x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Business is looking up again in Mussafah

Mussafah buzzes with life as two-year slump in construction ends and the workforce returns.

Busy shops in Musaffah are seen as an indicator of the health of Abu Dhabi’s economy.
Busy shops in Musaffah are seen as an indicator of the health of Abu Dhabi’s economy.

The wide, dusty streets of Mussafah, Abu Dhabi's industrial and warehousing district, are more chaotic and packed with speeding trucks and vans than they have been for at least two years.

As the industrial quarter of the capital, Mussafah's business pulse is a good indicator of the state of Abu Dhabi's economy - and it has been particularly strong lately.

The area's building materials suppliers have reported sales increases of up to 33 per cent, indicating construction sector rebirth.

The Road Star building materials supply shop is busier than it has been in a long time. A line of pick-up trucks outside the shop being loaded withpaint, pipes, fittings, tools and many other building materials is a much more common occurrence nowadays.

"For the last two, three months business has been better than it has been for the past two years," said Mohammed Qasim, the manager of Road Star. "We are receiving many orders, we see a lot of people coming and they are buying big volumes."

He said sales at his shop had increased to an average of Dh200,000 (US$54,454) a month, a 33 per cent rise from the monthly sales average of Dh150,000 at the same period last year.

Jafer Suleman, the manager of Arabian Aqsa building materials shop in Mussafah said his monthly sales have jumped to around Dh520,000 this month compared with about Dh400,000 he was getting last year.

Mr Suleman said sales to contractors building new structures and property owners who are renovating were behind the increase in business.

"There are many building owners who were not able to repair their buildings for a long time because of the recession," said Mr Suleman. "Now they are starting to do the overdue repairs and we see them come here to buy things like paints, plumbing and electrical materials. But contractors and sub-contractors of new projects are also ordering lots of supplies."

The construction industry was particularly hard hit during the recession and signs of recovery are a good indicator that the wider economy is gradually returning to normal.

"I think things are getting better because we are busy now," said Abu Bakar Hassan, the owner and driver of a blue, five-tonne pick-up truck that hauls goods from suppliers in Mussafah to various sites. "I now have to work extra hours to satisfy my customers. I get called to carry things like cement, steel, bricks, pipes, wood and tiles."

The huge labour camps in the area are also filling up as more construction workers are brought in to meet the increased demand. As building projects multiply so other jobs are created such as cleaners and security guards.

"Last year, people were sent home because there was no job for them and the camps had few people," said Shainol Bhupal, a Sri Lankan labourer at one of the camps. "But now they are coming back and my camp is almost full now."

The UAE is moving towards full economic recovery. The region's branch of the Institute of International Finance estimates the country's GDP will grow by 2 per cent this year and 2.7 per cent next year.

Even international traders are gaining more confidence in the country's economy. An HSBC Trade Confidence Index this week revealed that Middle East and Asian traders continue to have confidence in the UAE. In the index, the UAE ranked second behind India.

Globally, the World Trade Organisation last month reported a 25 per cent growth in international trade in the first half of this year compared with the first half of last year.