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Saudi Arabian Construction Industry: Delay and Poor Quality Thesis

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Updated: Apr 4th, 2021


Over the years, different civilisations have relied on the construction industry to support human activities (Ralph 2000). Presently, the global construction industry is experiencing a surge in construction projects because of increased human activities like trade and industrialisation. Like other economic sectors, the construction industry is characterised by multiple challenges (Ralph 2000). In this dissertation, the author focuses on delays and poor quality of work within the industry as some of these challenges. The study focuses on the construction industry in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (herein referred to as KSA) to illustrate the effects of delays and poor work quality. Ralph (2000) is of the view that a construction industry is an important component of economic growth. Therefore, the study highlights the KSA’s construction policy in relation to the economy. Thereafter, this paper makes an analysis of the said challenges to determine their effects on the kingdom’s construction policies.

In this chapter, the author lays the foundation for a discourse, which seeks to illustrate the negative impacts of delays and poor work quality in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This paper further provides a background of the study by providing details of the infrastructure policy in the KSA. Thereafter, the aims and objectives are itemised alongside the scope. In this section, this paper also outlines the limitations of the study. Delimitations to the same are further provided.

Background of Study

The construction industry is playing a significant role in the development of the Saudi economy. Still, the industry has a big room to develop. Since the Saudi government is expanding its operations with respect to the country’s development, the growth and development of the industry is bringing in revenues and higher profits in the kingdom. Since the country is developing its construction sector and the economy has a large scope of good construction projects. The development of the construction industry has widened the scope of the projects and by maintaining the overall profits for the country. The Saudi projects are expanding the construction projects as well as the overall revenues that shall take part in the development of the country. The construction and development of the several projects in Saudi shall expand the overall revenues as well as the cost of production in Saudi. The country expands the developmental projects and maintains the performance of the country. The overall construction in Saudi will grow the affiliated industries and improve income in Saudi Arabia.

However, since the last decade, many projects have failed to meet their completion dates. This has happened because of many factors. These factors are responsible for the development of the industry. Moreover, they can expand the procedures and the policies of the country. Furthermore, they can further develop affiliated industries like hospitality and hotels. The overall management of the company goals affiliate with the performance and the management of resources in Saudi Arabia.

The management of labour in Saudi Arabia must understand working issues and task management programs. This way, they would improve the overall profitability and shares of their companies. The company must enforce their values and other cultural aspects that improve them.

As aforementioned, the construction industry is a vital part of the economic growth of a particular society (Wenham 2012). The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, by virtue of its vast oil deposits, is an economic powerhouse in the Middle East. Consequently, the kingdom’s economy has experienced a boom over the past decades, and enhanced the growth of the construction industry. Notwithstanding the huge financial resources, there are emergent problems that threaten to bring down the industry. This research will discuss these issues in later sections of this study.

Carnell (2005) illustrates that the growth of the construction industry in the kingdom has affect almost all facets of the sector. According to Ralph (2000), the industry is characterised by five different types of constructions. They include the erection of commercial buildings, industrial units, institutional setups, residential units, and heavy civil construction (Ralph 2000). The industry covers all of the aforementioned areas. Prevalent problems like delays and poor work quality have the potential of bringing the entire industry to a halt, as we shall discuss later in this study.

According to Calculated Industries and Kokernak (2006), there are several problems prevalent in the construction industry in general. Lo, Fung and Tung (2006) points out that scarcity of skilled labour and resources are the most common challenges in the industry. In addition, there are certain cases where contractors do not take into account the set standards in the industry when performing their duties. Consequently, the quality of their work is poor. At the same time, projects end up delaying because of the aforementioned challenges. A case in point is the various trends of construction in Saudi Arabia, where the government insists that infrastructure growth is at the core of their decision-making (Carnell 2005). In addition, the Saudi government is keen on solving the housing problem, hence initiating major projects, like the Jeddah project (Carnell 2005). The demand for major infrastructure projects has resulted in high demand for cement; thereby forcing the government to pump SAR3 billion towards setting up cement plants.

The aforementioned trends show the significance of the construction industry to the kingdom’s infrastructure agenda. When the construction industry becomes a vital aspect of a country’s blue print for growth, it is important to address its prevalent challenges (Bansal 2012). Consequently, delays and poor quality standards mentioned in this paper need to urgent solutions. The same is intervention is only possible once sufficient studies explain their causes. When there are delays in completing a given project, there is a corresponding increase in the overall cost of the project. The ripple effects of such a situation translate to negative impacts on a country’s economy (Abedi, Fathi & Mohammad 2011). Delays in the construction industry occur because of various factors. In his study, Falqi (2004) argues that understanding the causes of the delays requires us to grade them according to various types. The same process makes it easier to determine the exact cause of delay in completing a given project.

According to Falqi (2004), the first category is the excusable and non-excusable delay. Such kinds of delays determine the liability of the contractor in a given project. The other category is the independent and concurrent delay. Falqi (2004) illustrates that such delays are subject to the source of their occurrence. The other category of delay is the critical and noncritical type. Time causes impediments of such a nature are (Falqi 2004). Each of the categories mentioned have their respective causes. This study will outline the same in other sections of this dissertation.

Another vital component of the construction industry is the quality of the projects. The increasing competitiveness in the industry compels contractors to develop structures that meet construction standards in the industry (Delgado-Hernandez & Aspinwall 2008, p. 1014). In the event that a contractor is unable to meet these standards, their projects risk condemnation. This is true because structures of poor workmanship pose a safety hazard to potential occupants.

Aims and objectives of the study


The aim of this study is to investigate the causes of project delays and poor project quality in the Saudi construction industry


  • To Investigate the progress of construction in Saudi Arabia
  • To understand the basic grounds of construction in Saudi Arabia
  • To evaluate the causes of delays in the construction and development projects in Saudi
  • To explain why the Saudi construction industry is poorly managed
  • To find out the drawbacks of the construction industry in Saudi Arabia
  • To establish the reasons for delays in Saudi construction projects
  • To propose strategies for improving construction projects in Saudi Arabia

The research questions

  • What is the progress of construction in Saudi Arabia?
  • What are the grounds of construction in Saudi?
  • What are the causes of delays in the construction and development projects in Saudi?
  • Is the Saudi construction industry poorly managed?
  • What are the drawbacks of the construction industry in Saudi Arabia?
  • How could we improve the quality of construction projects in Saudi Arabia?

Statement of the Research

Gravetter and Forzano (2011) posit that any research undertaking must have a clearly defined thesis statement. From the title of the study, it is apparent that the construction industry in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is facing several challenges. Delays in the completion of projects and poor work quality are the major challenges. The only way to determine the actual causes of the two problems is by making a case of the negative effects highlighted. Thus, the thesis statement for this study is “Delays and poor work quality in the construction industry are hurting the gains outlined under the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s National Development Plan”.

The study will affirm the hypothesis that highlights the dangers posed by increasing delays and poor work quality. The same will result in determination of the root causes of the two problems (Long & Maisel 2010).By determining the challenges prevalent in the industry, the study intends to illustrate that indeed, delays poor work quality are a threat to the growth of the industry as a whole. The same analysis acts as an avenue for widening the scope of determining the causes of delays in the industry. By categorising the delays, it becomes simple to itemise the actual causes of delays in the industry. Once the same issues are illustrated, it is possible to outline the instances of poor work quality due to the inability to meet the outlined standards. By understanding the negative effects that result from delays and poor work quality in the construction industry, it is easy to support the thesis statement outlined in this study.


The literature shows that the government is improving its profitability and maximising its income to increase public revenues. The literature will reflect on the research problem and probe into the research questions. In addition, the literature focused on the various attributes of the study and included development programs in the study plans. In addition, the study considered all construction attributes. The literature investigated the various attributes of the research problem and explored how they related with the research design. The sources of information included available research sources, such as journals, articles, case studies.

Scope, Limitations, and Delimitations


It is difficult to cover all aspects of a research problem in one study. According to Bryan (2012, p. 41), a researcher is expected to outline the boundaries that will restrict the data collection and interpretation processes. Thus, this study restricts itself to project delays and poor work quality as the challenges facing the construction industry. The focus is on Saudi Arabia. The participants, in this study, are familiar with the KSA construction sector and are actively engaged in the industry. Notwithstanding the availability of other experts, the study sourced its respondents from different groups of employees in the construction industry. In addition, the study focused on the aforementioned problems owing to the threat they pose to the kingdom’s development plans. The findings of this study will help to determine the root causes of project delays and poor quality project outcomes in a bid to improve the industry’s standing in the region.

Limitations of the study

The study focused on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as opposed to the wider Middle East region. The primary source of data collection was a written questionnaire. Some of the respondents could have given false information. The hypothesis of the study does not include political instability as a potential problem to the construction industry in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The study was selective about the participants who could participate in the study. Construction industry workers outlined the main respondent group. Other professionals, like economists, would have increased the credibility of the study. The study relied on certain secondary materials published before the year 2005.


The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a leading member in the Arab League of Nations. Coupled with its economic might, the country is a suitable pick for this case study. Encompassing the entire Middle East would have complicated the study. Since the research participants benefitted from the results of the study, it was in their best interest to be truthful while answering the questionnaires. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia currently enjoys political stability. There are no riots to indicate instability. When seeking volunteers to participate in the study, many participants came from the construction industry. Two respondents who were from other professions had little knowledge of construction matters. Thus, including them would have reduced the quality of results. We selected the secondary materials in this study based on their relevance. Thus, we excluded materials published earlier than 2005 from the study owing their irrelevance, in terms of present delays and quality of work.

Research Methodology

The research will combine the qualitative and the quantitative methods of research. It will take in account the questionnaire and the interviews for the study. Several professional groups participated in the study. The methodology of the study also depended on the various attributes of the study plans and the interview designs.


This concept refers to the worthiness of the research information. Validation occurred by using credible research information, such as journal articles, periodicals and other credible research information.


This study obtained data from reliable sources of information. These pieces of information discussed the various attribute of the research. We used the SPSS data analysis method to come up with reliable findings.

Structure of the Dissertation

A research undertaking is expected to be detailed so that the various points of the discourse are elaborately displayed (Bryan 2012). The structure of this study is in terms of chapters, which respond to the requirements of the dissertation. In total, this paper comprised of eight chapters. Each of the chapter acts as a build up to the other, to elaborately discuss the topic and justify the statement of the research. The first chapter is the introduction chapter, which outlines the fundamental aspects of the study. The second chapter is the literature review. In this section, we outline past studies on the subject focus to illustrate the areas that need further research (Bryan 2012). The third chapter is the research methodology, which outlines details of the questionnaire.

The fourth chapter outlines the results of the data collected. The fifth chapter is a discussion of the results obtained about the actual causes of the delays and poor quality in the Saudi construction industry. According to Bryman (2012), the statement of the research is justified once the results obtained respond to the hypothesis. The same analogy explains this chapter in the discussion section. The sixth chapter contains recommendations to avert future delays and poor work quality in the construction industry. The seventh chapter discusses the study by reviewing the importance of the construction industry in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The last chapter summarizes the findings and recommends areas of future research.

Chapter Summary

This chapter shows that the construction industry in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is under threat due to delays and poor work quality. The background raises the need to determine the causes of the aforementioned problems. The statement of the research is clear, laying the ground for further discussions on the effects of the said delays and work quality. In this chapter, the objectives are clear. The scope, limitations and delimitations are also well structured. The next chapter discusses previous studies that point out to the causes of delays and poor work quality in Saudi Arabia, alongside the general status of the construction industry.

Literature Review

Saudi construction projects capture big market shares. Saudi Arabia generates a lot of revenue thorough its tourism and construction sectors. The kingdom is also the hub of Muslims, as it is the wish of every Muslim to visit their holy places in the kingdom. (Schellen 2014) The government is always concerned about the tourist industry and various construction projects in the kingdom. However, public projects have several restrictions. Still, various factors limit the construction industry in Saudi. Many of these factors are “public” factors. This chapter discusses various problems in the sector, such as restrictive factors, and the overall managerial issues in the industry. The Saudi construction industry shall influence the construction projects and maximise the revenues through the successful entrepreneur projects carried by the government and the private sector.

Economic Survey of Saudi FY 2013 for the construction industry of Saudi

The economic survey of Saudi FY 2013 showed that the tourism industry had created almost 10 million jobs in the last decade (Oxfordbusinessgroup.com 2014). The government is planning projects of almost $ 75.6 billion in Saudi Arabia, which are creating new jobs, maintaining tourist attractions, and improving the share of public involvement in such projects. The government projects should end in the next three years and generate revenues that should increase the GDP from 8.4 percent to almost 13 percent.

Economic Survey of Saudi FY 2013 for the construction industry of Saudi.
Figure 1: Economic Survey of Saudi FY 2013 for the construction industry of Saudi. Source: (AI-Khalil, 1995).

The Construction Industry in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

The literature review section intends to build on the background of the study outlined in the previous chapter. Consequently, this chapter outlines a brief overview of the kingdom. Furthermore, this paper elaborates on previous studies that focus the construction industry in the country. Thereafter, it highlights some common problems, like delays and poor work quality. In addition, it explains some of the causes for these negative project outcomes. The details highlighted in this section are essential in developing the thesis statement for this study.

Causes of delay in the construction industry according the reported ranks. 
Figure 2: Causes of delay in the construction industry according the reported ranks. Source: (Al-Arifi, -Helbary, & Khalil 2013).

As previously illustrated, the growth of the construction industry in Saudi Arabia has affected almost all the sectors of the economy (Carnell 2005). This paper has also established that the construction industry is characterised by five different types of construction projects. They include the construction of commercial buildings, industrial units, institutional setups, residential units and civil constructions (Ralph 2000). Within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, construction projects span the entire breadth of the country’s landscape. Prevalent problems like delays and poor work quality have the potential of bringing the entire industry to a halt, as we shall see later.

Contract management in the construction projects in Saudi

The Reconstruction and Project Agency of Saudi Arabia has shown, in its report, that the projects in Makah aim to increase its capacity from 48000 pilgrims to 130000 pilgrims per hour (SyndiGate.info 2013; Al-Rashid 2005) However, the delays in the projects resulted in the loss of almost $12 billion by FY 2013. This could not be accounted as loss, but the revenues were less, compared to the preceding year’s performance.

