Cementing the GCC ties

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We’re having yet another “crisis” in Bahrain. This time, it comes in cementy flavour!

FOREIGN racketeers are being blamed for a cement crisis which has crippled Bahrain’s construction industry.The suspension of supplies from Saudi is costing Bahrain’s contractors more than BD4 million a day, says sources. [GDN 12.06.08]

Let me first confess that I don’t know much about the construction industry, nor do I know a lot about the building material manufacturing and supply. My company did make a corporate video for one of the largest manufacturers of bricks, pre-cast slabs etc a few months ago, and through that process I did gain a little bit of knowledge, but hardly enough to pontificate on the processes and economies involved in this vital industry.

What does surprise me in this “new new” crisis are several factors:

  • Why isn’t Bahrain self-sufficient in producing its own primary building material
  • Why do Bahraini traders and factories complain about not getting enough primary supplies from Saudi when they know that the Saudi government heavily subsidises that industry so that they would use their products for the local market?
  • Why does the GCC Secretariat even allow such disparate subsidies from any of its members?
  • If our governments have to resort to protectionist policies like we are seeing Saudi imposing – fairly or unfairly – then what hope is there for GCC-wide economic integration?
  • and does this mean that the so called unified Gulf currency is (or should be) dead?

Without access to these basic material, how can the country sustain its development?

We have seen the issue of the Muharraq Municipality specifically derailing plans for the creation of a cement factory in Hidd – citing environmental concern – even though an environmental expert has given assurances that it does not pose any threat to the environment (arabic) through a public hearing which none of the municipal officers bothered to attend. Sure, cement factories because of their inherent manufacturing processes contribute a lot to CO2 gasses, accounting fully up to 8% of the global emissions, but I’m not convinced that the Municipal council has taken that metric into consideration, my guess it is more localised and I would love to know their main objection.

Even without it (and others) being in the Hidd industrial zone, why can’t the government allow them to congregate in Hafeera? An area already full of crushers and pre-cast plants? Or maybe do what they’re trying to do now and buy and manage rice plantations in Thailand and the Philippines, outsource!

Whatever it is, let them solve the problem themselves without depending on Saudi or the rest of the GCC. A country that does not have resources of its own but that of unbound enthusiasm and creativity of its people can indeed conquer the world! Heck, the idea of the plantations is a brilliant one and should be extended, these could be the first steps in the creation of the Bahraini Empire which will eventually rule the world!

  • Rez
    12 June 2008

    obviously there is a bit of bureaucracy involved in it.

    But you pointed out some interesting remarks. We have one of the largest aluminium processing plants in the world so why can’t we have an even large cement plant as well??

  • Abu Arron
    12 June 2008

    What a great quality video. However, I thought it a bit mean that they use the construction workers lunch tins for product testing and quality control (check position 03:28). 🙂

    But where to build a cement factory? How about on a beach that used to open to the public and is now completely walled off?!

  • mahmood
    12 June 2008

    Thank you! I enjoyed making that one, it was a big educational opportunity for me too and I loved that part as well. Well spotted on the cans! I assure you they weren’t lunch tins (at least I don’t think they are ;))

    As to the location of where to build cement factories, well, out in the desert somewhere or even better one of the outlying islands, like Umm Al-Naasan for instance. It’s slightly smaller than Muharraq and has huge open spaces.

  • Sam
    12 June 2008

    It shouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone to be honest. We’re a nation of importers. We import most things. Everything from human beings to bottled water and everything in between.

  • Hasan Z.
    12 June 2008

    As fas As I know, we don’t have the raw materials to have a cement factory, something to do with some kind of special sand, even if we have it, it is not pure as what is in Saudi.

  • mahmood
    12 June 2008

    That might be true Hasan. But we don’t have the raw material to make aluminum either, but we have the largest aluminum smelters in the world!

  • mahmood
    13 June 2008
    ولي العهد يدعو لإقامة مصانع جديدة وتوسعة الحالية
    وفد لاستيراد الإسمنت من دول عدة

