Iraq’s construction industry is experiencing a period of rapid growth as it benefits from the relative political stability of recent years, according to the CEO of one of the country’s major construction companies.
Sarmad Al-Khudairi, CEO of Al Fayha Building Solutions, said the country’s construction industry is in a “booming” stage and is benefiting from a government that is “getting stronger everyday.”
Speaking to CW, Al-Khudairi said: “The security is improving everyday, and it is becoming attractive for many Iraqis, who left to work in Dubai or other countries, to go back and work in Iraq, because it is their country. The country is now open to new suggestions, new rules and regulations, allowing new ideas.
“You will read everywhere that there are problems in Iraq, but recession is not one of them. Growth and recession both have problems, but the problem of growth is better than the problem of recession.”
Al-Khudairi explained the challenges which the construction sector’s rapid growth is posing. “We are into a growth phase, and our growth needs very detailed planning. We have to be very careful about how we locate resources; we need to know how much we will expand; we need to know which of our businesses to focus on.”
Al-Fayha, based in Basra in southern Iraq, began operating in 1920, and has survived almost a century of political and social upheaval, which has seen several wars and an international trade embargo.
Although Al-Fayha is a specialist in precast concrete solutions, it is also involved in various other parts of the construction sector such as piling, steel structures and cladding installation, together with polystyrene manufacturing.
According to Al-Khudairi, this diversification has been instrumental to the survival of the company during the turbulent periods of Iraq’s history. “If you see how many things we do, there is a reason behind it, because every time we have difficulty and one sector stopped, another sector would grow, and we would go to that sector,” he said.
“As they say, what does not kill you makes you stronger. This is how we became stronger because during all these years, when all the other businesses went down; we opened something else,” he stressed.
With the political and economic changes that have happened in the last few years, Al-Khudairi is increasingly hopeful that Iraq’s period of prosperity is here to stay. “When Iraq moved into the free market, when the regulation opened up competition, whoever was best would stay in the market. Let us forget the bad stories and just look forward, because 2010 to 2011 was the start of a real construction boon in Iraq under reasonable security,” he said.
Meanwhile Al-Fayha is focusing resources on its precast concrete business in response to soaring demand. Iraq is currently experiencing high demand for affordable housing and public facilities that can be built in a short space of time.
According to Al-Khudairi, since more traditional methods of building take longer, his company’s expertise in precast concrete is seeing a surge in demand. “We are focusing on our main business, which is precast solutions. The boom in Iraq will not be characterised by the normal way of building; it will be a faster solution, and precast is a fast solution.”
Al-Fayha recently secured a contract to build 25 schools in southern Iraq, and Al-Khudairi is confident the completion of these projects will prove the benefits of using precast over traditional methods.
“We have now the opportunity to give the full solution by design, fabrication and implementation, and I think the 25 school projects will open the eyes of people – that it is better to do it this way, and faster,” he said. “We are also now in a careful, indepth study to solve the housing issue in Iraq by giving a full solution with precast,” revealed Al-Khudairi. He went on to explain the advantages gained by building with precast concrete.
“With precast you can manage, control and produce a controlled environment in your own shop. You can manage everything, employ people, use all the resources, and when you ship it, you do not need to do more work on-site.
“Iraq is very big, and has very remote areas. It is very hard now to find qualified resources to be on 25 sites at the same time. But if you focus on providing a full solution for 25 sites in your own factory and then ship it to the site, this is where you have the advantage.
“Iraq’s roads are old, the infrastructure is old, the power is limited, so to run 25 sites with full staff is not easy. It is better to do it in one location and then send it for erection,” said Al-Khudairi. It has taken time for Iraq’s construction industry to appreciate the advantages over traditional building methods.“It has been difficult to convince people.”