Bridging Continents, Q&A with Raouf Ghali, Hill International.
Founded in 1976, Hill International is today one of the top ten project and construction management firms in the world. Raouf Ghali, Hill’s Athens-based president of project management, speaks here on the company’s activities in the Middle East and Greece’s relations with the region.
Hill has been involved in some of the world’s great project over the last few years. Could you comment on a few?
Some of the iconic projects we have been involved in include Palm Island, which is a unique and globally recognized project. The Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, which unquestionably there will never be a second one like it, ever. The Latvia Library, which is also iconic and one-of-a-kind in the Baltic region. These are the three outstanding ones and there is one we are currently working on, the Grand Egyptian Museum, which is also a fascinating project.
What is the impact of Hill International in each country that it operates in?
Part of our success is that we try to add value to the countries construction industry professionals through training. To maintain Hill practices we recognize that key positions need to be mobilized from within the global resources, as this is how we add value.
Do the local cultures impact your work, projects or deadlines?
Of course they do and that is the challenge. By training locals, we learn from them and they learn from us and hopefully both of us gain from that interaction. The priority is always the project, delivering it within the objectives and meeting the shareholders expectations.
Hill is also the name behind the Doha and Riyadh Metros. How important is public transport now in the Middle East?
Mass transportation is probably the single most important item that the Middle East is investing in now. It was not a high priority until about five years ago because the population density, with the exception of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, was not there. The growth that the Middle East and the Gulf region wants to achieve and sustain needs mass population and mass transport, not just for moving people but also for moving goods. It is more efficient, and it is more environmentally friendly, a factor that is becoming increasingly important in the Middle East. So rail is a top priority of Middle Eastern governments presently. We see it in Oman, in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE. I believe that we eventually will see a Gulf Rail network established.
What are your objectives in 2015 and beyond?
Concerning Hill International, we have created an organization that is very dynamic. Our growth over the years is phenomenal. Not only were we able to grow, but we were also able to maintain the quality of service that we provide to clients. That is verified by the fact that we have repeat clients. In 2015 there is no desire to stop growing or slow down the growth, only a desire to continue and grow faster.
How important are close relations between Greece and the Middle East?
Greece has always been close to the Middle East. Now it is getting a lot of traction from potential investors coming in and it is opening the doors to investment. There are a lot of Greeks who, in recent years, have gone abroad. If you look at Greece’s history prior to the 2008 recession, Greeks did not need to travel abroad, there was enough work within the country. Since then, however, they have begun to venture out to different countries. Hill has about 90 Greeks working on our projects internationally. Many of them are in the Middle East and many have realized that the culture differences are not that great. It is significant because I think it is something that used to be there and is now re-initiating.