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Kuwait 2017 | INFRASTRUCTURE & CONSTRUCTION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ghalib Shlash Safouq, Assistant Undersecretary for the Construction Projects Sector at the Ministry of Public Works, on Kuwaiti companies, the country's healthcare facilities, and the role of international companies.

Ghalib Shlash Safouq
BIOGRAPHY
Ghalib Shlash Safouq was appointed the Assistant Undersecretary for the Construction Projects Sector at the Kuwait Ministry of Public Works in July 2016. Prior, Safouq worked at the ministry as director of construction and megaprojects for more than 20 years. He is also a certified trainer and a lecturer of engineering at Kuwait University and for the ministry’s staff, primarily related to soil studies and structural engineering, project management, and contractual and legal matters. He has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s degree in project management from the Netherlands and a master’s degree in roads, bridges, and airports from Egypt.

How would you describe the Ministry of Public Works' operational strategy for 2017?

We have more than 30 projects in the design stage and almost the same figure in the construction stage. In healthcare, we have almost four hospitals commissioned, such as Sheikh Jaber Hospital, a maternity hospital, a children's hospital, and the Police Hospital. In addition, we have a correctional hospital for the Ministry of the Interior. In the education sector, we have three large buildings for special needs care in Jahra, Hawalli, and Egaila. In the music and theater sector, we have a music and theater college. We have many projects for the Justice Ministry and around 11 projects for the Ministry of the Interior on different scales. Our budget is almost more than KWD1 billion, excluding terminal two of Kuwait Airport. That is currently the biggest project we have. It is in the construction phase and the figure is almost KWD1.4 billion.

How do you evaluate the capabilities of Kuwaiti companies with these projects?

The capabilities of local companies are limited and once they reach these limits, we have international contractors to fulfill and cover the projects. We have megaprojects worth KWD300-400 million as well as KWD1.4 billion, which local companies are not capable of doing. If we were to add the technology that other countries are using, then we would be able to cover these projects. The oil price has almost a negligible impact on our operations, which shows the excellent policy of the government. We are stable and have enough funds to start and complete our projects.

What are the main features of the healthcare projects?

Sheik Jaber Hospital is almost done. The contractor handed it over to us, after which we will deliver it to the Ministry of Health. Last year, we handed over the dental clinic and nursing accommodation. Now we will hand over the entire project to the Ministry of Health and it will do its part to bring in the health equipment and medical instruments so that it will be ready to operate and receive patients. The facility has 1,200 beds and is capable of handling 600,000 people. It is the biggest hospital in the Middle East and the sixth-largest in the world. The budget was more than KWD300 million. There are 36 surgery rooms, eight MRI rooms, seven X-rays for dental, and four rooms for cardiology. It has three helipads on the roof, more than eight floors, plus five floors for services, and a three-level basement garage that can accomodate 5,000 cars. We also have a children's hospital in the design development stage. For the maternity project, we have signed a contract and will commence on the project soon. It is a design-and-build contract with an Italian company. The hospital for the police is in the bidding stage and will have more than 16 floors.

What role do international companies play in the realization of these projects?

The biggest role is to come and start construction. We have international consultants doing the design and sharing with local consultants. The need for labor, equipment, and tools can only be understood when they enter the Kuwaiti market. Now with the new law, they can enter the Kuwaiti market directly without a joint venture.

Could you give us an overview of the other projects that are in the works?

Other projects that are currently under construction being expanded include the court complex in Hawalli, the National Assembly building, a labor complex, and an expertise building as well. Courts and judges need an expert department to help them so we are building a huge building for them. We are constructing medical specialist buildings and the headquarters of the Ministry of Education, Awqaf, and Islamic Affairs, as well as numerous neighborhood centers.