    الوقت – حسين خميس:
    دعا ولي العهد رئيس مجلس التنمية الاقتصادية سمو الشيخ سلمان بن حمد آل خليفة، الجهات المختصة بالدولة إلى فتح الباب فوراً أمام استيراد المزيد من الاسمنت ومواد البناء، بالإضافة إلى السماح والترخيص بتوسعة المصانع القائمة أو بناء مصانع جديدة لإنتاج الإسمنت في أماكن غير سكنية لتجنب التأثيرات الصحية والبيئية. كما وجه ولي العهد إلى تشكيل وفد رسمي رفيع المستوى برئاسة وزير الصناعة والتجارة وبمشاركة عددٍ من رجال الأعمال لزيارة بعض الدول المنتجة للإسمنت من أجل تزويد السوق المحلي بما يحتاجه من هذه المادة الأساسية لتطوير قطاع البناء والتشييد في المملكة. وبناء على توجيه ولي العهد قال وزير الصناعة والتجارة حسن فخرو ”إن باب تأسيس شركات استيراد مواد البناء مفتوح على مصراعيه لمن يرغب في ذلك ولن يكون هناك أي احتكار في البلاد لهذه المواد”. Ùˆ”إن الباب مفتوح كذلك لبناء مصانع لإنتاج الاسمنت وبقية مواد البناء الأخرى”.
    وفي سياق متصل، قالت مصادر مطلعة لـ ”الوقت”ØŒ ان البحرين التي تستهلك سنوياً نحو 3,2 مليون طن من الاسمنت تسعى إلى زيادة حجم إنتاجها ليبلغ 4 ملايين طن سنويا بحلول منتصف العام المقبل أي بزيادة عن الاحتياجات السنوية المحلية بنسبة 74%ØŒ وذلك من خلال توسعة المصانع الحالية وتقديم التسهيلات لإقامة مصانع جديدة.
    Alwaqt 13 June, ’08

    Crown Prince instructs government to start importing building materials and open the way to the creation of cement plants in non-residential areas.

  • Joker
    13 June 2008

    Someone has to get his cut so that the factory exists.

    I can never understand the lingo in bahraini newspapers. The CP “yad3oo” for the establishment of factories. What do they mean yad3oo? Shouldn’t a symbol of authority dictate an immediate action plan with clear targets? Especially since he has a direct stake in the majority of these pump-and-dump projects?

  • Sadek
    13 June 2008

    Actually cement manufacturing is one of the most polluting industries that you can get. I am not so sure that this “environmental ‘expert'” knows what he is talking about – indeed that’s why most cement plants in Europe, Japan and North America are closing and are moving to lesser environmentally restrictive countries.
    Bahrain would be, at least in my books, one of the most polluted countries in the world and getting worse. This will reflect in more health issues over time – lets not get too carried away.

  • Sam
    14 June 2008

    most cement plants in Europe, Japan and North America are closing and are moving to lesser environmentally restrictive countries.

    Welcome to Bahrain! I’ve always wondered why they’ve kept our cancer diagnosis rates a guarded secret..

  • Merlin
    14 June 2008

    Incompetence is rife! Now that they have a crisis that could derail all major projects announced in the last few years (since all it is, is real estate and construction) our REACTIVE government is proposing to send its minions on an excursion to Turkey, Saudi and other parts of the world to secure resource. I say someone was sleeping at the wheel, namely a certain Minister of Industry. This should have been anticipated way in advance and it is too little to late to suggest that they are in control with these petty announcements. Wake up guys, the rug has been pulled from under your feet, your antiquated way of doing things no longer works in the 21st century. And Dubai and Doha continue to laugh, laughing out loudly…..

  • I love Bahrain
    14 June 2008

    Lifeline for new cement factory

    INVESTORS of a new cement factory in Hidd have been thrown a lifeline after councillors agreed to reconsider a decision taken nine months ago to reject it.

    Its fate now depends on an environment impact assessment report, which the Muharraq Municipal Council has asked the Public Commission for the Protection of Marine Resources, Environment and Wildlife to conduct.

    The factory is being built in the Hidd Industrial Area, over which the Industry and Commerce Ministry said in September it has sole authority.
    Source: GDN – read full article

    ed: truncated article and linked to original

  • Sadek
    14 June 2008

    Worth looking into this link from Global warming. By the way in addition to CO2 emissions kilns are major mercury emitters. Isn’t it time we started thinking a little bit about the future rather than this mad dash to make more money by hook or crook.
    One quote to put it in context
    “Cement CO2 Emissions: Cement manufacture causes environmental impacts at all stages of the process. These include emissions of airborne pollution in the form of dust, greenhouse gases, noise and vibration when operating machinery and during blasting in quarries, and damage to countryside from quarrying. Equipment to reduce dust emissions during quarrying and manufacture of cement is widely used, and equipment to trap and separate exhaust gases are coming into increased use. Environmental protection also includes the re-integration of quarries into the countryside after they have been closed down by returning them to nature or re-cultivating them.

    Due to the large quantities of fuel used during manufacture and the release of carbon dioxide from the raw materials, cement production also generates more carbon emissions than any other industrial process. Cement clinker production contributes about 4% of global total CO2 emissions from fuel use and industrial activities. cement CO2 emissions

  • mahmood
    14 June 2008

    Is there an alternative?

  • Sadek
    14 June 2008

    Continue importing it, with Saudi not the only source. The economics do not support having it here anyway, and the case applies as much with sand – unless we want to gut out the island.
    Bahrain besides being in the top league of polluted places is is amazingly densely populated; and which ever way you locate the plant will still have an impact on a substantial part of the local population.
    The trade-off is between a short term benefit and long term damage to the environment, but more importantly what is the cost to our health and our children’s and grand children. Mo, what alternative would you choose?

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