Delays in project construction within the public sector are one of the critical challenges facing various countries around the globe. However, delay levels vary across the countries. These delays are almost becoming a norm since it is rare to find a project that has been completed within the stipulated time. Similarly, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is experiencing these delays perpetuated by a wide range of factors. Statistics indicate that over the past 10 years there has been a significant increase in the number of delayed projects in UAE.


Delays in project construction are accompanied by a myriad of drawbacks such as compromised quality and delays in the delivery of public services. This report horns in to identify factors contributing to delays in project construction within the public sector in the UAE. Also, this study will employ system thinking methodologies to delve deeper into the problem to identify effective solutions for project construction delays from the perspective of project management. 


Completing projects on time is one of the best practices in the construction industry. Unnecessary project construction delays lead to financial loses that could have been avoided. According to Al-Mallakh (2015), construction is one of the key drivers of economic growth in the UAE contributing 30 percent to 40 percent to the country’s GDP. The thriving construction industry in the UAE has been promoted by increased government investment in infrastructural development. For instance, over the past few years, the government has launched mega construction projects such as Palm Jumeirah, Al Maktoum City, Masdar City, and Saiyat Island. 


Annually, the government allocates $427 billion of its national development budget to construction projects with Dubai being allocated $364.79 billion. This indicates that a significant portion of the development funds has been directed to Dubai. However, the construction of the market of Dubai, one of the key projects, is facing a myriad of challenges such as quality of work, management of construction wastes, low labor supply, financial constrictions, and extreme environmental conditions among other challenges. Nevertheless, the main concern is the completion time. Consequently, the problem of delayed construction of projects within the public sector is more prevalent in developing countries.


The problem has been detrimental to the construction industry. The persistence of this problem has attracted a significant number of researchers seeking to find amicable solutions to the problems such as (Serdar Durdyev et al., 2017; Bhatti 2018). However, this problem continues to persist. For instance, reports indicate 90% of projects in the capital of UAE, Abu Dhabi is not completed on the stipulated time hence implying that the prevalence of construction projects delays is high in the UAE compared to other countries of the middle east. 

Construction Project Delay Analysis

The section below shows issues leading to delays in the construction of project within the public sector in Saudi Arabia. These factors have been categorized into four as shown:

  • Owner/Client Related Factors

The client or government often plays the central role in causing delays in project construction whether in private or in the public sector. One of the key aspects of project construction delays caused by the government is the skewed tendering process. The UAE government often awards a project construction tender to the local construction companies even if they do not have the prerequisite requirements.

Local construction companies are unable to complete projects on time due to a lack of the required expertise and technology to enhance their efficiency compared to foreign construction companies. However, delays are also experienced when foreign companies are involved due to contract disputes, tedious legal processes, and language barriers.

For instance, in Dubai, contracts are written in Arabic and later translated into English. The translating process may lead to unintended errors hence creating disputes late. Consequently, each stakeholder prefers to communicate in their first language which is a challenge due to a lack of proficient interpreters. Communication challenges are detrimental to the quality of work. Therefore, this indicates that the language barrier is an important issue that needs to be addressed.

  • Contractor related factors

Construction project delays within the public sector in the UAE are also attributable to contractors. Some of the contractor-related issues include; lack of awareness and sufficient experience. There is also the issue of work burden whereby contractors are committing to more projects compared to their capacity. This problem is common among big construction companies. Despite having a large number of small construction companies with less than a million Dirhams in terms of capital, they are not awarded contracts or sub-contracts due to a lack of capacity.

  •  Consultant related factors.

Consultants are also involved in the experienced delays in project construction within the public sector. Some of the contractor related issues include; poor documentation, poor drawings, project design management approaches that are ineffective, and lack sufficient consultation expertise.

Construction project plan audits often detect quality issues that emanate from poor consultancy services. The need to develop the plan again to meet the required quality measures consumes time hence leading to delays. Consequently, there is a shortage of qualified project construction consultants compared to the number of customers seeking construction services. Customers have to queue for the services of a few consultants since critical aspects such as contract administration, quality affirmation, and project review cannot be overlooked.

  • External factors.

Also, there several external factors that are causing construction project delays in UAE. Examples include differences in legal processes, building strategies, external economic forces, cultural differences between contractors, workers, and clients, and contract disputes.

For instance, in UAE sharia laws permits visa application and work permits. This could lead to a myriad of legal problems as these laws are yet to be aligned to international laws such as the construction laws that are used to regulate construction work in free economic zones (FEZ).

There are also policies aiming to develop the local capacity whereby foreign construction companies are required to partner with local companies in any construction project. For instance in UAE, foreign companies are required to give not less than 51% of the project construction work to local companies. However, this partnerships are faced with various challenges due to differences in terms of technology, working procedures, and expertise. These differences militates against partnership relationships hence compromising the quality of projects as well lead to delays caused by time consumed to solve disputes or make clarifications from time to time.

Insights and solutions methodologies provide:

  • Model 1: stock-and-flow diagram (SD)

In this first model, has applied stock-and-flow outline process to analyze the problem. In this model, the construction project starts as stipulated in the plan that was certified by an expert. The initial project construction set of activities includes stakeholder meetings. Project stakeholders may include; the contractors, client, and local government representatives. These are the preliminary activities of the project life cycle. However, the goals is still to complete the project on time.