Table 1: Responsibility and Type of Delay – Management and Administrative.

Management and Administrative Responsibility Type of Delay
Labour Dispute and Strike Contractor Excusable Non-Compensable
Inadequate Planning Contractor Non-Excusable
Inadequate Scheduling Contractor Non-Excusable
Contract Modifications Owner Excusable Compensable
Underestimation of Productivity Contractor Non-Excusable
Staffing Problems Contractor Non-Excusable

Lack of coordination On-site

Contractor Non-Excusable
Scheduling Mismanagement Contractor Non-Excusable
Transportation Delays Contractor Excusable Non-Compensable
Suspensions Shared Excusable Non-Compensable
Inadequate Review Shared Non-Excusable
Lack of High-Technology Shared Non-Excusable
Poor Managerial Skills Contractor Non-Excusable

Incomplete projects and project delays occurred because of negligence on the side of the contractors (AI-Khalil, 1995). Besides the constructions in the mosque, other construction projects in Makah included 11 major malls affiliated to the mosque, 158 gardens and municipal utilities, 68 flood-related projects and 43 urban projects (Torchia 2014). The other major obstacles in this regard were the lack of proper information, lack of enough details, vague objectives and poor financing.

Contract-Related Causes In the Saudi Construction Projects

Many scholars claim that governments cannot complete their projects on the time. In this regard, Gazette (2014) says Saudi projects need more planning and effective leadership. Since gulf countries are undertaking different construction and development projects, they maintain their managerial policies that make it easy for them to carry out the projects (GALAL 2014). Besides managerial issues, these management aspects create more jobs and decrease unemployment in the region. This way, the Arabian countries can maximise the overall potential of the construction industry. Therefore, the companies need to consider labour and management issues of planning, controlling, commanding, leadership and the other perspectives that involve the process of construction. Moreover, the country should maximise its revenues with the effective policies, action plans and the theories for including in the Saudi construction projects.

The following diagram explains the various challenges in the industry

type of contracts. 
Figure 3: type of contracts. Source: (Gazette, 2014).

The prevalent problems in the industry are an indicator that the same challenges need urgent attention. In this section, we outline an overview of the construction industry in the Kingdom of Saudi Arab. Thereafter, we present the various challenges in the industry in the outline. In addition, this chapter looks at quality standards in the industry and the causes of poor work quality. In addition, this chapter discusses the several causes of delays. It relies on previous studies on the subject. In the previous chapter, it is evident that the construction industry is a fundamental human activity in any developing society.

Government Concerns in the Construction Projects in Saudi Arabia

Several construction projects were going on in Makah in 2011 and 2012. These projects aimed to improve efficiency in various processes, like flood management, and increase the use of various infrastructure landmarks, such as bridges and the community park. The government aims to satisfy the public and create more jobs in Saudi Arabia. The construction should support the tourists (NEW, 2013). The reports showed that the contractors delayed almost 400 projects. The mayor of Makah, Osama Al-Be, said that contractors had various excuses for the delays. They claimed they had several sub-contracts, which delayed. They also said several other materials were precious and needed more time to transport. These matters are still under investigation.

Table 2: Responsibility and Type of Delay – Code Related.

Code Related Responsibility

Type of Delay

Building Permits Approval Process

Government Excusable Non-Compensable
Changes in Laws and Regulations Government Excusable Compensable
Safety Rules Contractor Non-Excusable
OSHA Regulations Contractor Non-Excusable
Florida Building Code Government Excusable Compensable
Building Regulations in Coastal Regions Government Excusable Compensable
Coastal Construction Control Line Permit Government Excusable Compensable
Florida Administrative Code Government Excusable Compensable
National Flood Insurance Program Government Excusable Compensable

The project managers further reported that they had to be very careful with each aspects of the project (Almashabi 2014). The mayor discussed that the delay accounted for a loss equal to the amount of profit accrued from the 10 projects. The financial aspect in this regard showed that 6% of the projects in Makah earned almost $5 million each and were left to accumulate more revenue. Moreover, the overall profitability and the financial performance of the contractors linked to the municipals and the mayor (RASOOLDEEN 2014).

Reconstruction and Projects Agency of Saudi

Scholars are studying the flaws and factors responsible for the weaknesses of the construction industry in Saudi (Al-Rashid 2005). The other proposed construction in the country had to delay because it did not meet its objectives or focus on its plans on (Zawya 2014). The project managers knew about the tunnel construction, global developmental standards, cable connections and project-related deaths (Almashabi 2014)

Table 3: Responsibility and Type of Delay – Acts of God.

Acts of God Responsibility Type of Delay
Flood Owner Excusable Compensable
Hurricane Owner Excusable Compensable
Fire Shared Excusable Compensable
Wind Damage Owner Excusable Compensable

The construction industry in Saudi Arabia hinges on project development and government support (Shrader-Frechette 2011). Various studies have investigated the construction industry and its development in the country. They explore the project developmental plans and focus on how such plans contribute to the growth of construction-related information in the kingdom.

Waiting time for approval of test in Saudi construction projects

The high-speed rail project constructed in Median is still incomplete (it has a 52% completion rate) (Alhomidan 2013). This project is valuable. The rail transport project will link Makah and Medina. It has stopped in Jeddah, due to its late starting ceremony. The country’s rails shall avail a 280 mile (450 km) Harman link between the cities. The completed project should accommodate almost 25,000 passengers at a time and take 2.5 hours to cover the distance.

waiting processes. 
Figure 4: waiting processes. Source: (Derhally 2013).

The speed of the railways should be 300kmph. The project should end by March 2014. However, due to several factors (delays and industry bottlenecks); this project will end in December 2014 (Almashabi, 2014). The change of completion date increased project costs.

Construction in Jeddah: An Example of Delays

The Jeddah projects should have ended by December 2013 (it had created about five million jobs). However, the projects had to continue into FY 2014. The new completion date is June 2014. All stakeholders are still to complete their roles in the project. They were unable to produce the required outcomes in the scheduled time. In addition, the expected return of the project has similarly delayed (Oxfordbusinessgroup.com 2014).

Diagram for Management/ Administrative Related Delays.
Figure 5: Diagram for Management/ Administrative Related Delays (Source: Constructionweekonline.com 2012).

The Jeddah Chamber of commerce decided that the state has to focus on the hurdles and possibilities for maximising overall research approaches and attributes. In addition, the Jeddah projects end by FY 2015 and shall bring more revenues to the country. The projects in the construction industry will make available various facilities, approaches and the plans to segregate the overall attribute of the projects. The Jeddah projects shall expand the market targets and the overall availability of the projects in the state (Saudigazette.com.sa 2014). The harming link in Jeddah, which is expected to be complete by December 2015, shall cover an area of 300 KM and shall serve as the fifth small station of the Jeddah airport industry in Saudi Arabia.

Construction Issues in Jeddah

The expected construction in Jeddah shall cost approximately $12 billion and it should generate revenues of $15.7billion in the first three years of its construction. Therefore, the Jeddah airport project shall expand operation and development policies to create room for adopting effective construction procedures in the kingdom. The construction will also expand the operations in the city and make Jeddah a more populated and developed cosmopolitan. The construction has a budget of $12 billion. However, the first phase will cost $ 15.7 billion, meaning there is inadequate financing (Torchia 2014). Scholars say that the discussion should follow up the policies and the procedure about the research (Constructionweekonline.com 2012). The literature showed that the study would focus on the overall $30 billion benefit for the country in the coming decade. In addition, the project accounts for the $30 billion to maximise the overall effectiveness and the efficiency of the construction in the company. Moreover, the construction shall focus on the incomes and the revenues in the country. The project expects to generate revenues of $30 billion and shall benefit a population of almost 40,000 people at one time.

Disasters in Jeddah.
Figure 6: Disasters in Jeddah.

Construction Role for Pilgrims in Saudi Arabia

Saudi receives a huge income from tourism. Almost 7 billion tourists go to Saudi Arabia each year for pilgrimage (SCHECK 2014). Tourism generates the most revenue in the county. It improves the country’s overall market position and develops its key strengths, such as transportation (Rasli 2012).

Rainfall delayed construction in Saudi.
Figure 7: Rainfall delayed construction in Saudi.

Construction Projects in Medina

The government is carrying out various projects in Medina, which should expand its overall profitability and revenue. In addition, the construction projects in the city shall expand its overall operations and further develop the market share of the country (gulf-daily-news.com, 2014). The country’s projection shall expand the overall revenues for the state (Sweis 2013). Literatures show that the country is expanding the overall processes for attracting more industries in the country. Furthermore, SCHECK (2014) says that the travelling and the tourism industries would further improve and expand in the country. The tourists in the state shall expand the overall operations of the state. These operations should bring in more people in the city and support expansion projects in the construction industry.

Medina is the second biggest city after Mecca (Sweis 2013). The city attracts religious tourists and Muslims. Many people living in Hajj go to medina. Thus, the income for development and tourism in medina is similar to Mecca. Both cities sit at the centre of the tourism industry in the country (Sophia 2014). Researchers say that the government of Saudi Arabia is always engaged in expanding the operations of medina and Makah. They strive to maximise the incomes and the revenues earned through both cities.

Construction in Saudi.
Figure 8: Construction in Saudi (Source: RASOOLDEEN, 2014).

Construction Is the Key To Success For Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is an oil-rich country. The mineral is the second largest source of revenue for the country. The country plans to expand its operations by improving the tourism industry. Construction and development is pivotal to its success. In addition, the country maintains its overall strategic performance through the high number of tourists.

Each year hajj not only generates the revenues for the country, but for the hotel industry as well. It boosts the economy structure as a whole (Gazette, 2014). The government is trying to expand the overall market structure of the industry to improve the facilities too (Derhally, 2013). The country improves the overall revenues and GDP through tourist attraction. The government earns almost $16.5bn per annum from the income generated by the people coming for Hajj and Umbra. The hospitality industry earned more than $10 billion each year through the hajj (Aldosary 2008). In addition, throughout the year, people go for Umbra. This maintains the capacity and the performance of the country to maximise its revenues and improve its profitability

Table 4: Responsibility and Type of Delay – Financial/Economical.

Financial/Economical Responsibility Type of Delay
Financial Process Owner Excusable Compensable
Financial Difficulties Owner Excusable Compensable
Delayed Payments Owner Excusable Compensable
Economic Problems Owner Excusable Compensable

Construction Problems

The maximum number of tourists shall expand the operations and the industrial growth of the company. The country is engaged in the construction and expansion the overall tourism industry. The literature said, to expand further, the country must focus on its construction policies and make the sector effective. Moreover, the effectiveness of the construction projects shall develop the state by increasing its effectiveness and efficiency

Construction Problems.
Figure 9: Construction Problems (Source: NEW 2013).

Construction Methods and Construction Issues

Ranking of Code Related Key Delays.
Figure 10: Ranking of Code Related Key Delays.

Religious tourism improves the profitability of a state. Through increased revenues, the state becomes stable (financially). Literatures show that the government is expanding its overall strategies and operational plans to increase the number of religious tourists. The hajj is the highest source of revenue for various economic sectors of Saudi Arabia.

Scholars say the state of Saudi is the highest earning state in the globe. It maximises its revenue and improves its profitability through increased tourist numbers. The country is the hub for Muslims and attracts billions of Muslims to the country, yearly. Thus, in such a case, it is important for the country to improve its profits by increasing its tourist numbers. In addition, the country must develop the state infrastructure for maximising its revenue.

Mistakes during Construction Stage

Scholars say Saudi Arabia is expanding its infrastructure projects through the expansion of tourism projects. The scholars emphasise that its overall strategies shall be maintained and expanded to increase the outcomes of the country. However, the government should understand the drawbacks in the operational and the managerial plans of the country

Ranking of Construction Related Key Delays.
Figure 11: Ranking of Construction Related Key Delays.

Inadequate experience of contractors

Besides religious tourism, Saudi Arabia is expanding its operations in the desserts, mountains, and the Arabian Sea to attract tourists in the country. In addition, the overall strategies aim to increase revenues for the country. The government is also expanding infrastructure projects, such as the bridge to Bahrain, museums, and world heritage sites. Stated differently, the government is focusing on the overall planning and development aspects of the country. Moreover, it aims to expand the operational plans for the country and maximise its revenues. Existing literatures further show that the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Interior shall improve the profitability of the country through improved tourist facilities and increased availability of tour guides.

Religious Tourism Reaches New Levels In 2012

In 2012, the economic survey of the country showed that the kingdom is improving its overall tourist locations. For example, the overall hajj performance had expanded, although the year’s performance was low. However, its future performance is increasing. Since it involves constructing several floors, the project shall generate the revenue for the state and improve its overall profitability. Therefore, every hour almost 1.7 billion people could perform hajj and umbra.

Managing Construction-Related Projects in Saudi Arabia

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is within the Arabian Peninsula. It is the largest country in the region (Long & Merisel 2010, p. 13). By virtue of its vast oil deposits, the country is an economic powerhouse in the region. The country’s geographical location makes it an ideal location for infrastructure development (Akinsiku & Akinsulire 2012). The illustration in figure 1 shows the kingdom’s location in the Middle East.

Scholars say the construction and tourism industries are the fastest growing industries in the kingdom. For example, the construction industry is growing by 10% per annum, (Saleh Al Hadi Tumi 2009). Observers expect this growth to reach 30% in the next decade. Certain cities, like Makah and Medina, have large number of tourists throughout the year. Saudi Arabia has many development projects. Therefore, tourists are attracted to the kingdom as they come to see them.

Geographical Location of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Figure 12: Geographical Location of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Source: Ventures Middle East 2011).

Figure 12 shows that Saudi Arabia is strategically located in a region that is experiencing robust economic growth (Ventures Middle East 2009). Some of the country’s immediate neighbours include Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Both countries are experiencing a boom in their economies owing to their petroleum revenues. Somewhat, pressure is piling on Saudi Arabia to match up with their development partners. The same pressure explains the need for a sustainable construction industry.

Quality Improvement Plans for Construction in Saudi Arabia

Like any other country, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a blue print for guiding its development objectives. Dubbed the National Development Plan, the Saudi government aims to diversify the economy through different avenues, like construction (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ministry of Economic Planning 2010). In a past report, the government illustrated its intention to address structural developments. In a bid to boost its economic revenues, the government has supported the construction industry as a significant pillar of the country’s development blue print.

