Introducing Leaders – Greece & the Middle East Initiative
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.
Introducing Leaders: Hill has been involved in some of the world’s greatest projects over the last few years. Could you comment on a few?
Raouf Ghali: Some of the iconic projects we have been involved in include Palm Island, which is a unique and globally recognised project; The Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, which unquestionably there will never be another like it; and the National Library of Latvia (known as the ‘Castle of Light’), which is also iconic and one-of-a-kind in the Baltic region. We are currently working on the Grand Egyptian Museum, another fascinating project.
IL: Hill is also the name behind the Doha and Riyadh Metros. How important is public transport now in the Middle East?
Raouf Ghali: 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 for 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.
IL: How important are close relations between Greece and the Middle East?
Raouf Ghali: 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 realised that the cultural differences are not that great. It is significant because I think it is something that used to be there and is now re-initiating.
IL: What is the impact of Hill International in each country that it operates in?
Raouf Ghali: Part of our success is that we try to add value. As far as the country is concerned, we train and use locals in order to get into their culture and add value, not just to the community but to the project.