With the perspective of the GCC countries pursuing huge investments in education, the education building sector is booming. The young demographic and increasing demand from locals and expatriates for a quality education force governments to invest heavily in education facilities.

GCC governments have thus recently announced that they plan to spend more than $90bn on schools, colleges and universities by the end of 2014. This makes the education sector one of the biggest for contractors and suppliers. Saudi Arabia will be the biggest investors in the education sector with an expected spend of $56bn (465 new schools and refurbish 1,500, as well as complete 1,544 existing school construction projects and build 8 new colleges and vocational schools). The UAE spent $2.6 bn (21% of its 2014 budget) on schools while Qatar has allocated $7.2 billion to education (up 7.3%). Oman will begin to provide free basic education to all its nationals at a cost of $6.8bn (18.6% of the total public expenditure) and Kuwait will spend 14.2% of its annual budget for 2013-2014 ($10.5bn). Bahrain has allocated $2.2bn to continue to improve education for the fiscal years 2013-2014.

This demand is also unlikely to slow down: the GCC population is set to increase from 50.6mn in 2014 to 55.8mn by 2018. According to the Big 5 report, the number of students in the GCC region will be growing from 11.1mn in 2014 to 11.6mn by 2016. GDP per capita income in the GCC is estimated to grow from USD 45,184 in 2011 to USD 51,286 in 2016. The factor will positively impact the education sector, particularly the private sector.

The Big 5 construction exhibition in Dubai in November will be a good place for developers to meet the region’s demands for schools. It will a good opportunity to better know the needs of the education sector and examine the huge refurbishment market in the region and look at the technology expected in 21st century school buildings.

Mehdi Lazar, Ph.D.