Material-Related Causes of Delay in Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia, the construction industry is characterised with various projects that span across different sectors (Carnell 2005). Carnell (2005) says many projects are commercial and health-related. An example is the Aldara Hospital. According to Carnell (2005), the project is in the country’s capital, Riyadh. Scheduled for completion in 2015, the project is a joint venture between Saudi’s Aldara Medical Corporation and a company based in the United Arab Emirates. The project is estimated to cost a total of $404 million (Carnell 2005). Given that healthcare is an important aspect of the country’s policies, the project is highly valued.

Major Project Subsidiaries.
Figure 13: Major Project Subsidiaries (Source: AI-Khalil 1995).

Considering the importance of the Holy city of Mecca, the government is keen on maximising revenues from its annual pilgrimage (Long & Maisel 2010). Consequently, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has engaged in the development of a satellite city called Abraj Kudai Development. According to Carnell (2005), the project is estimated to cost a total of SAR13 billion. Once complete, the facility will have a train station, residential units, and commercial centres. Considering its location, it is important for the project to end.

Labour and Equipment Challenges in Saudi Arabia

According to Falqi (2004), the construction industry is a vital aspect of a country’s economy. For example, the United States of America (herein referred to as USA) has one of the largest construction industries in the world. In the year 2007, the annual expenditure of the industry was $1.2 trillion (El-Raze, Bassoon & Mubarak 2008).

Contracts in the Construction industry.
Figure 14: Contracts in the Construction industry (Source: Derhally 2013).

Such huge amounts suggest that the industry is a key player in the business landscape. That notwithstanding, there are several challenges which reduce its effectiveness.

Labour Issues in the Saudi Construction Industry

According to Assaf and Al-Hejji (2006), labour is a vital resource in the construction industry. Considering the amount of work that characterises the industry, contractors require a huge labour force. In addition, increased competition dictates that newer designs and techniques of construction require skilled labour. However, a survey of skilled personnel working in the Arabian Peninsula is declining (Assaf & Al-Hejji 2006). Globally, the number of skilled workers is also declining. Falqi (2004) reports that the work force in Europe, aged between 35 years and 45 years, is declining as well. Forecasts suggest that this trend will continue in the near future.

Managing Skilled Labour

Baloyi and Bekker (2011) point out that the cost of skilled labour is increasing and contractors are keen on minimising the cost of construction. Consequently, many contractors seek cheap labour, which is often unskilled. In the Middle East, the habit is common because companies recruit staff from other countries, like India and Bangladesh. Given that such labour is cheap, there is a high possibility that the quality of work is subsequently going to diminish.

Climate Change

Falqi (2004) used their thesis to make comparisons between the construction industry and the United Kingdom (herein referred to as the UK). In their study, they found out that climate change was an emerging environmental challenge facing the sector, in terms of energy. In countries like Qatar, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, the cost of construction accounts for about 30% of the total energy consumption (Delgado- Hernandez & Aspin wall 2008). Considering that fossil fuels produce energy, the carbon footprint in the construction industry is similarly high.

Table 5: Responsibility and Type of Delay – Design Related.

Design-Related Responsibility Type of Delay
Design Development Consultant Excusable Compensable
Change Order Owner Excusable Compensable
Decision during development stage Owner Excusable Compensable
Changes in Drawings Owner Excusable Compensable
Changes in Specifications Owner Excusable Compensable
Shop Drawings Approval Consultant Excusable Compensable
Incomplete Documents Consultant Excusable Compensable

The need to shift from fossil fuel to alternative clean energy sources in the construction industry is urgent (Al-Karachi & Skit more 2009). The same is true in response to the argument that increasing carbon dioxide emissions to the environment contributes to global warming. Consequently, the construction industry has come up with approaches to make sure that most buildings have an almost zero carbon footprint. The challenge comes in terms of cost and capacity building.

Poor Infrastructure

In the construction industry, transporting raw materials is an important element of operations. Therefore, the infrastructure should be of high quality. Alienate, Apollo and Tindiwensi (2013) sought to understand the challenges experienced by many developing countries in this regard. In their study, the researchers found out that poor infrastructures explain why most projects take a long time to complete. The many hours spent in trying to navigate through bad roads increase the cost of the project altogether, forcing contractors to shun areas with poor infrastructure.

Table 6: Responsibility and Type of Delay – Construction Related.

Construction Related


Type of Delay

Inspections Contractor Non-Excusable

Subsurface Soil Conditions

Shared Excusable Compensable
Material/Fabrication Delays Contractor Non-Excusable
Material Procurement Contractor Non-Excusable
Lack of Qualified Craftsmen Contractor Non-Excusable
Poor Subcontractor Performance Contractor Non-Excusable
Defective Work Contractor Non-Excusable
Different Site Conditions Shared Excusable Compensable
Labor Injuries Contractor Non-Excusable
Damage to Structure Contractor Non-Excusable
Construction Mistakes Contractor Non-Excusable
Poor Supervision Contractor Non-Excusable
Equipment Availability Contractor Non-Excusable

While carrying out a study on the construction industry in Jordan, Sweis, Abu-Hammad and Shboul (2007) said that poor infrastructure reduces project productivity. The three researchers argue that the high cost of poor infrastructure is to blame for high costs of construction in most areas in the Middle East. Countries like Jordan and Qatar are leading in the investment of road infrastructure. The same development helps to reduce the cost of construction by drastically reducing the cost of raw materials.

Major Causes of Delays in the Construction Industry of Saudi

Financial Causes

Finance and Payments Of Completed

From a total value of $2.5 trillion dollars, $1.2 trillion is in the construction sector. About $600 billion of this figure finances advanced projects. The remainder ($500 billion) finances early-stage construction projects. Contractors spend about $1 trillion on real estate projects for purposes of office, residential, and leisure

Construction processes in KSA.
Figure 15: Construction processes in KSA (Source: Kawatoko 2006).

Owner Interference

The spending of oil & gas sector is of greatest significance in Algeria. Power and water costs dominate the spending patterns in Jordan. Other countries report lower construction costs. It is pertinent to mention that the Jordan construction industry is currently undergoing a growth period, which constitutes 130% of its current gross domestic project (GDP).

Slow Decision-Making

Saudi Arabia leads in terms of country expenditure (to the tune of $784 billion worth of projects). The UAE follows it with a $669mn expenditure plan. By spending $273bn, Qatar is third and Kuwait occupies the fourth place because it spends $294 billion. Finally, Egypt is the fifth most vibrant country because it spends $143bn in construction. Hence, Egypt is the only non-GCC country with more than $100bn worth of active projects

Unrealistic Contract Duration

The author of the report, Farek Soussa, states that infrastructure accounts for $ 812 billion of construction costs. Oil and gas constitutes $ 376 billion, while power and water constitute $298 billion, respectively. These activities comprise the major spending areas in the construction industry. However, priority varies from one country to another.

For instance, real estate projects are more in the UAE than other countries. Huge infrastructure projects are more prevalent in Qatar.

Construction plan in KSA.
Figure 16: Construction plan in KSA (Source: Al-Arifi, -Helbary, & Khalil 2013).

Contract-Related Causes


The Haramain link, which will accommodate high-speed electric trains, will link Islam’s two most popular pilgrimage destinations. It will be 450 KM (280 miles) long, enabling trains to reach at least 300Kmph. According to a source, the due date of opening would be near the end of December 2015. It is due to open by the end of December 2015.

Site management

The long awaited rail system located in the capital Riyadh (of Saudi Arabia) has finally started to undergo construction work. Observers say this project will birth the world’s largest public transport system. The multi-billion project will carry electric driverless trains involving six rain lines, extending 176 Kilometres.

Railway Project of Saudi Arabia.
Figure 17: Railway Project of Saudi Arabia (Source: Almashabi, 2014).

Saudi Arabia’s Railway Expenditure Set To Reach $79bn

Researchers reported that huge infrastructure investments in Saudi Arabia are likely to reach new heights. The total cost of investments in the transport sector is likely to increase to about $79 billion. The government will use most of this money to improve the railway infrastructure and construct a modern railway network. Indeed, there are plans to construct two new transport networks, logistic centres, and freight conferences in Saudi Arabia, in 2015. The aggressive pace of transport infrastructure development provided an enabling environment for regional and logistic service providers to establish and expand their presence, according to the Riyadh Exhibition Company (REC)

Atkins Hired For $120m Riyadh Metro Design Job

The new Metro project will be the largest network of transportation in the world. The government is establishing three to six rail lines for this mega project. The government has awarded WS Atkins the work at a cost of $120 million. In an official statement, Atkins mentioned that it will forge a design joint venture with a Spanish consultancy, Tysa, for the first consortium, including countries such as FCC, Samsung, Alstom, Strukton and Freyssinet, which will build over a third of the total track. This will effectively cover the fourth, fifth and sixth metro lines. Arriyadh Development Authority awarded the design and building package to FAST. It amounts to about $7 billion. This cost involves building 25 stations, two depots, seven parks and several ride car parks. It will involve a multidisciplinary team of around 200 specialist employees who will work from Riyadh, Hong Kong, UAE, the UK and Bangalore.

Construction Methods

The project will require tens of thousands of workers in the oil-rich kingdom. It will end in 2019. The Saudi government is also planning the modernisation of the transport system in the Islamic holy city of Mecca. This would also result in the creation of a metro system and bus network, respectively. In addition, the government is also upgrading numerous other rail systems in the Kingdom. This project includes a rail line estimated to be two, 750 Kilometres running from the northern border of Riyadh to Jordan.

Inadequate Planning

According to a new report, some 60% of the $2.5 worth of projects in Middle East and Northern Africa occur in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The GCC countries are responsible for almost 90% of the value of the projects in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. In terms of MENA projects, they account for 60% of all projects.

Consultant-Related Causes

Contract Management

The Saudi construction market will expand in the next three years, because its growth rate is 35%. The construction industry is the fastest growing industry. Current estimation of the value of projects reached a $732 billion. The year 2013 was the strongest year for the construction industry because it received $42billion. Comparatively, the industry only got $17billion in the past years.

Solutions and future plans of the Saudi Government

Risk of the projects in Saudi
Figure 18: Risk of the projects in Saudi (Source: Gazette 2014).

Preparation and Approval of Drawings

During the last quarter of 2013, the Central Department of Statistics announced that the gross domestic product rate of Saudi Arabia increased by 3.19% (this was 2.7% more than the last quarter). Moreover, GDP increased by $875.19 billion quarterly. According to the department, GDP in real term prices has increased by 3.05% quarterly. GDP rate decreased by 18.52% compared with same quarter in the past year, which is $102.6 billion in current prices. On other hand, prices increased by 2.43%. In the private sector, current prices in the third quarter of 2013 increased by 6.53%, which is $244.08 billion, compared to the 2013 price, which was $229.13 billion. In the construction and building industry, a considerable growth rate 9.76 and 7.87 emerged. Moreover, the price growth is 3.31%.

The construction survey in KSA- 2012.
Figure 19: The construction survey in KSA- 2012 (Source: AI-Khalil, 1995).

Quality Assurance/Control

Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Centre (RICEC) is organising Saudi Build Show (SBS) yearly for the past 25 years. The value of estimated planned projects in the Kingdom for the coming future would amount $732 million. Saudi Arabia has captured 39% of construction industry in the GCC region.

Waiting Time for Test Approval

The groundbreaking ceremony to occur in the Capital city marked the first day of construction work. The chief guest present throughout the ceremony was the emir of Riyadh, Prince Khalid bin Bandar. Prince Khalid bin Bandar, reported by Reuters, said that the phase of research and planning has ended.

Material-Related Causes

To undertake the design and construction of the system, three foreign-led consortia received $22.5 billion in contracts from the Saudi Arabian government. For some Saudis, the metro is unlikely to dissuade them to forgo their passion for automobile transport. The chance to escape severe traffic congestion in the project was a welcoming sign for many. Lower income individuals would also move around the city (conveniently). Easy movement would also create convenience for women to commute around the city, inside a country where cannot drive. The metros also accommodate special privacy sections for families.

Table 7: SPSS analysis of Project related factors.

Frequency Percent Valid Percent Cumulative Percent
Valid 1 2.9 2.9 2.9
1.0 20 58.8 58.8 61.8
2.0 6 17.6 17.6 79.4
3.0 2 5.9 5.9 85.3
4.0 3 8.8 8.8 94.1
5.0 1 2.9 2.9 97.1
7.0 1 2.9 2.9 100.0
Total 34 100.0 100.0

Table 8: SPSS analysis of Labour.

Frequency Percent Valid Percent Cumulative Percent
Valid Always 14 41.2 42.4 42.4
sometimes 3 8.8 9.1 51.5
often 5 14.7 15.2 66.7
rarely 5 14.7 15.2 81.8
extreme 2 5.9 6.1 87.9
great 1 2.9 3.0 90.9
moderate 2 5.9 6.1 97.0
little 1 2.9 3.0 100.0
Total 33 97.1 100.0
Missing System 1 2.9
Total 34 100.0

Research and Methodology

This chapter explains the methodologies used to conduct the study (different types methods apply to different types of studies). The improvement possibility for the factors is missing and indescribable under this analysis. The findings show that project delays and poor quality project outcomes stem from contractor-related issues. The ratio of lack of knowledge of the participants has created a significant heterogeneity between the participants and the reasons for project delay. The view of each respondent group (concerning each group of causes) reflects the main results as shown.

Equation 1: Calculation of the Population Size

n= n’/ [1+ (n’/N)]

N = total number of population

n= sample size from finite population

n’ = sample size from infinite population = S²/V²; where S2 is the variance of the population elements and V is a standard error of sampling population. (Usually S = 0.5 and V = 0.06)

So, for 33 contractor organisations:

n= n’/ [1+ (n’/N)]

n’= S²/V² = (0.5)2/(0.06)2 = 0.12

N = 33

n= 0.12/ [1+ (33 / 100)] = 26

This means that 46 contractor organisations should get a questionnaire to achieve a 94% confidence level

Equation 2: Confidence Level in Research

RII = Σ W / A×N

A = the highest weight = 5W is the weight given to each factor by the respondents and ranges from 1 to 5

N = the total number of respondents

The most influencing reasons for the delay of the projects are the large considerable amounts of money needed, undersupplied workforce for the project completion, lack of innovative construction designs.