All the elements required for project completion are shown as “flow” with the end product being labeled “stock”. Meetings, for further clarification, have been found to consume a lot of time. Therefore, it is important that the entire process be developed prudently with any issues clarified by the construction group before the commencement of project construction. This will also ensure that non-hypothetical results are avoided and the project can be delivered on time (Bala, Arshad & Noh 2017).

  • Model 2: causal- loop- diagram (CLD)

The second model below illustrates the sequence of causal loop outline that contains a specific end goal to create a connection between parts or factors. The sequences of procedures have been represented showing a prospective shift in all the activities which may lead to delays during the construction of projects. The models shows the connection between a set of activities may cause unnecessary delays with the most elevated factors causing greater delays.

The model illustrates how these factors can be neutralized to deliver a viable output. As shown, when project variables are delayed, the project also delays, and vice versa.

The heart of the model depicts delays in construction and the factors leading to these delays as well as the relationship between the identified factors. For instance, delayed payments and shortages of qualified personnel lead to project constructions delays.

Additionally, these factors are multidimensional as they are also perpetuated by other factors thus forming a complex web of factors that militates against timely completion of construction projects. The causal loop diagram is of great essence as it can provide in-depth understanding for the stakeholders, particularly project managers on how the project construction delay can be avoided (Spector, et al. 2001).

  • Model 3:  The Soft System Methodology (SSM)

The SSM model has been used to describe the six-stage processes which are depended on the systems science in the following phases:

    1. Description of the problem

As explained above.

    2. Rich picture

The figure below is a pictorial representation of the answers to some of the questions that enhances problem analysis.

3. CATWOE investigation

CATWOE is an approach that is used to fortify the rationale of problem analysis. CATWOE, a framework for problem analysis, is an SSM tool for planning for all-inclusive root model of definition.

4. Root definition

According to CATWO, issue root analysis refers to a framework that guides the assembling of management tasks, develop mechanisms for countering or deterring factors that will lead to unnecessary delays in projects to ensure that the construction project is completed with the stipulated time.

5. Change model discourse

With the end product in mind, established answers and experience in construction of projects have been used by shading the pictorial representation in blue to illustrate circumstances that are inadvertently leading to project delays.  

6. Proposed actions

Task administrators can take the following actions in ensuring that projects are completed on time;

  • Development of delay controls for project administrators
  • Establish appropriate Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for tasks to ensure that the management is able to effectively monitor and evaluate ongoing construction project.
  • Development of an effective plan that incorporates public-private partnerships with best practices in project management.
  • Establishment of an advanced and comprehensive project administration framework.
  • Ensure that there is seamless coordination and organized flow of information amongst project stakeholders.

Evaluation of the methodologies

The system progression model concerning any project issue is powerful for project managers. This is because it enables them to analyze all issues and their variable relationships for the purposes of establishing effective solutions to the problem hence avoiding the problem of unnecessary delays.

Application of the systemic models and approaches have been lauded for their effectiveness in the creation of a set of arrangements that enhance the timely completion of the project. The next part of the report will provide clarification on how these models are used to explain any project-related issues and their solutions to ensure that desired results are achieved.

1. Rich picture

A pictorial representation or rich picture can be used by project managers for project problem analysis and the establishment of the required solutions. A pictorial representation is effective in ensuring that all stakeholders have in-depth knowledge of how the system operates. However, this approach suffers from one drawback, it is difficult to develop a visual representation of all problems that might be affecting a project (Sutrisha & Barrett, 2007). Therefore, regular updates are needed

2. Stock- flow- diagram

The stocks and flows is an essential thinking tool used to enhance operational thinking. It represents a typical structure of the system showing causal relationships leading to a particular behavior. It shows how various variables of the project changes from time to time.

This technique is used to evaluate all the variables of the system and their relations to provide a deeper understanding of the interrelationship of various tasks in the project. It can also be referred to as a causal relationship model. A deeper understanding of the causal relationships enables the management to establish areas where change is required (Bala et al., 2017)

3. Casual loop diagram

All the critical relationships in a project are illustrated in a causal loop diagram. This is a visual representation of essential variables such as factors, processes, and issues as well as their interconnectedness. Causal loop diagrams are of great importance in systems thinking because it enables stakeholders to have an enhanced understanding of the variable relationships. This is because these relationships are influence behaviors and outcomes that need to be understood in a project. Therefore, an enhanced understanding of these relationships is key in establishing where change is needed to achieve the desired outcomes.

4. Soft system methodology

The soft system methodology is employed in complex construction projects with multiple stakeholders. SSM forms are recommended in some cases as they can come up with tailored solutions for each issue of concern. The SSM model is the most effective approach for problem analysis in construction projects. This approach identifies a solution for a particular problem and a clear step by step guide toward solving the identified problem. Also, the SSM technique can be utilized at any stage of the project (Williams 1999).


After the consideration of a wide range of factors militating against the timely completion of construction of the project within the public sector in UAE, the report has been able to map out key factors that should be focused on. The report has also elucidated on issues related to key stakeholders such as contractors, clients, consultants, and the government. 

Also, the report has explained effective approaches for problem analysis in projects with the SSM being the most prominent approach. Therefore, the identified factors should be addressed before and even during the project. Lastly, the government and other key stakeholders should put more effort into promoting public-private partnerships in UAE, particularly in the construction sector.

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