More contractors are needed in Saudi Arabia due to the sheer number of gigaprojects that are simultaneously coming on stream in the country, experts from Parsons, Hill International, Faithful + Gould, and Atkins tell Construction Week in Riyadh, adding that the reality of living and working in the kingdom makes it an exciting market for engineering talent from around the world.

Saudi Arabia is in the midst of Vision 2030, of a major transformation agenda that is underpinned by megaprojects such as the tourist destination of the Neom super-city; the 334km2 entertainment city of Qiddiya; the development at the Unesco World Heritage site of Al-Ula; and the luxury, sustainable tourism-focused Red Sea Project.

Social and economic reforms spearheaded by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and Crown Prince HRH Mohammed bin Salman, have created a palpable buzz. The only issue is that construction stakeholders feel that more contractors are needed to deliver all of the planned infrastructure and construction projects in time for Vision 2030.

Industry experts have started discussions about whether enough contractors and materials are available to deliver the various projects. This question arises not because Saudi Arabia faces a shortage of contractors or building materials – in fact, for years, the kingdom has successfully developed large and complex projects with local firms managing the construction aspect of these schemes, and resource availability has never been an issue.

However, with so many of the country’s gigaprojects now starting to get under way, the kingdom requires a great many reputable, well-organised, established, and experienced contractors if it is to deliver the change it is seeking within the specified timeframe.

US construction consultancy Parsons, which has the Qiddiya entertainment gigaproject in its portfolio, understands that more manpower is needed to meet market demand. The company plans to add up to 500 jobs in Saudi Arabia this year, growing its 1,300-strong workforce to 1,800.

While an average of 50 people join the consultancy every month in the kingdom, managing director for Parsons Saudi Arabia, Ken Murray, tells Construction Week that more contractors are needed to carry out the heavy lifting.

“The contractors want to do a good job, but there is more work here than the contracting community can handle,” he says.

“If you could figure out a formula for bringing in some of the bigger contractors internationally, that would help a lot.”

US consultancy Hill International, which is working on Riyadh Metro and the King Abdullah Financial District, has had a presence in the kingdom for years. Its senior vice president in Saudi Arabia, Dr Adel Karem Jemah, agrees with Parsons’ Murray, adding: “We need really good contractors to come into the market.”

Jemah tells Construction Week that a need for “innovative” procurement and project management processes also exists, which he says are key to delivering the ambitious construction projects within their tight delivery timelines. More

By Oscar Rousseau