In this chapter of the study, the focus shifts to the actual research. Therefore, a suitable research design will be appropriate for the study. Creswell (2008) points out that it is important to highlight a research design that relies on a suitable study type. The same approach depends on the study problem at hand. In addition, in this chapter the sample size and the demographics of the study outline well. The chapter acts as a means for data collection.

Research Design

According to Christensen et al. (2010), it is possible to have a research undertaking that has a quantitative and qualitative approach. There are other instances when a study assumes both approaches with respect to the type of research. A research design that adopts the two approaches is useful when the intention is to test a hypothesis, or affirm a given thesis statement. The objectivity of such a research design makes it the most preferred in our study. Gravetter and Forzano (2011) argue that a mixed research approach contains components of an exploratory research design. Consequently, this study intends to assume a similar design. By virtue of incorporating qualitative components, the study will take a systematic approach of data collection. The data will also adopt a descriptive approach. The literature review has illustrated the same approach using secondary materials. From the secondary sources, this study collected data to respond to the objectives of the study aim, which is to determine the causes of delays and poor work quality.

There were two phases involved in the current study. The first phase incorporated secondary sources where 16 reasons contributed to the delays in the construction industry. According to Creswell (2008), literature reviews are insufficient in exhausting the particulars of a study. For that reason, the second phase of the research undertaking involved the administration of questionnaires. The data obtained from the respondents helped to build on the subject matter. The current study relies on both primary and secondary sources of information. When it comes to primary source of data, Walkman (2010) proposes the use of suitable research instruments. Some of the instruments include interviews and questionnaires (White & McBurney 2012). One benefit of using such an instrument is the credibility it gives to a study. For instance, the use of a questionnaire allows an in-depth understanding of the sample population.

In this study, I distributed the questionnaires randomly. Creswell (2008) points out that, questionnaires are prone to errors, like obtaining false information. To overcome such errors, I selected respondents for the study based on their perceived importance. The participants were students from various institutions of higher learning. They also included professionals from construction companies. They stand to benefit from the results of this study. Consequently, they will not give false information as it may jeopardise the research undertaking.


As mentioned earlier, the study focuses on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It also focuses on major construction projects in the kingdom. Data came from professionals and scholars in the construction industry within Saudi Arabia. Most of the data came from contractors and engineering students. The national plans of the government included the public expenditure, which was significant in the coming three years. A major problem for the country’s construction industry is the “normal” and extensive delays experienced during work. It is first necessary to identify the major causes of these negative project outcomes to analyse the overall situation.

Main Trends

The largest exporter of oil in the world is Saudi Arabia. Thus, the construction sector has specifically witnessed significant increases in activity, whereas the Saudi economy has been on the rise in general.

Within the construction sector, the main trends are as follows:

  • The Saudi government has always been actively engaged
  • Saudi infrastructure Indications show that concerns regarding the growing infrastructure in Saudi Arabia have always been the priority of the Saudi government. This concern remains at the forefront of the Saudi decision-making process
  • Because of the increasing growth in the population, the government’s focus has increasingly turned to the housing shortage in Saudi Arabia.
  • The large demand for cement and other building materials, as well as the number of ongoing and new projects in Saudi Arabia support the huge demand for construction services.
  • The Ministry of Commerce and industry reports SAR 5 billion in capitalisation for the construction of three cement plants over the next year. Indeed, this growth is required to meet the demand that keeps the economy progressing
  • The Saudi government increased the restrictions imposed to tighten on foreign investment by implementing more restrictive requirements to obtain a foreign investment license
  • Foreign entities seeking to engage in construction activities in Saudi Arabia have recently experienced severe restrictions


The primary sources of data for this study came from a questionnaire administered to 33 participants. According to Walkman (2010), a questionnaire should contain the details of the participants and the actual questions touching on the study. Thus, the questionnaire adopted for this study contained three sections. The first section required the participants to list their contact information and their familiarity with the construction industry in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The participants were mostly engineering students, contractors and consultants in the industry. The second section of the questionnaire contained a raft of items, which explained the problems to delays in the construction industry. Sever (2001) suggests that most of the delays can be categorised into groups. The questionnaire considered this fact by clustering the causes into nine groups. They appear below

Financial causes:

  • Finance and payments of completed
  • Owner Interference
  • Slow decision-making
  • Unrealistic contract duration

Contracts-related causes:

  • Subcontractors
  • Site management
  • Construction methods
  • Inadequate planning
  • Mistakes during construction stage
  • Inadequate experience of contractors

Consultant-related causes:

  • Contract management
  • Preparation and approval of drawings
  • Quality assurance /control
  • Waiting time for approval of test

Materials-related causes:

  • Quality of material
  • Labour and equipment
  • Labour supply
  • Labour productivity
  • Equipment availability and failure

Contract-related causes:

  • Change orders
  • Mistakes and discrepancies in contract
  • Major disputes
  • Inappropriate overall organizational
  • Lack of communication

Other causes;

  • Climate conditions
  • Regulatory changes
  • Problem with neighbours
  • Unforeseen site conditions

The questionnaire asked the respondents two questions. The first question determined the frequency of the factor’s occurrence. The second question sought to determine the extent to which the delay affects the project. It is important to mention that the frequency of occurrence and the severity of the delay depend on four parameters, as listed below:

  1. Always
  2. Often
  3. Sometimes
  4. Rarely

In the same respect, the severity of occurrence depended on four parameters. They included

  1. Extreme
  2. Great
  3. Moderate
  4. Little

The third section of the questionnaire seeks to determine the instances of poor work quality. Thus, several reasons emerged. The participants responded to the reasons by marking alongside the proposed causes. I graded their responses based on the same four parameters, as was the case in the causes of delays. In point form, the reasons listed as instances of poor work quality included

  1. Unfinished projects
  2. Structural errors
  3. Construction technique
  4. Use of substandard material
  5. Unskilled labour

The fourth section of the questionnaire sought to determine the causes of the poor work quality, as evidenced by the instances illustrated above. Consequently, it provided four main variables, which allowed the participant to select one. Similar to the frequency and severity grading system, the section had a four-point option, which allowed a respondent to pick one. The four parameters under consideration included

  1. Labour
  2. Financing
  3. Material quality
  4. Contractors

The fifth section of the questionnaire contained the potential solutions. The participants had to select from a raft of proposals their opinions of the solution to the delays and the poor work quality. The questionnaire also provided severity and frequency indexes. In point form, the following are the options proposed as solutions in both of the cases:

  1. Government regulation of the industry
  2. Continuous education on total quality management
  3. Review of tender policy
  4. The creation of a database for contractors
  5. The formation of an in house body to regulate contractors

The final section of the questionnaire sought to determine the personal opinion of the respondents regarding whether delays and poor work quality posed a threat to the construction industry. The participants responded with a “yes” or “no” response, depending on their views. The questionnaire also incorporated severity and frequency parameters in this section. According to Walkman (2010), a random distribution of questionnaires is beneficial. Furthermore, the author recommends that at least 75% of the respondents respond to at least 80% of the questions (Walkman 2010). In the study, all the participants responded to the all questions.


In this section of the paper describes the research methodology. The paper employed a two-pronged approach in the data collection process. The first instance emerged in the literature review section. Therein, this paper used secondary sources to determine the various causes of delays and poor work quality. The information formed the basis for the study to employ the use of a questionnaire. In each case, the questionnaire proposed different items as causes for delays and poor work quality. There was a grading system and participants determined the severity and frequency of the proposed causes. The next chapter outlines the results of this study.


This chapter shows the findings derived from the interviews and questionnaires (surveys). It shows the respondents’ views about the main causes of project delays and poor quality project outcomes in Saudi Arabia. The structure of this chapter accommodates two sets of findings. The first set of findings shows the survey responses of 27 respondents, while the second set of findings shows the interview responses of company managers. However, since this paper used the SPSS analysis to analyse the data sampled, it is, first, important to understand its findings

SPSS Results

Internal Validity Test

The Pearson Correlation Coefficient test showed that this study had a high internal validity. This test checked the internal validity of the data collection tools and reported high scores for all scale items. The total scale score was below 0.01. The positive scores that underlined the correlation between the questionnaire scales and the questionnaire items further affirmed the internal validity of the research instrument. This outcome meant that the measures used to assess the questionnaire items had a high validity.


This paper measured the internal consistency of the findings using the Cronbach alpha coefficient tool. Again, this test measured the questionnaire scales. Results from the Cronbach alpha had values that ranged from 0.784 to 0.917. These values show that the results had a high level of consistency. Therefore, it is possible to apply the results in a practical setup.

Normality Test

Statistically, researchers use the normality test to find out if a set of data is within a normal distribution. To do so, this paper used the variables-data method to find out the likelihood of normal distribution of a random variable. The findings showed that the data was out of the limits of normal distribution. This is because it was statistically non-significant (0.01). This outcome affirms the failure of the data set to show proper modelling.

Demographic Results

The demographic survey showed the professions, ages, nationality, gender, experience, and educational levels of the participants. Its findings appear below

Table 5.1: Distribution of Sample Respondents According to Professions.

Profession Frequency Percent
Missing 1 3.7
Civil Eng 5 18.5
Consultant 6 22.2
Contractor 3 11.1
Designer 2 7.4
Eng 1 3.7
Inspector 1 3.7
IT Operation Manager 1 3.7
Labour 2 7.4
Project Eng 1 3.7
Project Manager 3 11.1
Quality Eng 1 3.7
Total 27 100.0

The table above shows that project consultants were the majority respondents who participated in the survey. Civil engineers were the second highest group of professionals, followed by contractors and project managers who had only three representatives each. The least number of professionals was quality engineers, project engineers, information technology managers, inspectors, and engineers who had only one representative each. The total number of professionals who participated in the study was 27.

Table 5.2: Distribution of Sample Respondents according to Age.

Mean 38.67
Std. Deviation 9.622
Minimum 26
Maximum 56

According to the table above, the youngest respondent was 26 years old, while the oldest respondent was 56 years old. Based on this outcome, the mean age was 38.67 years.

Table 5.3: Distribution of Sample Respondents according to Nationality.

Nationality Frequency Percent
British 2 7.4
Filipino 1 3.7
Indian 4 14.8
Pakistani 1 3.7
Saudi 5 18.5
Spanish 1 3.7
Swedish 1 3.7
Syrian 1 3.7
American 3 11.1
Missing 8 29.6
Total 27 100.0

The table above shows a wide distribution of respondents across different nationalities. Although there were some respondents with missing information about their countries of origin, most respondents were either Saudi or Indian. The lowest number of research participants came from Europe (Sweden, Spain, and Britain), Syria, Pakistan and the Philippines. These nationalities had only one representative each. Overall, this analysis mirrors the nationalities of most employees who work in the Saudi construction industry.

Table 5.4: Distribution of the Respondents According to Educational Levels.

Educational Level Frequency Percent
Missing 10 37.0
BSc’s 9 33.3
High School 1 3.7
Master 7 25.9
Total 27 100.0

Although there were some missing statistics about some respondents’ educational levels, most of the participants had a BSc (33.3%). About 25.9% of the participants had a master’s degree. Finally, only one person in the sample population had a high school qualification. He represented 3.7% of the respondents.

Table 5.5: Distribution of the Respondents According to Gender.

Gender Frequency Percent
Male 27 100.0
Female 0 0.0
Total 27 100.0

Since men comprise the majority population in the Saudi construction industry, it was inevitable for the sample study to be 100% comprised of this gender. Furthermore, this gender bias shows the patriarchal nature of the Saudi society.

Table 5.6: Distribution of the Respondents According to Experience.

Mean 13.53 years
Std. Deviation 7.898
Minimum 2 years
Maximum 30 years

According to the diagram above, the respondent with the least experience worked in the construction industry for only two years. The most experienced respondent had worked for 30 years. Therefore, all the respondents had averagely worked for 13.53 years in the Saudi construction industry.

Survey Results

Questionnaire results comprised the survey results. The table below shows how different respondents ranked possible factors of project delay and poor quality projects in this analysis

Table 5.7: Scale 1 Results.

No. Item Rarely Often Sometimes Always Mean Std. D Rank Degree
1 Project-related factors 2 12 6 7 2.67 0.96 4 Sometimes
2 Labour 6 9 5 7 2.48 1.12 6 Often
3 Construction materials 7 8 10 2 2.26 0.94 9 Often
4 Consultants 8 5 8 6 2.44 1.15 7 Often
5 Project proprietors 0 7 16 4 2.89 0.64 2 Sometimes
6 Contractors 4 9 13 1 2.41 0.80 8 Often
7 Building equipment 3 12 6 6 2.56 0.97 5 Sometimes
8 Structural designers 1 6 8 12 3.15 0.91 1 Sometimes
9 Other external factors 1 11 5 10 2.89 0.97 3 Sometimes
2.64 0.50 Often

* Maximum mean = 4

The table above assessed the respondent’s impression of the factors that caused project delays and poor quality construction. These factors included project-related factors, labour, construction materials, consultants, project proprietors, contractors, building equipment, structural designers, and other external factors. The findings show that the mean of study sample response, for the first scale, reached 2.64. The standard of deviation was 0.50. This figure shows that the impression of the study sample of scale 1 is “Sometimes”. Overall, the above findings show that the responses obtained from the research participants range from “high” to “low impression.” Structural design was the most notable item, in the survey, which gave the respondents the highest impression. It had a 3.15 level of agreement among the respondents. Its standard of deviation was 0.91. Lastly, the attribute “sometimes” denoted the degree of agreement among the respondents.

Table 5.8: Scale Two Results.

No. Item Rarely Often Sometimes Always Mean Std. D Rank Degree
1 0 6 2 19 3.48 0.85 1 Always
2 4 7 5 11 2.85 1.13 4 Sometimes
3 4 6 5 12 2.93 1.14 3 Sometimes
4 4 6 4 13 2.96 1.16 2 Sometimes
5 8 9 9 1 2.11 0.89 5 Often
2.87 0.67 Sometimes

The maximum mean from the above table was “four.” However, the responses provided by the researchers reached a maximum mean of 2.87. The standard of deviation was 0.67. Similar to the findings highlighted in scale one, “sometimes” was the overall response to the second scale.

