The year 1997 marked the return of sovereignty over Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China. In the next five years, the economies of the Asia-Pacific region were hit by four calamities in rapid succession. In 1997, the Asian financial crisis erupted with adverse effects on Thailand, Indonesia, and to a lesser extent, Malaysia and South Korea. Even Hong Kong and Singapore were not spared.
With the dawn of the new millennium just as the regional economies started to recover, global terrorism struck at the financial district of New York. Repercussions soon followed with the wars in Afghanistan and then Iraq. In Southeast Asia, the 9/11 attack was echoed by terrorist bombs in Indonesia at Bali and Jakarta.
The Asia Pacific region was then hit by a viral infection which brought about Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), adversely impacting the economies of China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan. Disaster struck again in 2004 when tsunamis devastated entire coastal communities in Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka.
Not surprisingly, there was a substantial decline of the construction industry all across Southeast Asia. The number of staff in the P&T Group dropped from nearly 800 in 1996 to around 450 by 2004. This was a painful period of consolidation, and the firm relied for its survival on work that resulted from the rapid economic expansion in China.
Yet, in spite of these manmade and natural calamities, our offices in Southeast Asia and China showed remarkable resilience, and having benefited by consolidation, started expansion into the new markets of India, Vietnam and the Middle East. Luckily, this expansion has paid off handsomely, and we now have a substantial presence of just under 100 in three offices in the Middle East, and two offices in Vietnam. The phenomenal economic growth of China has given the practice a large portfolio of on-going projects, not just in the coastal cities, but lately also in the second tier inland cities. India is catching up quickly as the next Asian economic powerhouse and the company is seeing a growing list of commissions in Mumbai and other cities. As a result of this expansion at the end of 2009, the Group was 1,600 strong with 18 offices.