Posted by Fabrick on 21 January 2019

The UK is well regarded as a centre of engineering, architecture and innovation excellence and has a long established heritage of exporting professional services. But in a rapidly changing world, is there still a market for UK products and services and how is the rest of the world faring when it comes to construction?

Having recently returned from trips to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Malaysia, it gave me a chance to reflect on how the UK fares when compared to international counterparts. As we fast approach the BREXIT deadline, questions are being asked about what the future will hold. The simple answer is that no one knows. But what is for certain is the value the global market places on our professional services, and this is unlikely to diminish.

From visiting the UAE, it is clear to see that the demand for British services and products shows no sign of letting up. Having met three major UK product manufacturers in an office designed by London based architects Zaha Hadid, it was evident they were all experiencing considerable growth. And with 2 of the manufacturers having offices in Dubai, it was obvious to me that the Middle East is still a buoyant market.

There is a lot of talk of a slowdown in the Middle East, in particular in Dubai. However, I think it depends on your perspective. The rate of development over the past few years has been exceptional and I believe the alleged slowdown is simply a dip in these exceptional levels to something more reasonable. There is certainly no shortage of tower cranes whichever direction you look. Expo 2020 is one major project, but their legacy plans are already in place and future developments are aplenty.

Travelling south to Sharjah, the third largest city after Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and the capital of the emirate of Sharjah, you get to see things in a slightly different way. For the first time in a 10 day visit I saw a building being demolished. Dubai is very much on the up but Sharjah, which has a longer heritage, is a city going through regeneration. Living in the shadow of the opulent Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Sharjah is carving itself out as a destination for young travellers and young families. Despite its very different offering, there is clearly plenty of construction work being undertaken.

Talking to teams based in the region, there appears to be growing opportunities in Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, many UAE based companies are also citing the booming India market.

There is also considerable growth coming from the Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand - but the good news doesn’t extend to the whole region. Singapore is seeing a slowdown, and following a change of Government in May last year, Malaysia is facing challenging times.

Driving through Kuala Lumpur you would be forgiven for thinking that construction is booming, but the multiple cranes are a sign of projects that had already started - most new projects have been scrapped under the new Government. This means that once these projects are complete, the cranes will go and work could be hard to come by.

However, for those companies with foresight, the ups and downs of different countries can be mitigated against. Many products, and particularly professional services, are transferable from one country to another, so when the downturns come, there will more than likely be a neighbouring country that is experiencing an upturn.

The UK has long understood the benefit of global trade. Whilst clients (and virtually every taxi driver!) in the UEA and Malaysia are quick to ask what is happening with Brexit, regardless of the outcome, the UK has a reputation that is second to none. There is still a demand for our professional services and products - and long may this continue!

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