Table 5.9: Scale Three Results.

No. Item Rarely Often Sometimes Always Mean Std. D Rank Degree
1 9 12 5 1 1.93 0.83 4 Often
2 6 13 2 6 2.30 1.07 2 Often
3 5 5 8 9 2.78 1.12 1 Sometimes
4 10 8 3 6 2.19 1.18 3 Often
2.30 0.60 Often

Although the maximum mean for the above table was “4,” the findings of the respondents reached a maximum mean of 2.30. Similarly, the standard of deviation was 0.60. Based on these two indices, the general impression of the research participants towards scale three was “often.”

Table 5.10: Scale Four Findings.

No. Item Rarely Often Sometimes Always Mean Std. D Rank Degree
1 8 4 8 7 2.52 1.19 3 Sometimes
2 5 7 2 13 2.85 1.23 2 Sometimes
3 0 1 13 13 3.44 0.58 1 Always
2.94 0.93 Sometimes

The responses given by the research participants regarding scale three had a mean of 2.94 (the maximum mean was “4”). The standard of deviation was 0.93. These indices show that the research participants had a general impression of “sometimes.”

Interview Results

This study interviewed ten top-level managers who had a lot of experience on the research topic. They came from the public and private sectors. Their responses also differed along this continuum. The following sub-sections of this paper show their views on the possible causes of project delays and poor quality project outcomes

Employee Incompetency

The private sector managers said that employee incompetency was the main cause of delays and poor quality construction in the sector. They added that the quest for employees (especially low-skilled employees) to earn a living was their main impediment to offer quality labour. In fact, one manager said, “they just come to get the money, no matter what the work entails.” To mitigate this problem, one company vice president said they had formed a group of about ten companies whose main objective was to petition the government to allow them to form an educational institution to train these employees. They believe that this way, only employees who have passed a test (offered by the school) should work at the construction sites.


Some of the interviewees said that bribery was another issue that affected the quality of construction work and the delays seen in the sector. To support this assertion, one respondent said, “Whoever is responsible for certain projects, from the government side, will try not to issue certificates for payment until he gets some money under the table from the contractor.” However, bribery was more common in the public sector than in the private sector. It complicated the construction processes and made it harder to meet organisational goals. One respondent said, in such circumstances, the wishes of the contractor often precede public, or client, interests. For example, a contractor would finish a project early and bribe the officials to approve their work, even when they have not met the quality standard. Alternatively, some contractors often bribe officials to simplify a project. This way they would finish the project early and receive payments. Often, such outcomes happen at the expense of the project’s quality.

Lack of Knowledge

Some of the respondents sampled in the interviews said that their clients (mostly the government) lack knowledge about the construction industry. Contractors exploit this gap and tender for contracts with poor quality materials and unrealistic time schedules. Surprisingly, they win such contracts. The outcome is poor quality and project delays.


Some of the respondents highlighted the role of poor organisational and national cultures as causes of project delays and poor project quality. For example, one respondent said the failure of clients to appreciate quality projects often makes it “acceptable” for some contractors to provide poor quality work. Similarly, since many people are not sensitive about time, project delays are equally “acceptable.” To affirm this assertion, one respondent said, “You see, Saudi Arabia is not like the western world where people are conscious of the time. Here, we take things slowly. However, we still get things done.” Overall, these factors emerged as the main causes of poor project quality among the respondents interviewed.


The heterogeneous nature of the data collected highlighted different challenges in the data analysis process because it questioned the validity of the responses. Therefore, it was not possible to rank total mean scores. To understand this challenge it is, first, important to understand the nature of the responses given by the research participants according to their professional backgrounds. For example, could all the professional groups have given correct responses? If not, which group gave the most credible findings, especially considering how the questions portrayed their professional credibility, or how it affected their image? In this analysis, it is also important to question whether some of the respondents gave their opinions based on their true professional views, or they simply tried to protect the image of their professions. To understand the above issues, we need to review the respondents’ professions.

As shown in chapter five of this paper, most of the respondents worked as consultants in the construction industry. This means that they were relatively knowledgeable about the intrigues of the industry. However, the responses given by other professional groups were higher than the contractor group. One possible reason for this outcome was that, based on the nature of the questions asked, the contractors could have given subtle responses because they were more at fault for poor project delays and poor quality projects than other professional groups. Therefore, some of them could have been unwilling to admit that most of the faults stemmed from their failure to conduct their duties as expected. Another plausible reason for this outcome is that the contractors better understood their roles (more than other professionals did) and similarly understood the negative project outcomes better than other professionals did. This reason would also mean that the contractors provided the most credible views about the research problem.

If this was the case, it would mean that the contractor group had more knowledge about the true causes of project delays and poor project quality because they are more privy to pieces of information that relate to the technical aspects of the project, compared to other professionals (such as consultants). This analogy would partly explain why labour-related issues emerged as a popular cause of project delays and poor project outcomes among the research participants sampled. The same analogy would be factual when explaining the contract-related effects of poor project outcomes because contractors have more to lose if a project has a negative outcome (compared to consultants or designers). If this were the case, there would be an endless cycle of blame for poor project quality and project delays among all the professionals sampled in this paper.

Other researchers have encountered the same problem. For example, Al-Kharashi & Skitmore (2009) found out that contractor issues and consultant issues closely related to a client’s contribution to poor project outcomes. In their analysis, Al-Kharashi & Skitmore (2009) also found out that many contractors often blamed their clients and their clients blamed the contractors for undesirable project outcomes. Here, one could easily say that the consultant blames the contractor for negative project outcomes, while the contractor blames the client for the same negative outcomes. A broader look at the same cycle reveals that the contractor and the consultant blame the client for the negative project outcomes. Joyce (2001) says that the passivity of the client in this blame cycle stems from his lack of understanding of the construction industry. Overall, this cycle shows the role that most contractors and consultants play in determining project outcomes.

Civil engineers were the second highest professional group to participate in the research. Although they are knowledgeable about the construction industry, their expertise mainly focuses on some sections of the construction industry. For example, their skills and experiences are mainly limited to construction projects that involve infrastructure growth. This limitation may also spread to the responses given by the participants because their views on project quality and project delays (could) only relate to infrastructure projects. Three project managers, three contractors, two designers and one quality engineer took part in the study. Unlike the civil engineers, their views related to the general construction industry. Furthermore, these professionals sit in strategic positions of an organisational hierarchy process, thereby making them privy to classified information that other lower-level employees may not know.

Furthermore, based on the educational levels of the respondents who participated in this paper, it is important to point out that most of this chapter’s findings are reliable because most of the respondents had a university (degree) qualification. Nine of them had a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree, while seven of them had a master’s degree. Only one respondent had a high school education. This demographic outcome shows that most of the respondents gave their views from a point of knowledge. Furthermore, since the construction field is a scientific discipline, it is crucial to highlight the congruence of the BSc degree (that most respondents had) to the construction industry. This analogy means that most of the respondents had a scientific background that helped them to make informed decisions about the views asked in the questionnaires. Based on these facts, it is crucial to point out the possibility of generalising most of the responses obtained from the above-mentioned professionals across the entire construction industry.

National Culture

Many researchers have highlighted the role played by national cultures in defining project outcomes in the construction industry (such as project delays and project quality) (Baumann 2013). For example, Bezelga & Brandon (2006) say, in the Middle East, national cultures lead to project delays and project failures. Some researchers have had deeper analyses of this issue and say, to understand the impact of national culture on Middle East construction projects, it is first important to contextualise our analysis on the East-West divide and establish how the corresponding national cultures affect project outcomes (Baumann 2013). However, to understand the impact of national cultures on the Saudi construction industry, it is, first, important to understand Hofstede’s cultural model, which describes national cultures as high power distance cultures, long-term oriented, avoiding uncertainty, masculine, or individualistic (Paul 2011). Often, different countries associate with one of these cultural models. Saudi Arabia associates with the high power distance model. This is similarly true for many Middle East countries, such as Kuwait, Jordan, and Syria (Baumann 2013). The high power distance model requires people to accept an unequal power distribution in the society.

Zuo & Zillante (2008) used the above framework to understand how British and Chinese national cultures affected project outcomes. He found out that both cultures had many differences. For example, the Chinese culture promoted intra-team relations in the workplace. People worked (almost) like family units. Comparatively, the British people had limited interactions at work because of their individualistic cultural orientation (Zuo & Zillante 2008). While they shared a good relationship at their workplaces, their cooperation did not go beyond the work context. Mainly, this difference highlighted the “individualism vs. collectivist” model that many researchers have used to differentiate Eastern and Western cultures. Zuo & Zillante (2008) also used the same understanding to investigate how the Australian national culture affected the performance of its construction industry. They compared how this national culture compared with the dominant culture in the Chinese construction industry.

Their analysis showed that both countries had significant cultural differences. For example, the Australian people associated with low power distance and masculine cultures (Zuo & Zillante 2008). Similarly, unlike their Chinese counterparts, they were individualistic. Based on these cultural attributes, the researchers said that relationship contracting was more conducive to the Australian national culture, compared with the Chinese culture (Zuo & Zillante 2008). Therefore, while many Chinese people work because their passion drives them to pursue different projects, Australians feel motivated by the power of their minds. Zuo & Zillante (2008) investigated how these cultural differences affected project outcomes. They found out that although different cultures had different conceptions of employee relationships, they all valued the importance of having good relationships in the workplace. These relationships affected different aspects of organisational performance, including one’s attitude towards uncertainty, contractor-subcontractor relationships, and project execution modalities.

When understanding the role of national cultures in project outcomes, it is also important to understand that a national culture is subject to a project culture. In fact, the project culture often overrides the interests of national cultures, whenever a conflict arises between the two. This is because the project culture has more influence on employees. Using this analogy, Zuo & Zillante (2008) define project culture as “the shared values, basic assumptions and beliefs that the participants involved in a project hold, which determine how they understand the project and the relationship with one another in the project environment” (p. 1).

The Saudi construction industry has the same challenges highlighted by the above studies (Baumann 2013). In fact, its situation could be worse because the construction industry accommodates people from many cultures. Western countries outline the origin of many foreign workers in the kingdom (Simmons 2013). However, recently, there had been an increase of immigrants from Africa and Southeast Asia. Although there are workers from other Arab countries, they do not have a significant cultural impact on working practices in the construction industry because Arab countries also have a high power distance model. Therefore, the main challenge comes from merging the working practices of workers from Southeast Asia, Africa, and western countries.

They do not share the same cultural inclination as workers from the Middle East do. For example, westerners always have an “I did this” attitude, while workers from Southeast Asia have a “we did this” attitude. Moreover, religion has a notable influence on Arab business practices (Baumann 2013). Comparatively, African and Asian employees do not often link their work practices with religion. Furthermore, these three employee groups (Arab, Southeast Asians, and Africans) have different religious inclinations (Simmons 2013). Their different religious backgrounds may create ideological differences in working practices. Furthermore, they may create different expectations when working to meet organisational goals. Therefore, it is difficult to merge such multiple cultural inclinations to create a homogenous organisational synergy.

The nationalities of the respondents highlighted in this paper could have presented the same challenge (highlighted above) because the respondents came from Britain, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Syria, America, Pakistan, and Philippines. These countries have different cultures. A deep analysis of this demographic finding shows that the main cultural inclinations of the respondents are European cultural practices, American cultural practices, Arab cultural practices, and Asian cultural practices. If we compare these cultures with the Hofstede cultural model we see a clash between individualistic and collectivist cultures. American and British employees are often individualistic, while Asian and Arab employees are collectivist (Paul 2011). These cultural inclinations may affect how they carry out their duties. More specifically, they may affect how they perceive factors that cause project delays and poor quality construction projects.

For example, while Americans and Britons may be more unforgiving about quality compromises, South Asian and Arab employees may have more tolerances for such quality compromises (Paul 2011). Similarly, employee cultural inclinations may have affected their perceptions of the role of human factors in poor project quality. For example, the nationalities of the respondents may have affected their perceptions of the role of employee intentions in causing poor project quality. Here, it is important to understand that some respondents believed employee attitudes towards work contributed to poor project quality. For example, some managers believed that some employees worked to make money, at the expense of project quality. Such views could easily resonate with western managers who allocate blame on personalities (Paul 2011). This view may stem from their individualistic cultural inclination. However, managers who come from collectivist cultures may have a different opinion on the same issue. For example, they may not (necessarily) assume that the employees are to blame for the poor work quality. Since they have a “we” attitude, they may believe that all levels of employees (including managers) may have a role to play in causing poor quality project outcomes.

From a different analytical spectrum, some researchers believe that the Middle East culture could improve project outcomes by improving communication (Baumann 2013). Again, this thinking comes from the collectivist culture that Arab employees have. In other words, individualistic people may not have the same cohesion that most collectivists have. They are more socially isolated than people who identify with the collectivist culture (Paul 2011). This difference may play out in shaping project quality outcomes because it affects teamwork, which also affects project outcomes. Since researchers have affirmed a positive correlation between improved communication, cultural orientations, and positive project outcomes (Paul 2011), it is proper to say that national culture had a significant impact on the perceptions of the employees regarding project quality and project delays.


Some of the respondents highlighted in this paper said that bribery affected the quality of construction projects and caused project delays (mainly, the managers held this view). This view is not new. Other researchers have affirmed the role of bribery in causing project delays and compromising project quality. In fact, Transparency International (2014) says bribery “damages companies, resulting in tendering uncertainty, wasted tender expenses, increased project costs, economic damage, reduced project opportunities, extortion and blackmail, criminal prosecutions, fines, blacklisting, and reputational risk” (p. 1). The construction industry has suffered from many cases of bribery. A 2013 European Commission report (cited in K&L Gates 2014) shows that this problem is widespread because more than 50% of all stakeholders in this sector believe that bribery is a significant problem in the sector. Furthermore, according to the diagram below, bribery and corruption are prevalent in the construction industry and relate to other factors that cause project delays and poor project outcomes.

Causes of Corruption in the Construction Industry.
Figure 6.1: Causes of Corruption in the Construction Industry (source: Chartered Institute of Building 2013).

