Call for new measures to ease cement crisis - Emirates24|7

Call for new measures to ease cement crisis

Mohammed Abdullatif Al Bassam of Ace Enterprises (SATISH KUMAR)

Real estate projects in Dubai could face major delays if measures are not taken to boost cement production and control prices, according to the head of business services and consultancy company Ace Enterprises.

Chairman Mohammed Abdullatif Al Bassam said cement and ready-mix concrete were as important to the economy as oil.

But suppliers of the strategic commodity faced high production and fuel costs and other difficulties. A bag of cement now costs Dh32 on the black market, he said.

"Developers and project owners find themselves with no option but to pay black market prices for cement and ready-mix concrete," he added. "They will do any thing to get this vital commodity.

"The Dubai real estate market now imports cement that satisfies only the lowest European quality requirement although it is of lower quality than that produced in the UAE."

This comes at a time when some 1,550 real estate projects are under way in Dubai and developers face a severe shortage of cement and ready-mix concrete.

Last month the Ministry of Economy intervened to seal a deal with cement producers in the country to boost production of 50kg bags from 150,000 a day to at least 250,000 and to bring down the price of a bag to Dh16.

"The crisis has arisen because cement is not priced sensibly and in addition there is low supply in the market because of the closure of some plants for maintenance," said Al Bassam.

"Cement plants in the Northern Emirates sometimes face power cuts, which forces them to use diesel, creating an extra cost."

Ace Enterprises represents nine companies in the ready-mix concrete, hydro-engineering, lighting, security, architecture and design, air-conditioning, agricultural products, administrative affairs and logistics sectors. The company has an asset base of Dh100 million and owns property, including a number of hotels in Dubai.

On the current local economic situation, Al Bassam said: "Dubai has consolidated its position at a global level as an important world business centre reaping investment returns of up to 100 per cent a year.

"Hundreds and maybe thousands of nationals and expatriates have benefited to a large extent from the opportunities offered by Dubai.

"Without doubt realty is an important sector for investors at the moment, not only at company level but also at the level of individuals. Many have became millionaires after the value of flats they bought for several hundred thousand dirhams doubled. Growth in the real estate market will continue as long as jobs and freedom to trade continue and companies keep opening.

"It is widely accepted that the UAE is the most sophisticated and technologically advanced of all the Gulf states and with its buoyant and stable economy and secure environment it is an ideal base from which to service the rest of the region. Ace has influential business partners in all the GCC states.

"The continuing economic success of the region, and the UAE in particular, is being achieved by two predominant factors. The first is the fact that the area is sitting on vast reserves of oil and gas, and the second is the foresight and good management of its rulers."

Al Bassam said that over the last three decades the Middle East's economic performance had surprised even the most cynical of pundits, with regional economies growing at an amazing rate year-on-year.

"As with all growth cycles you experience ups and downs bought about by world events that impact on the region, but over the period, it has been able to weather the storm.

"In the beginning it was a new frontier, which needed anything and everything, and by the grace of God had the wealth to pay for it.

"The region has progressed rapidly over the last few years both in terms of infrastructure development and business acumen and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future."