Middle East Round-Up: Saudi’s PPP push continues - but it’s not alone

It’s been another busy few weeks for PPPs across the Gulf and the wider Middle East region.

Saudi Arabia continues to lead the charge for regional PPP announcements, announcing over 200 projects in early April. The oil-rich kingdom’s billion-dollar pipeline stretches across 17 sectors from waste treatment to student housing to hospitals.

And, naturally, global infrastructure giants have taken note of Saudi’s ambitions, with Belgian firm Besix exclusively revealing to Partnerships Bulletin its plans to bid for more work in the kingdom, including its futuristic giga-city Neom.

While the project pipeline for $500bn Neom remains somewhat opaque, experts are confident that the kingdom will include a sizeable portion as PPP contracts, as the city takes shape by the 2030s.

For now, international players are eyeing an upcoming stream of Neom housing construction projects which will accommodate workers, builders and planners.

The smaller Gulf states, such as Jordan and Bahrain, are also showing a willingness to ramp up their PPP pipelines.

According to experts, Jordan in particular has much to gain from upgrading its strained and ageing infrastructure network with the support of international partners. Meanwhile, Bahrain is eyeing a major PPP transport push as part of its 2030 redevelopment programme.

Further afield in Egypt, the country’s president Abdel El-Sisi is vocally backing the country’s PPP regeneration programme and has called on bullish international financiers to invest in its water, energy and rail projects.

Atter Hannoura, director of the PPP Central Unit at Egypt's Ministry of Finance, told Partnerships Bulletin in March that Egypt now has “100% commitment from the top” to deliver on its PPP pipeline.

Hannoura insists that a more stable Cabinet, post-Arab Spring, has enabled the government to galvanise the necessary political will to deliver on PPP ambitions.

It remains to be seen how many of Egypt’s projects will be realised in the next few years. But given its strained relations with the IMF, a swathe of well-regulated and diligently-honoured international investments is just the fillip the country needs for economic recovery.