Before COVID 19, the last crisis which hit the world and the construction industry was the 2008 financial crisis. Financial institutions filed for bankruptcy as their subprime lending markets became shaky starting 2007 and eventually started the institutions’ downfall. Lehman brothers, a 150-year-old company and 4th largest in the USA, filed for bankruptcy in 2008 sent shockwaves across the globe. As lending companies fell, so did development and construction.
I was working as an Assistant Project Manager in Dubai with one of the biggest local consulting companies when this crisis happened. Dubai was at its peak of development with the tallest building, Burj Khalifa, nearing completion and big reclaimed islands were being done. It was frightening, as a lot of projects were being cancelled. Building structures left looking bare and without anyone working on them. OFWs being sent home even if they were just hired a few months before. People leaving 300 cars in the airport parking lot just to flee the country.
After that, the world bounced back, at a slow and steady pace. As banks and developers worked hand in hand picking up where they left off.
What was the status of construction a decade after that? What has the world learned? For starters, a lot of projects were binned and a lot of job losses. Bank regulations for lending and mortgages became more stringent. There was a belt tightening across corporations. Bank executives’ bonuses were spread out in years instead of giving them in lump sums. As financial institutions became stronger and bigger, so did the construction industry which were backed by these institutions.
As we are now still in this pandemic, we are still amid chaos and hopelessness. The situations might be different as the 2008 financial crisis, but based on history, we can learn a lot from what we have been through.
Safety regulations are difficult and stifling. Productivity is way low because of social distancing. As we learn how to move in these trying times, we will become more efficient. We will slowly finish projects which will fuel more income for corporations and our country. We must never repeat the mistakes in handling this pandemic. We should learn from countries and how they were proactive in battling this crisis. We hope that people will learn the value of helping each other and a having sense of ‘WE’ and not ‘ME.’
As we keep the construction industry moving, we will be able to help the economy and corporations bring more employment to everyone. We must be safe for now and, based on history, we will be back on our feet again.
By: Engr. John Edward Reyes