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Middle East $117 Billion to be invested in Water

More than $117 billion is expected to be invested in the Middle Eastern water sector between 2005 and 2015, according to a financial industry expert.

'Governments in the region are paying attention to the mounting need for fresh water, and have increased their investments in the water sector,' said Abu Dhabi-based Gulf Capital strategy and research head Imad Ghandour.

'Around $117 billion is expected to be invested in the Middle East between 2005 and 2015, an increase of 59pc compared with the previous decade's investment,' he said.

Population and economic growth are stretching the supply of fresh water, and making the scarce commodity into an even more critical resource to humanity, a report in the Gulf Daily News, our sister newspaper, said.

According to a UN report, a third of the world population will be living in areas experiencing water shortage. Such areas will include parts of the USA, south and east Africa, and vast areas of Asia in addition to the desert areas of the Middle East.

Symptoms of such shortages are already appearing across the globe, and the stress on the water infrastructure has never reached such levels.

Gulf Capital's recent acquisition of 60 per cent of Metito Group, the largest Arab water engineering and concession company, sheds light on how leading financial institutions are positioning themselves to take advantage of the upcoming trend for privatising the water sector in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia is the largest market for water and waste water in the region. Nearly $28 billion, 24pc of the region's total, are to be invested in the sector over the next 10 years, of which approximately $6 billion will be allocated for building new desalination water plants.

The UAE, Egypt, Iran, Iraq and many other Middle Eastern countries will be required to invest heavily in their water sector just to keep up with demand and avoid social and economical problems.

'As water assets move from public ownership into private hands, it is expected that competition will evolve into more than the basic commodity of water,' said Ghandour.

'Perfecting the operational management and maintenance of the water assets, reducing waste and non-revenue water, revenue management, and optimising the financial structuring are some of the skills that will be needed to remain competitive over the long term.

'More importantly, local market knowledge and developing solutions and technologies adapted to the local needs will be a necessity to be perfected most likely by a local player with a fully integrated operation.'

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