The above pie chart is the product of an analysis by the Chartered Institute of Building (2013) after it investigated the main reasons for the high prevalence of corruption in the construction industry. It asked the respondents for their views about the causes of the high prevalence of bribery and corruption in the construction industry. The respondents said the lack of strict enforcement standards, absent anti-bribery laws, the lack of personnel training about anti-bribery and fraud policies, lack of anti-bribery policies, long supply chains, economic reasons, and cultural reasons were the main causes of bribery and corruption in the construction industry (Chartered Institute of Building 2013). The diagram above shows that culture was the main reason for the high prevalence of corruption in this sector.

Among all the responses given by the research participants, culture had a score of 27%, while economic reasons, long supply chains, lack of anti-corruption policies, failure to train officers about anti-bribery policies, and the lack of enforcement of anti-bribery policies polled 23%, 13%, 8%, 5%, and 17% respectively. Based on these statistics, we see that bribery shares a close relationship with culture. Therefore, it is unsurprising that our research respondents highlighted the two factors as possible causes of project delay and poor quality project outcomes. A culture that condones corruption is likely to experience the negative effects of bribery in many aspects of its economic development. This is the case for the Saudi Arabian construction industry because it reports a higher number of bribery and corruption cases. Relative to this discussion, many researchers have highlighted the growing number of bribery cases in countries perceived to have a hidden tendering process (Chartered Institute of Building 2013).

In the Middle East, the judiciary has found about 60,000 people guilty of bribery and corruption charges (Chartered Institute of Building 2013). Such litigations have often amounted to millions of dollars exchanging hands. For example, Balfour-Betty (a Middle East company) paid 2.25 million after losing a case, which accused its officials of bribing Egyptian officials to win a tender to construct the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (K&L Gates 2014). A similar case arose in Korea, where a company paid more than $5 million to settle a bribery case, which involved its officials in a bribery case that sought to secure a tender to construct the Incheon Bridge, in 2009 (K&L Gates 2014).

The above cases are not only exclusive to the developing world because the same allegations exist in Europe and America. For example, the biggest bribery case happened in Britain, where the Mabey Group (a London-based Company) pleaded guilty to bribery charges. The company admitted to bribing state officials in Ghana, Jamaica, and Iraq to win state contracts for participating in lucrative infrastructure projects in the countries (K&L Gates 2014). Observers have also reported bribery claims in Russia. For example, the Russian government awarded a company a contract to construct sports facilities for the multibillion-dollar Sochi winter Olympic Games. Initially, the contract had a budget of about $12 billion, but, because of bribes and kickbacks paid to state officials, it later increased to $51 billion (K&L Gates 2014). Observers have reported bigger numbers involving bribery claims in France, where a French engineering firm paid more than $240 million to bribe Nigerian state officials and win a tender to participate in the Bonny Island construction Project, in 2011 (K&L Gates 2014). Another Japanese company also paid $218 million in bribes to win the same tender (K&L Gates 2014). Observers also mentioned other UK and US companies (Kellogg Brown and Root LLC) in the scandal for paying bribes to Nigerian state officials (K&L Gates 2014).

Based on the above cases, Kochan & Goodyear (2011) say that the construction industry has a high number of corruption cases. In fact, the 12th global survey on fraud showed that bribery was a common practice in the construction sector (Kochan & Goodyear 2011). Many factors predispose the Saudi construction industry to bribery. For example, before contractors get a job, they must undergo a lengthy tendering process that is prone to bribery (Mitra & Wee-Kwan-Tan 2012). Similarly, donors, the government, and public-private partnerships (PPP) fund many projects in the kingdom. Their activities often involve intense interactions with public institutions and corrupt government officials. Relying on third parties (sub-contracting) is also a prevalent practice in the construction industry (Mitra & Wee-Kwan-Tan 2012). Some of these parties may often solicit for bribes, thereby affecting project quality, or cause project delays, through compromised quality standards.

The prevalence of joint ventures in the construction industry also promotes bribery because the Saudi law requires foreign companies to collaborate with local companies to undertake construction projects in the kingdom (Mitra & Wee-Kwan-Tan 2012). Such requirements give way to intense opportunities for negotiations between interested parties. Some people may use this opportunity to leverage their financial positions for more commercial gains. Furthermore, third party involvement in the negotiation process may provide more loopholes for bribery to occur (Mitra & Wee-Kwan-Tan 2012). Massive construction projects in Saudi Arabia also leave the decision-making process to only a few individuals (managers) who have political connections with authorities. Their engagements often lack public scrutiny, or public involvement, thereby creating opportunities for bribery to occur. Lastly, organised criminal networks may use labour crises that occur in the construction industry to advance their commercial interests. Some of these actions often lead to bribery (Mitra & Wee-Kwan-Tan 2012).

Lack of Knowledge

Some respondents sampled in this study said that a lack of knowledge about construction practices contributed to poor project quality and project delays. Evidence of this factor, as a cause of project delays, emerged in the early 1980s (Al-Kharashi & Skitmore 2009). Researchers said poor qualification of technical staff often led to poor quality projects and cost overruns. They also attributed the same cause to project delays. Part of this problem stemmed from inadequate skilled labour. In fact, contractors have always experienced a challenge where many Saudi nationals shun jobs in the construction sector for more prestigious work in the society. To address this problem, contractors employ many immigrant workers who are often unskilled and incompetent (Al-Kharashi & Skitmore 2009). However, this approach has not always worked in their favour because these workers do substandard jobs.

This problem closely relates with the views of project managers (in the interview results) who said most of the workers, who look for a job in the construction industry, seek “quick money.” Therefore, there is no emphasis on job quality. Although the managers also highlighted the lack of client knowledge, as another reason for poor project quality and delays, current practices in the construction industry show that many clients have devised a way to overcome their “ignorance” by paying for projects after completion (Al-Kharashi & Skitmore 2009). This practice has permeated through different facets of the market (public and private sectors). For example, since contractors get contracts to undertake massive construction projects in the public sector, government agencies are uncomfortable paying for the projects up-front because they are unfamiliar with the industry (Al-Kharashi & Skitmore 2009).

Although Mitra & Wee-Kwan-Tan (2012) agree with the above findings, they add that contractor issues also affect project delays. Particularly, they draw our attention to conflicts among contractors as a major cause of project delays. Although the research respondents did not identify this issue, it highlights the role of confusion among contractors, in the project management process, as a possible cause of project delays. Other researchers have highlighted the same problem as part of contractor-related issues that lead to poor project outcomes. For example, Mitra & Wee-Kwan-Tan (2012) affirm that some contractors lack the knowledge needed to undertake massive construction projects, thereby causing significant project delays and poor quality project outcomes. For example, improperly scheduling construction projects show the lack of knowledge by some contractors to undertake massive construction projects. Researchers also say some contractors suffer from the same problem (Al-Kharashi & Skitmore 2009).

The views of the AWWA Staff (2011) closely align with the above ideology because they also draw our attention to the contractor-related issues as a major cause of project delays and poor project quality. For example, they say a lack of knowledge does not only relate to clients alone because some contractors also lack the knowledge to do what they should do (AWWA Staff 2011). Only one researcher analysed the same problem in Saudi Arabia and arrived at the same conclusion (Al-Kharashi & Skitmore 2009). He made this assertion after investigating contractor experiences during the Saudi Arabian economic spurt (1970s). At the time, the country had introduced several economic projects that involved massive construction projects. Many contractors did not have the skills needed to undertake such projects. However, they won many lucrative state contracts to build mega projects (Al-Kharashi & Skitmore 2009).

Unlike other researchers, the Oxford Business Group (2007) does not differentiate contractor inexperience (or lack of skills) with employee incompetence (lack of skilled labour). It perceives both of them as the same thing because workers are part of the contractor team (Oxford Business Group 2007). Therefore, although some researchers analyse worker issues differently, Al-Kharashi & Skitmore (2009) believe that unskilled labour, as a possible cause of project delays and poor project outcomes, is part of several issues about contractors that lead to negative project outcomes. If we use this analogy to analyse the lack of knowledge among contractors, as a plausible cause of poor project outcomes, we see that the first researchers to note the same issue emerged in the early 1980s (Oxford Business Group 2007).

Again, the main reason for this observation is an imbalance between economic growth and adequate skilled personnel to conduct duties that are equal to such economic progress. Researchers have affirmed the same cause (contractor inefficiencies) in the 1990s (Al-Kharashi & Skitmore 2009). In fact, researchers who have investigated this matter (deeply) say that most contractors have often failed to finance their projects on time, even when they have the money to do so (Mitra & Wee-Kwan-Tan 2012). Many companies have suffered a reputation damage in this regard. In fact, because of the unprofessionalism of some contractors, the Saudi government stopped paying contractors in advance (Mitra & Wee-Kwan-Tan 2012). The government stopped this practice in 1987 (Al-Kharashi & Skitmore 2009).

Unskilled Labour

Some research respondents in this paper identified unskilled labour as a major cause of project delays and poor quality construction projects. Many countries in the Middle East have a labour shortage problem. This paper has already shown that most of them employ foreign workers to address this problem. Compared to other countries in the Gulf region, Saudi Arabia does not have a high population of foreign workers (Simmons 2013). In fact, according to the graph below, the kingdom has the lowest population of foreign workers, compared to a similar population of foreign workers in the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and Kuwait.

Percentage of Foreign Workers of Total population in GCC.
Figure 6.2: Percentage of Foreign Workers of Total population in GCC (Source: Simmons 2013).

Many researchers have shared their opinions about how the labour shortage in Saudi Arabia affects different aspects of its economic development (Simmons 2013). Some of them have focused on the construction industry by saying that many contractors have to employ unskilled labourers, because they have to devise ways of managing this problem without stalling their projects (Mitra & Wee-Kwan-Tan 2012; Al-Kharashi & Skitmore 2009). Therefore, they employ unskilled labour to meet their labour shortages. However, contractors have had to contend with poor quality job outcomes and increased conflicts with their clients (for the same reason) since these labourers do not have the skills needed to do a high quality job.

For example, the Oxford Business Group (2007) says unskilled labourers are often illiterate and unable to communicate effectively. Therefore, they have problems communicating with their employers, thereby inhibiting their ability to complete projects on time. Similarly, poor communication skills inhibit their ability to communicate among themselves (Oxford Business Group 2007). Their lack of training also makes them unsuitable candidates for undertaking the massive and complicated construction projects we see in Saudi Arabia today (Mitra & Wee-Kwan-Tan 2012; Al-Kharashi & Skitmore 2009). Often, these workers do substandard projects, which force the contractor to redo. This process takes time and since they are often unscheduled, they lead to project delays. Often, many contractors who find themselves in this situation have to pay liquidated damages to their clients for failing to complete the projects on time (Oxford Business Group 2007).

Employing unskilled labour to work on construction projects also lead to project delays and poor quality project outcomes because project managers are unable to focus on time management, cost controls, and total quality management (Mitra & Wee-Kwan-Tan 2012; Al-Kharashi & Skitmore 2009). For example, the Oxford Business Group (2007) says that many contractors who fail to get skilled labour spend a lot of time looking for the skilled labourers, thereby spending little time on the ground. Their absence makes it difficult for them to control project quality. Similarly, this problem inhibits them from making sure that the project follows a specific time outlay. A 2009 survey showed that construction projects, which experience time delays because of unskilled labour could complete their projects six months after their scheduled completion time (Mitra & Wee-Kwan-Tan 2012; Al-Kharashi & Skitmore 2009). Similarly, because of poor communication with employees, contractors are unable to manage employee activities well, in a way that they can meet their client’s expectations. Contractors who want to work with the employees spend a lot of time trying to establish a working relationship with them, thereby affecting their productivity (Mitra & Wee-Kwan-Tan 2012; Al-Kharashi & Skitmore 2009).



This paper already shows that there is a high perception of bribery in Saudi Arabia. In fact, Transparency International (2014) says that many high profile corruption scandals in Europe and America have involved officials from the Middle East. Consequently, there is an urgent need to curb this problem. This paper recommends a raft of recommendations that focus on contractor strategies and administrative strategies of preventing bribery.

Administrative Strategies

Most of the strategies highlighted in this section of the paper focus on the failure of state authorities to implement existing anti-bribery laws in Saudi Arabia, as a serious administrative challenge in the anti-bribery fight. In fact, Saudi Arabia trails the list of countries that are striving to fight corruption and bribery among emerging global economies of the world (American International Group 2013). The following graph shows the kingdom’s position in this regard because China, Iraq, Nigeria, India, Mexico, Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, and Argentina (which have a “bribery problem”) have a better record in the anti-bribery fight.

Enforcement Activityies, According to Country of Bribe payment.
Figure 7.1: Enforcement Activityies, According to Country of Bribe payment (Source: American International Group 2013).

The above graph shows that Saudi Arabia needs to improve its anti-bribery fight because the kingdom has legislations that prevent bribery and corruption practices. The American International Group (2013) and Transparency International (2014) say that Saudi Arabia is among many Middle Eastern states that have adopted localised approaches of preventing bribery and corruption by subscribing to internationally recognised working practices against bribery practices. For example, Arab countries have subscribed to the United Nations Convention against corruption (American International Group 2013; Transparency International 2014). Although Saudi Arabia is a signatory to this convention, it is not a ratified member. However, its participation is a first step in solving the bribery menace in the country. Implementation is the main problem that affects this fight (American International Group 2013; Transparency International 2014).

In this regard, there is a strong need for the Saudi government to improve its implementation efforts to curb the vice. For example, the kingdom needs to strengthen its anti-corruption laws. Furthermore, Saudi construction companies should provide clear guidelines to all their employees about acceptable and unacceptable business practices. Similarly, the companies need to orient their workers with the procedures they should follow when they see a bribery case. Indeed, implementation of existing laws is an important part in the bribery fight. Other countries have proved the volume of success that they can achieve by implementing existing anti-bribery laws, aggressively. For example, the US Department of Justice has reported significant gains in the anti-bribery campaign because the government has given the institution full support to investigate and prosecute bribery cases (K&L Gates 2014). This department acts as a supervisory body for local and foreign companies. Therefore, even if foreign companies want to import their “bribery culture” in the US, they are unable to do so because they risk prosecution (American International Group 2013; K&L Gates 2014). Similarly, if US companies participate in bribery cases abroad, they are liable for their actions domestically. Saudi Arabia needs to show the same commitment when investigating and prosecuting bribery cases in the kingdom. For example, it should show all citizens that nobody is above the law (American International Group 2013; Transparency International 2014).

