishakapatnam have made requests to the government that the devolution should not be restricted to power but to development, where authorities of the region are able to administer all development work of that region and not be dependent on centrally-allocated funds for an infrastructure push.

The delegation of work is bottom-up. Such citizen involvement has been tried in Mumbai through its Advanced Locality Management (ALM) groups, and in Delhi through the Bhagidari scheme, where Resident Welfare Groups are set up to work on local civic issues.

The 15th Finance Commission report tabled in the Budget Session in 2021 was a ray of hope for urban governance. The issue of devolution of taxes to cities after local taxes like Octroi and VAT were subsumed into Goods and Services Taxes (GST) had attracted a lot of clamour and there was demand that a separate City GST must be constituted. But while the consideration of this demand still seems a long time away, the 15th Finance Commission has made an absolute allocation of 4.15 percent of the divisible pool—approximately INR 3,464 billion from the divisible pool of taxes—to local governments. After it is distributed, this will constitute almost 25 percent of the total municipal budgets of most cities. The Commission has also given a fiscal thrust to metropolitan governance by introducing outcome funding to 50 million metropolitan regions with population of over 150 million. Here, an outlay of INR 380 billion has been laid out for 100-percent funding for indicators related to water and sanitation, air quality, and other services.

But this is again a double whammy, considering it is still going to flow top-down from the centre to state governments, which then devolve the money to cities. There has always been a question mark on whether the amounts allocated to a city get used completely, since this will depend on the absorption capacities of cities and their ability to spend municipal funds.

The Commission has also suggested that other avenues such as city incubation grants should be used to develop smaller towns and regions in the country. This has gained significance in areas with strong political leadership or cities supported by the Smart Cities Mission, which encourages, handholds, and sets up guarantee mechanisms for private investment into the urban sector.

City governments must make their own efforts to ensure that the taxes which are within their ambit—like property tax—are paid by citizens, for which unique mechanisms need to be put in place for ensuring collections are made.

Along with devolution of financial or other powers comes transparency and accountability in its systems, the onus for which lies on the city governments. The first step to transparency will be to ensure that city budgets are put in the public domain and follow a simple format that is both easy to understand and comprehensible. City governments must make their own efforts to ensure that the taxes which are within their ambit—like property tax—are paid by citizens, for which unique mechanisms need to be put in place for ensuring collections are made. As issues like climate change gain ground, city governments must introduce tax rebates for green infrastructure to achieve their targets.

In conclusion, a three-pronged holistic approach of reimagining federal governance, reworking financial governance, and restructuring systemic governance in urban agglomerations might be the magic pill for creating strong cities. If we want our first responders and drivers of our quality of life to succeed, our political leaders and administrators will need to lend their muscle to put cities first.

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Geospatial intelligence for infrastructure development to fight climate change

Geospatial intelligence for infrastructure development to fight climate change


How India can use geospatial intelligence for infrastructure development to fight climate change by Madhusudan Anand is a story that should be also common to those countries of the MENA region because there are certainly more similarities in The race to zero emissions, between the MENA region and India than differences.

Here are a few ways geospatial intelligence can be the catalyst for India’s smart status ambitions.

At the recent COP26 summit in Glasgow, India promised to reach Net Zero by 2070 — essentially balancing the total carbon dioxide emissions with its elimination from the environment — called carbon neutrality.

However, India is the world’s fourth-largest emitter of carbon dioxide after China, the US, and the EU. The latter two have issued a commitment to reach Net Zero by 2050. 

Despite the incredible progress made towards sustainability across the country, India seems to be lagging on a global playing field when it comes to mass scale solutions.

Naturally, there’s a lot of expectations and hopes riding on the government’s initiatives, including on the recent PM Gati Shakti Master Plan, which aims to create holistic infrastructure across the country through the incorporation of a centralised geospatial data platform.

The Rs 100 lakh-crore initiative is envisioned to ensure transparency, standardisation, and most importantly, sustainability through efficiency.

The programme will bring together 16 central government agencies, including the Railways, Roads and Highways, Petroleum and Gas, Power, Telecom, Shipping, Aviation, and more.

The overarching idea is that a smart city is sustainable — equipped to mitigate climate change’s effects by harnessing the power of technology. 

Geospatial knowledge can provide answers for most everyday problems, especially developing sustainable smart cities. Urban spaces contribute to around 80 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, they are also responsible for 80 percent of a country’s GDP.

With the intersection of artificial intelligence and geospatial data — including census data, satellite imagery, remote sensing, weather data, cell phone data, drawn images, and social media data — urban planning can be highly efficient and contribute to better living conditions both environmentally and financially.

Astoundingly, the market of geospatial analytics is expected to grow at a CAGR of 24 percent between 2020 and 2025.

Here are a few ways geospatial intelligence can be the catalyst for India’s smart status ambitions. 

Environmental repair 

Consumption of resources, energy, ecosystems, and transport directly impact climate change. Geospatial intelligence can help monitor emission sources through collaborative workflows that harness big data to arrive at efficient solutions.

Detailed maps can help evaluate the productivity of land to arrive at its habitable or agricultural status. GIS also makes it easy for civic authorities to balance nature with humans in urban cities to avoid unnecessary culling of green spaces and wildlife conservation. Moreover, it can monitor and correct pollution and noise levels accordingly. 

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