New challenges and opportunities in the construction business
A Chinese proverb says that only he who has travelled the road knows where the holes are deep. Put another way, an entrepreneurial spirit will know where the best opportunities lie, which challenges are worth the effort and what to expect next. Samer S. Khoury, Director and Executive Vice President on Operations at Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC), seems to have taken this wisdom to heart. He appears to not only know the right holes, but also how to bore, drill, excavate and pave them.
In a conversation with Swiss Style, he shared some of his thoughts on the challenges and opportunities in the construction business as well as his views of the new industry needs in a globalized world.
A way out of current recovery process
Khoury is currently supervising operations from America to the Middle East and North Africa, and all the way to Papua New Guinea and Australia. In his opinion, it seems that there is a potential consensus that investing in infrastructure could be a way out of the current recovery process. This is one reason that paves his way to the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Tianjin. This is particularly good news for the Middle East since, according to Khoury, the region is in the middle of a demographic explosion, inevitably followed by a surge of infrastructure needs waiting to be met.
“We are lucky to be sitting on the world’s largest reserves of oil and gas, which consequently translates into an increase of infrastructure projects,” he says. As he mentions, even though the oil price drop-down negatively impacted the economy, the policies of countries like Saudi Arabia to put aside spare cash for projects such as infrastructure ones, has greatly benefited the region.
“Governments worldwide, including the Middle East region, witnessed their budgets tightening,” he asserts, “therefore, they had to also turn to private sector for funding. The private sector, encompassing the utility segment (power plants, sewage plants, water plants), and the infrastructure one (highways, airports, etc.) became very attractive. Engaging in different types of partnerships with the private sectors, such as PPP or POT, is a good place to put one’s money, for the simple reason that the returns are guaranteed, while being a win-win situation when the economy is stimulated and the necessary infrastructure built.” He noted as one good example the building of the Athens airport under a POT project between private Greek investors and the government.
Sustainability: The way of the future
These types of partnerships are actually becoming the trend throughout the Middle East and Europe, along with the practice of sustainability, which, if it hasn’t already arrived, is on its way to the Middle East. According to Khoury, in three years’ time sustainability will become one of clients’ requirements, hence, his company’s alliance with European companies that specialize in sustainable building construction. On the other hand, the market is already in greater demand for buildings designed according to the LEED standard that certifies how energy efficient the building is.
In relation to World Economic Forum participants, Samer Khoury’s motto is simple: if you can’t beat them, join them. In China’s case, he thinks it is important to utilize the resources, development and manufacturing facilities the country offers and put them to work globally, especially in the Middle East and Africa. When talking about the railways and metro (otherwise known as the subway), the Middle East is about tremendous opportunity. There are huge schemes and projects in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and in UAE to connect all the Gulf countries with railways. CCC hasn’t yet been operating in this field, which is one area where Khoury is looking for Chinese partners to collaborate with.
For him, attending World Economic Forum events is also the way to spot the industries’ past mistakes – and make sure they are not repeated under his supervision. “It is very important to know what’s going on in the world. Also, one can learn useful tips for the future – often what other industries went through, will most certainly be repeated in your case.”
Not only mistakes, but also opportunities are there to be grasped, and Khoury is interested in the evolution of new business concepts, like outsourcing. “Many engineering companies and contractors have been outsourcing their engineering services to countries like India, China or the Philippines, where the costs are cheaper, and, in China’s case, the work force more disciplined. I see more and more of our partners or competitors
opening offices in China. This is also what we are going to look at in Tianjin.”
They say that the road to success is always under construction, but it would seem that with having Samer S. Khoury on board, completion is guaranteed.
Article by Helen Rocci