If people suspect a company of bribing other people, the government should undertake proper investigations and arrest the culpable persons. This action should occur, regardless of how well a person is “politically connected,” or not. Furthermore, many countries are willing to collaborate with countries, such as Saudi Arabia, to investigate and prosecute bribery cases (American International Group 2013; Transparency International 2014). The UK is one such country because it has positioned itself as a global anti-bribery jurisdiction (K&L Gates 2014). The UK Bribery Act 2010 outlines its commitment to help other countries investigate and prosecute bribery cases (K&L Gates 2014). This legislative piece has been very instrumental in investigating and prosecuting bribery cases that involve UK companies and other foreign companies that trade in the UK. For example, the Act has made these companies criminally responsible for any bribery, or corruption cases that they participate in, anywhere in the world (American International Group 2013; Transparency International 2014). Prosecutions may occur, regardless of whether the bribery cases have a UK connection, or not (K&L Gates 2014).

Saudi Arabia should collaborate with such countries to improve their effectiveness in prosecuting and investigating bribery and corruption cases in the construction industry. Other developing countries, like Brazil and China (that the kingdom competes with), have made progress by revamping their anti-bribery laws (K&L Gates 2014). For example, Brazil recently introduced new sets of anti-bribery laws to empower law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute bribery cases. Similarly, China has improved its anti-bribery campaign by investigating senior company officials for such cases (K&L Gates 2014). For example, it recently prosecuted a former director of GlaxoSmithKline for bribing Chinese state officials (K&L Gates 2014). These examples show that western countries are not the only nations that are committed to fight bribery. Developing countries are also joining the fray and Saudi Arabia needs to do so as well. Therefore, regardless of one’s geographical position, there is a growing resentment towards corruption and bribery, globally (American International Group 2013; Transparency International 2014). Saudi Arabia should join this war by improving its implementation standards.

Contractor Strategies

Although the above examples highlight different strategies that Saudi Arabia may adopt to improve its anti-bribery campaign, local contractors can join the fight by undertaking domesticated strategies for mitigating the risks of bribery. Indeed, as K&L Gates (2014) says, different levels of the construction process may attract corrupt people. This paper has already identified the tendering process as a notable “den” of bribery. However, the vice may also thrive in the procurement process, supply stage, and construction stage. These vulnerable stages highlight the need to conduct a risk analysis at the company level and the transaction level. Their findings will provide enough materials for creating an anti-bribery compliance program. Such a program would be beneficial for construction companies because it will reduce their vulnerability to bribery and corruption cases (K&L Gates 2014). Furthermore, such a program strengthens a company’s defence for bribery and corruption cases, if they occur. After investigating the efficacy of such anti-bribery programs in the Middle East, K&L Gates (2014) says, “The gold standard is an individualised bespoke risk profile risk assessment as the basis for a compliance program” (p. 2).

Seeking permits and licensing is a notable risk area that many researchers have not only identified in the Middle East, but other parts of the world as well (American International Group 2013; Transparency International 2014). Indeed, many researchers have documented incidences where state officials require bribes to issue construction licenses (K&L Gates 2014). A highly regulated business environment and a stringent set of policy requirements often encourage contractors to pay these bribes (American International Group 2013; Transparency International 2014). While some types of personal payments may be “acceptable” (legally), it is important for Saudi companies to see the licensing process as a risk area that requires immediate attention. Kickbacks to contractors and their subcontractors, cutting the cost of building materials, unlawful subcontracting, corrupt joint ventures and cartel behaviours are other areas that need special consideration in the risk assessment phase (K&L Gates 2014). Overall, Transparency International (2014) affirms the efficacy of the above interventions because it believes that the best way for eliminating bribery in the construction sector is if all players in the sector increase cooperation. Particularly, it draws our attention to the need to address the demand and supply sides of corruption (Transparency International 2014).

Clarify the Tendering Process

Authorities also need to clarify the tender process to eliminate possibilities of ambiguities that may create bribery cases. For example, authorities need to conduct an effective due diligence process to make sure that the company, which wins the tender, is up to the task (American International Group 2013; Transparency International 2014). This measure could easily help company owners manage quality problems because most of the quality issues that arise in the construction process stem from the improper allocation of construction projects to companies that cannot do a good job (American International Group 2013; Transparency International 2014).

Set the Tone from the Top

If Saudi companies want to eliminate bribery and improve the efficiency of their operations, they need to involve senior managers of such organisations in the anti-bribery fight. These managers need to demonstrate their intolerance to corruption by setting the tone from the top (American International Group 2013; Transparency International 2014). This strategy would eliminate bribery by lower-level employees, as they would understand that the vice is intolerable in the organisation. Managers can adopt different strategies for meeting this goal. For example, they can review, or introduce, training programs for educating employees about the demerits of corruption and bribery (American International Group 2013; Transparency International 2014). This strategy would help them cement a desired corporate culture for fighting bribery. Delgado-Hernandez & Aspinwall (2008) say that some organisations have such programs, but few employees are aware of them. The 12th annual fraud survey, conducted by Ernst and Young (cited in Delgado-Hernandez & Aspinwall 2008), showed that more than 55% of company employees are unaware of such programs. Therefore, alongside setting the tone of anti-bribery practices, managers need to sensitise their employees about the benefits of having a “bribery-free” organisation (American International Group 2013; Transparency International 2014).

Due Diligence

This paper highlights the need for companies (especially foreign ones) to conduct due diligence before they collaborate with local Saudi companies. This process would help them identify “rogue” contractors and subcontractors who do not want to “play fair” (Delgado-Hernandez & Aspinwall 2008; Transparency International 2014). They should avoid such companies and do business with credible organisations that have a good business record. This way, they would avoid the potential problems of working with untrustworthy contractors. Similarly, they would also protect the quality of the products or services they offer (Delgado-Hernandez & Aspinwall 2008; Transparency International 2014).

Lack of Knowledge

This paper has highlighted the lack of knowledge as a critical factor that leads to poor quality projects and project delays. Usually, clients are vulnerable in this regard because they depend on the expertise of the contractor to produce quality project outcomes because they know little information about construction projects (Joyce 2001).

Involve the Expertise of Third Parties (Quantity Surveyors)

To mitigate this problem, clients should use quantity surveyors, whose main role is to minimise project costs and make sure that all clients get value for their money (Delgado-Hernandez & Aspinwall 2008; Joyce 2001). Furthermore, although quantity surveyors work in different economic sectors, they are often knowledgeable about the construction industry. Therefore, they can advise their clients about the issues they have about construction projects (Delgado-Hernandez & Aspinwall 2008; Joyce 2001). To make this intervention effective, it is important to anchor this requirement in law. In other words, the law should require clients to seek the report of a quantity surveyor before they can sign contractual agreements with a client. Since, it may be difficult to implement such as strategy in the private sector, the public sector should lead the way in this regard. The government could protect many public funds using this strategy because the contractors would do business with someone who understands the industry. Consequently, the quality of construction projects would increase. This model would also cause a decline in the number of project delays (Delgado-Hernandez & Aspinwall 2008; Joyce 2001).

Contractors Should Inform Clients about Construction Processes

Solving the challenges that arise from clients having little knowledge about the construction industry could also come from a legal and policy background. Contractors need to involve governments and policy makers in making laws that require practitioners to inform clients about design, safety laws, and other construction-related issues that the customer may need to know. This initiative should come from the contractor because the customer would not know what to do about construction matters. Using a legal framework, contractors should (legally) inform their clients about all the important steps and issues that concern their construction needs (Delgado-Hernandez & Aspinwall 2008; Joyce 2001). Joyce (2001) says some countries have adopted this strategy successfully. For example, the UK law deems it an offence for a contractor to fail to inform a client about existing construction laws if they are aware that the client does not know such laws (Joyce 2001).

Since some contractors may say they informed a customer of existing laws (without proof), the law demands that there should be written communications between contractors and clients, always. Besides existing regulations, clients also need to understand the types of materials and technology used in the construction process. The law should force contractors to disclose such details before undertaking the construction project. Therefore, when the project starts, the contractors and the clients should have common sets of knowledge about its details. Without an existing law to moderate such contractor-client relationships, exploitation may occur. Such an eventuality would tarnish the name of the profession (construction contracting) and limit the possibilities of contractors and clients conducting future business (Delgado-Hernandez & Aspinwall 2008; Joyce 2001). Based on this model, Saudi Arabia should introduce new legislations that bind contractors to disclose all information regarding a project. Furthermore, they should be legally bound to explain to their clients all the materials and technologies they use in their construction projects. Therefore, when a project is complete, the client should not be surprised with its outcome.

Unskilled Labour

Some contractors have devised some innovative strategies for managing some of the problems associated with employing unskilled labourers. For example, some of them have adopted an overtime system, which allows them to work extended hours and avoid project delays that may arise from employing unskilled labourers. However, even such approaches have a problem because workers often get tired and are unable to provide quality work, as expected. Therefore, there is a need to formulate more innovative strategies for solving this problem. Particularly, there is a strong need to understand the labour problem as a labour shortage challenge. Indeed, this paper shows that because of labour shortage problems, contractors have to employ unskilled labourers. This section of the paper recommends extending the retirement age, improving working conditions in the construction industry, using more advanced and simplified construction methods, training and advancements, as viable strategies for solving this problem.

Improving Working Conditions

One reason for the failure of Saudi construction companies to attract skilled labour is poor working conditions. According to the Construction Industry Development Board (cited in the Chartered Institute of Building 2013), the image of the construction industry is important in developing an attractive environment for skilled professionals. A 2008 Labour Shortage Action Plan supports this assertion because it identifies negative perceptions of the Saudi construction industry as a hindrance to attracting skilled labour (Chartered Institute of Building 2013). Therefore, there needs to be a concerted effort by all players in the industry to reduce unwanted elements of the construction industry, which create a negative perception about it.

Such elements may include poor safety standards, inadequate pay, and excessive noise (among others). Companies and governments need to undertake such measures at different operational levels. For example, at a policy level, the Saudi government should formulate health and safety laws that require employers to provide their employees with safe working conditions. At an organisational level, Saudi contractors should provide their employees with safety equipment, health insurance and other facilitative elements that could improve their working environment (Chartered Institute of Building 2013). Many skilled labourers would be attracted to such an environment. They would also provide existing companies with the expertise needed to undertake complicated and massive construction projects.

Extend the Retirement Age

The construction industry is a special industry because it involves dangerous activities and has a high “wear and tear” for its employees (Chartered Institute of Building 2013). Stated differently, workers in this sector often undertake physical activities in a stressful environment. This environment predisposes them to illnesses and other negative health outcomes. Indeed, as the OECD (2005) says, “There is a general acceptance within the construction workforce that injury and illnesses go hand-in-hand with the job” (p. 1). Moreover, the OECD (2005) says that all illnesses cause the construction sector up to 8.5% of all project costs. A combination of these negative environmental factors (coupled with the natural ageing process) makes it difficult for employees to work when they are past 50 years old. However, because the Saudi construction industry experiences a shortage of skilled workers, this paper proposes an extension of the retirement age of the workers to allow contractors to continue tapping into the wealth of experience and knowledge that the older workers have.

This strategy is a short-term measure that Saudi Arabian construction companies could use to solve their labour issue. They already have a pool of skilled labourers who have reached the retirement age, but are willing to work longer. Employers should allow such employees to work longer because their expertise is invaluable to such firms (Chartered Institute of Building 2013). However, it is important for contractors to know two factors when pursuing this strategy. One factor is the need to involve the government in the proposed strategy because extending the retirement age is a policy issue, which requires legal interventions to succeed (OECD 2005). Policy makers need to extend the retirement age so that when employers request employees to work longer than their retirement age permits, they can legally do so. The failure to consider a legal redress to this issue may amount to breaking the law, if employers allow their retired workforce to continue working. The second issue that all employers need to consider is having an informed consent from their retired employees to continue working (OECD 2005; Chartered Institute of Building 2013). Stated differently, the employees need to work because they want to, and not because their employees force them to do so. Forcing employees to continue working past their retirement age, without their consent, could lead to problems that are more complicated for employers, such as low employee morale and reduced organisational productivity. Therefore, it is important for employers to respect the wishes of their employees when pursuing the proposed strategy.

The main drawback of extending the retirement age of Saudi employees who work in the construction industry is the increased risk of injury that most employers would experience when they allow an ageing population to continue working in the industry. However, the main argument in the proposed strategy is the sheer volume of experience that older workers would bring to the industry. Research already shows that these employees are more committed and valuable than their younger counterparts (OECD 2005; Chartered Institute of Building 2013). However, there needs to be a “smart” trade-off between the skills and physical fitness of these employees (OECD 2005; Chartered Institute of Building 2013).

Using Simplified Construction Methods

This paper highlights the use of advanced technology in the Saudi construction industry as a strategy for solving labour-related issues in the construction industry. Furthermore, it shows that the kingdom has many massive construction projects that use advanced technology. While it is important to use advanced technology to cut construction costs, improve project quality, and shorten the project time, contractors should consider using simplified methods of construction to reduce the demand for skilled labour (Chartered Institute of Building 2013). This strategy should not (necessarily) reduce the quality of the construction projects because it only proposes to use simplified construction methods that could incorporate the benefits of using advanced technology. This strategy may also stretch to the types of materials used in the sector.

For example, contractors can use less complicated types of building materials that do not require skilled labour. Malaysia has adopted this strategy by using pre-fabricated materials in the construction industry (Chartered Institute of Building 2013). It also experiences the same labour challenges that Saudi Arabian construction workers do. Using industrialised building systems could also minimise the dependency on skilled labour. In fact, some building societies encourage contractors to adopt them because they require less employee input, minimise wastages, and improve quality control (Chartered Institute of Building 2013). These benefits are important to the Saudi construction industry because it suffers from poor quality control and delayed project outcomes because of unskilled labour. However, increasing the demand of simplified technology in the construction industry is part of the government’s responsibility. Indeed, Saudi government agencies should consider reducing the taxes and providing more incentives to improve research and development efforts to support local contractors as they adopt these technologies (Chartered Institute of Building 2013). They should understand that such technologies would reduce the demand for workers and, more specifically, reduce the demand for skilled labour in the construction industry.

