A new era

12 July 2011
Unrest across Arab nations, the prospect of fresh elections and, in cases, regime change signals in a new era of opportunity for greater transparency and professionalisation of the procurement function right across the Middle East and Asia. All too often in the past, complex planning laws and inconsistent tendering processes have deterred international companies from bidding for large government infrastructure projects within the region. Post-Mubarak Egypt is the first example of an emerging nation ready for significant constitutional reform. In meeting the aspirations of the country’s people, these reforms must be far-reaching and embed within its public administration a sense of fairness, hope and a new era of transparency. When we look at what has been the catalyst leading to the demand for change in recent months, it is startling the stark mix that old and new media has played in bringing the frustrations of a nation into the public sphere. The TV network Al Jazeera was one of the first to cover much of the uprising at its outbreak. Social networking sites Twitter and YouTube proved to be a vital meeting point for activists to share information and transmit their message to the outside world. A country within the region that has been leading the way in redefining its position on the world stage is Qatar. In population terms, it is the size of two large UK cities, yet its GDP per capita was the highest in the world in 2010, according to the International Monetary Fund. Underpinning its wealth is a huge natural gas field it shares with Iran – a fine relational line many in the West would not envy having to manage. It has increased its sphere of influence globally through shrewd investments in property and infrastructure projects across the west. Its decision to join Nato allied forces in the Libya conflict has cemented its relationships with key geopolitical players in Europe and the US. And its selection as the 2022 World Cup host has bolstered its position as a country providing a progressive narrative of what it means to be Arab in the 21st century. There are many unknowns about the shape, size and outcome of uprisings across the Middle East, but their uniting call for freer, more accountable and transparent countries all lend themselves to a professionalised procurement profession. ☛ Marcus Hobley is contracts and procurement manager at Transport for London
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