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Experts' view

ECONOMY

Ryan Emmett, RICS

We have seen some recovery in private nonhousing construction over the past 12 months, most notably in industrial building as the world economy has strengthened. Still, the balance of activity remains largely weighted towards public sector-driven work.

In house building, there has been a renewed surge in both private and public sectors and, despite a number of high profile projects, infrastructure work remains fairly subdued. Overall, we expect steady and moderate growth in the industry over the next 18 months with public nonhousing continuing as the main hub of activity. Stronger growth in commercial building should, however, be apparent by mid-2005.

James Hastings, Experian Business Strategies

We expect growth in construction to slow this year and next, although expansion will still remain well above that seen in the first two years of this decade. This year should see growth slowing to 3.4 per cent, dipping to 2.7 per cent in 2005 - when it will drop below GDP growth - before increasing slightly to 3 per cent in 2006. The industry continues to be restrained by weak private sector demand. The poor south of England office market has dragged down commercial construction and, despite an improving manufacturing industry, it may be some time before this translates into construction. Even the buoyant private housing sector is set to slow down after this year. But public spending is likely to remain high at least until the election and maintain strong growth this and next year, before tailing off gradually.