Train Existing Employees

Employee training programs should be a last resort for local Saudi contractors to mitigate the challenge of having inadequate skilled labour. This strategy involves accepting the unskilled labourers as part of the “team” and improving their competencies as they work. Governments and construction companies could spearhead such training initiatives. In fact, one respondent sampled in this paper said that they were planning to form an organisation (with other contractors) that would train existing employees on current technologies in the construction industry (organisational level). At the governmental level, some institutions, in Islamic countries, have taken a proactive initiative to support training programs for construction workers.

For example, the Malaysian government has taken a proactive step to simplify training programs for unskilled workers in the country (Chartered Institute of Building 2013). In line with this strategy, the government has introduced apprenticeship programs for helping new employees to learn from older and more experienced employees. Such programs have mainly focused on promoting the technical competencies of such employees. This strategy aims to make employees more competent about their work. Similarly, it aims to improve employee specialisation skills so that they can meet the different sector needs of the construction industry. Experts say such training programs are beneficial to local contractors because they can help them to reduce their dependence on foreign labour (Chartered Institute of Building 2013). Similarly, by improving the skill levels of available employees, contractors could reduce wage rates. Similarly, the overall employee productivity is likely to increase by pursuing this strategy (Chartered Institute of Building 2013).

National Culture

The link between industry, or organisational performance, and culture stems from literatures that have often perceived companies as “little societies.” Proponents of such views say such organisations have a social system characterised by unique norms (Allaire & Firsirotu 1984). They also believe that since these companies are miniature societies, they should show distinct cultural traits (Allaire & Firsirotu 1984). This analogy spreads to the national level because as people express their individuality through their personalities, countries also express their uniqueness through their national cultures. This framework explains the model that the respondents used to highlight cultural factors as having an effect on project delays and project quality. Different theories explain the same phenomenon. For example, the ecological adaptation theory says systems of socially transmitted behaviours often affect how people view their work practices (Allaire & Firsirotu 1984; Simmons 2013).

Employees adapt to these systems because it is the only way to accommodate their ecological surroundings. Dialectic interplays characterise this relationship because it explains how social and cultural systems influence people’s perceptions of success and working practices (Allaire & Firsirotu 1984; Simmons 2013). Reciprocal causality often underlies this relationship. Here, it is important to understand the different contextual meanings of environment and culture because no concept is definitive. However, researchers define each concept in terms of the other (Bezelga & Brandon 2006; Allaire & Firsirotu 1984). This analogy underscores the importance of understanding the environment as a set of contextual factors that shape national cultures, and more. However, it is instrumental in shaping how these cultures evolve (this relationship later influences the environmental characteristics) (Bezelga & Brandon 2006; Allaire & Firsirotu 1984).

This school of thought differs from the historical “diffusionist” ideology because the latter considers historical circumstances as having the greatest impact on the working practices of employees (Allaire & Firsirotu 1984). Proponents of such ideologies are mainly concerned with how cultural attributes migrate from one region to another, or from one system to another. Their framework has created the ideological background for the presentation of culture as a system of ideas and processes that influence industry performance (Bezelga & Brandon 2006; Allaire & Firsirotu 1984). To explain this fact, Allaire & Firsirotu (1984) say, “Their ideational components (patterns of shared meanings and values, and systems of knowledge and beliefs) are meshed with the social structure component in a holistic concept of organisations” (p. 199). Such statements mainly underlie the framework that cultural systems use to influence organisational performance. Some of the respondents highlighted in this paper acknowledged this relationship by associating poor project outcomes with national cultures (Bezelga & Brandon 2006; Allaire & Firsirotu 1984).

It is from the same basis that in chapter six, this paper highlighted Hofstede’s cultural framework to explain the cultural inclination of Arab countries. Using the same model, this paper highlighted the negative effects of the high power distance culture that characterises the Saudi construction industry. Evidences from past research studies show that most cultures affect organisational outcomes by influencing people’s attitude towards success and working practices (Piepenburg 2011). Since it evolves over a long time, it is difficult to change existing cultures or introduce new cultures that promote new working practices. Furthermore, it is more difficult to do so on a national scale and get support from people who have had years of cultural programming to accept new models of doing business. However, introducing a new and parallel cultural alignment model, that should change industry practices at an organizational level, is a new solution. The solution involves introducing a new framework of project culture. The project culture model has a greater impact on project outcomes because it defines project goals, project costs, project contexts and other aspects of operations that affect project quality (Bezelga & Brandon 2006; Allaire & Firsirotu 1984).

Here, it is important to highlight the advantages of a unified project culture in the construction industry because it can easily improve the working practices of project members, for the benefit of the entire industry (Zuo & Zillante 2008). It is the responsibility of project managers to introduce project culture as a progressive model for improving project outcomes. Mainly, experts encourage them to foster organisational cultures that improve team cohesion and employee morale (Zuo & Zillante 2008). Similarly, they should promote cultures that support quick decision-making processes and eliminate instances of conflict among key professionals in the construction industry, such as contractors, consultants, clients, designers and the likes. An ideal project culture has unique attributes that foster common values of development, such as flexibility, straight talk, collective decision-making, employee commitment, and has no “blame games” (Bezelga & Brandon 2006; Allaire & Firsirotu 1984).

Although this paper encourages construction companies to introduce project cultures that promote organisational development, they should not lose sight of the impact that national cultures would have on this strategy. Based on this fact, they need to devise a framework that blends aspects of the project and national cultures. Researchers have tried this approach before. For example, Zuo & Zillante (2008) investigated how construction companies can merge aspects of the project and national cultures to boost their organisational performance. They found that the project culture should build on different subcultures that involve several aspects of the national subculture, industry, and company ownership (Zuo & Zillante 2008). They also said that these subcultures should further build on operational subcultures that include several aspects of safety culture, learning culture, and quality culture (Zuo & Zillante 2008). Types of members in the business, types of tasks to be undertaken, ethnic factors, social status, religion and similar factors are other attributes that should form part of the project culture. Zuo & Zillante (2008) used the following conceptual framework to explain how project managers could realise organisational synergy by merging Chinese and Australian sub-cultures

Interactions between Project culture and national culture
Figure 7.2: Interactions between Project culture and national culture (Source: Zuo & Zillante 2008).

Saudi Arabian construction companies should borrow the structure of the above model to formulate their project cultures. Stated differently, managers should substitute the Chinese and Australian national cultures, with organisational cultures and the Saudi national culture. Their difference should explain how project members behave and outline the cultural differences that underlie both cultures. The project culture should also merge this difference by influencing how project team members behave (Zuo & Zillante 2008).

Although this paper has highlighted the effects of national culture on project quality and project delays, existing literatures that have investigated the same phenomenon take an indirect approach to understand the impact of national cultures on the leadership practices of construction companies (Bezelga & Brandon 2006; Allaire & Firsirotu 1984). Similarly, they have extended the scope of cultural influence on construction projects by merging national and construction projects alike. They affirm the findings of the respondents by saying that these cultures affect project outcomes. Relative to this discussion, Dikbas & Scherer (2004) paid a close attention to the Turkish construction industry and said its national culture influenced state-business relations.

Families own most construction companies in the country. Similarly, family members characterise the management boards of such companies (Dikbas & Scherer 2004). This framework influences how such companies relate to state authorities because family members are privy to such relationships. This framework increases the vulnerability of such organisations to bribery and other underhand dealings that occur in the sector. Moreover, the lack of transparency in such organisations keeps some employees “out of the loop” regarding what is going on in the industry and in the company. At an operational level, the Turkish construction industry could also suffer from poor quality labour because companies do not promote workers because of their merit. Overall, these intrigues show the cultural influence on organisational performance. Therefore, managers need to introduce new subcultures that override the negative effects of the national culture.


The research aim of this study was to analyse the causes of poor quality and project delays in the Saudi Arabian construction industry. Interview and survey findings showed the views of different categories of professionals in the industry about this issue. Their views summed the nature of the industry today and described how its future would look like, if industry stakeholders take corrective actions to address some of the main challenges affecting the sector.

Limitations of Study

Some sections of this study allude to the need for treating the findings of this paper with care because the study presents them as a set of opinions and views from respondents who similarly have different sets of ideas and professional backgrounds. For example, this paper has shown the difference in opinions between contractors and consultants. It has also highlighted how some of these professionals blame one another for the shortcomings of the industry. However, one issue that has (clearly) emerged in this analysis is the role of labour-related issues in causing project delays and poor quality project outcomes. A shortage of qualified and experienced personnel is one issue that continues to affect this industry because the supply of workers has never met the demand created by the increase of massive construction projects. Therefore, it is proper to say that the same problems that characterised the Saudi construction industry (lack of skilled labour), in the past, still affect the industry today.

Theoretical and Policy Implications

Several implications arise in this paper regarding the role that all stakeholders have to play in improving the industry performance of the construction sector. Four issues emerge as having the greatest impact on the quality of construction projects and project delays. One issue is the failure of experts to develop strategic plans for scheduling construction projects and preventing delays in completing construction projects. Here, labour-related issues are of important concern. For example, the working conditions of construction workers, and the level of demand for construction workers in the kingdom, are of significant concern. This paper also showed that project delays and poor quality project outcomes slow down progress in the Saudi construction industry.

Based on this study’s findings, we see that this view is factual because such negative outcomes undermine the credibility of industry professionals and understate the potential of the sector. To mitigate the effects of these negative attributes of the industry, this paper sought to understand the main causes of poor project quality and project delays. The framework of this analysis stemmed from the concern that these negative outcomes hurt the Saudi construction industry and slow down the economic growth of the kingdom, as a whole. This paper also sought to understand possible strategies for improving the industry performance of the Saudi construction sector. The study sought the views of industry experts and analysed their responses by comparing past studies that have investigated the same issue in other countries.

From the onset, this paper hypothesised financial reasons as a factor that contributed to poor project quality and project delays in the Saudi construction industry. However, this hypothesis turned out to be false. None of the respondents highlighted this factor as a possible reason for project delays or poor project quality. Since some literatures highlight this factor as a possible reason for the above-mentioned negative outcomes, this paper shows that the respondents felt that financial issues were “not significant enough” to affect project quality and project delays. Based on this analysis, this paper shows that the main issues affecting the above project outcomes are culture, labour, lack of knowledge of construction practices, and bribery. This finding does not presuppose that the four factors are the only ones that affect project outcomes in the construction industry. However, it is important to understand that these factors are only contextual to the Saudi construction industry. For example, other countries may not have a significant issue with bribery as Saudi Arabia does. Therefore, it is pertinent to understand the context of these findings.

Nonetheless, this paper recommends a raft of recommendations that should address most of the challenges highlighted to cause poor project quality and project delays. For example, to solve the bribery problem, this paper recommends that the solution is two-pronged. The first approach involves government intervention through increased enforcement of anti-bribery laws. This is an administrative strategy. The second approach is a contractor strategy that encourages Saudi construction firms to formulate organisational policies against bribery. Furthermore, this paper encourages such companies to conduct proper due diligence before collaborating with other companies (subcontracting), clarify the tendering process, and adopt a “no-nonsense” approach to corruption and bribery (setting the tone from the top).

To address issues that relate to the lack of knowledge among contractors, this paper proposes that potential clients should involve third parties (quantity surveyors) when negotiating with a contractor. This paper also encourages legislators to introduce a legal framework that should compel all contractors to inform potential clients about safety and regulation issues (among other details that may benefit them) in the construction process. However, solving the challenges of unskilled labour requires short-term solutions like extending the retirement age and improving the working conditions in the construction industry. More long-term strategies involve training existing employees about current construction practices and adopting simple construction methods that do not compromise construction quality. Lastly, this paper encourages project managers to introduce new project cultures to address the negative impact of national cultures on project quality and project completion times. The following table summarises these recommendations

Issue Recommendation
Bribery Administrative Strategies
Improve implementation of existing anti-bribery lawsContractor Strategies
  • Introduce organisational policies against bribery
  • Conduct due diligence
  • Clarify tendering process
  • Adopt a “no-nonsense” approach to bribery and corruption
Lack of Knowledge
  • Involve third parties (quantity surveyors)
  • Introduce new legislation to compel all contractors to disclose construction details to the client
Unskilled labour
  • Extend retirement age
  • Improve working conditions
  • Train employees
  • Use Simplified construction methods
Negative Cultures Introduce progressive project cultures

Recommendations for Future Studies

This study sought the views of contractors, consultants, designers and other professionals who directly work in the construction industry. However, most of these professionals mentioned the client as another party that plays a role in shaping project outcomes. For example, the respondents linked the lack of knowledge, as a cause of project delay, to the client. Many researchers, who have undertaken similar studies, have also highlighted the client’s role in shaping project outcomes. For example, Joyce (2001) found out that client approval affected project outcomes in the construction industry. This reason mainly concerned using new materials (that the client did not approve) in the construction process. Slow decision-making (by some clients) is also another reason highlighted by some contractors for project delays (Joyce 2001). This paper did not seek the views of clients on the research questions. They could have provided vital information regarding their expectations about the desired project outcomes and their views about how their relationship with contractors and other stakeholders affect the project outcomes. Future research should not ignore their contributions in this regard. Furthermore, they should analyse how their views compare with the views of other knowledgeable professionals in the industry.


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IvyPanda. (2021, April 4). Saudi Arabian Construction Industry: Delay and Poor Quality. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/saudi-arabian-construction-industry-delay-and-poor-quality/

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"Saudi Arabian Construction Industry: Delay and Poor Quality." IvyPanda, 4 Apr. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/saudi-arabian-construction-industry-delay-and-poor-quality/.

1. IvyPanda. "Saudi Arabian Construction Industry: Delay and Poor Quality." April 4, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/saudi-arabian-construction-industry-delay-and-poor-quality/.


IvyPanda. "Saudi Arabian Construction Industry: Delay and Poor Quality." April 4, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/saudi-arabian-construction-industry-delay-and-poor-quality/.


IvyPanda. 2021. "Saudi Arabian Construction Industry: Delay and Poor Quality." April 4, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/saudi-arabian-construction-industry-delay-and-poor-quality/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Saudi Arabian Construction Industry: Delay and Poor Quality'. 4 April.

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