The past twelve months have seen many changes in the Gulf region and some interesting events. In the following we look back and then ahead to what might come in 2019.

Continued Construction…

Construction continued to play a huge role in the life of the Gulf region. In Dubai, the Expo continues to drive much of the work. In the law, we’ve seen some changes and developments, most of which have been hailed as a series of steps in the right direction.

In other parts of the Gulf, we’ve seen continued growth in construction in places such as Oman. The country is said to have the fastest growing construction sector in the region. In KSA, despite ongoing challenges economically, a return to growth in oil prices has seen renewed investment. Metro and energy projects continued apace. There have also been new projects at the heart of the Kingdom’s move toward building a diverse economy.

Changes in Law

Arguably the most significant legal change was the new arbitration law. Established in May, the law came into force a month later. It changed several things. The law brought the region in line with the UNCITRAL framework, whilst retaining some former UAE traditions. It was hailed as a progressive move. The law adds certainty to outcomes in arbitration and ensures arbitration decisions are final and binding.

Other changes have included adjustments to the treatment of bounced cheques. The use of post-dated cheques remains commonplace as a technique for managing payment. It has been a particular concern for those working in the construction sector. The move to fines rather than imprisonment for certain amounts should help reduce the fear of prison terms for signatories. We’ve also seen changes to visa and residency rules as the country aims to become more attractive to key workers.

October saw the opening of the ADGM Courts. With its use of innovative technologies and adoption of a common law system we will be interested to see how many disputes are resolved through that forum in the coming months and years.

What does 2019 hold for the region?

We anticipate payments will continue to be an area for concern.

Getting paid has long been a challenge for the region. Payment is an issue in many jurisdictions around the world. But the Gulf seems to be particularly challenging with a recent high-profile project in Abu Dhabi cited as driving a main contractor to the brink of insolvency. Whether this is something the government will tackle head-on remains to be seen. However, it is a real issue for many of our clients who we help to form well-structured and successful claims.

On which note, we hope that disputes in the region willcontinue to move towards more efficient settlements. As markets mature andbecome more sophisticated, better structured and managed claims develop. So often we see claims which don’t succeed just because they were poorly put together. Our article should help you structure a good claim. If you need help, please let us know.

It will be interesting to see how our industry fares toward the end of 2019 as preparation for Expo tails off. Will there be a new impetus for regeneration and development of new areas of our cities, or will we see a reduction in construction output. Indications suggest that there will be some growth. Regional developers have also been looking abroad for growth for some time. This can be seen in developments in areas such as that by Eagle Hills in Addis Ababa. This and similar moves highlight the confidence Gulf developers have in emerging economies as well as those more established.

Thanks for reading, we hope this has been a useful round-up of the developments in 2018 and look forward to meeting and working with you in2019.