For the construction industry to benefit from the projects outlined in the 2013 budget, there must be proper procurement legislation. Without this, only a few will benefit instead of the wider construction industry. Managing director of Structural and Mechanical Agencies Mikey Joseph said this in a telephone interview. Last week Monday’s budget which outlined the hope for a construction boom, named several government projects such as road and highway works, government buildings, schools, courts and airports, as well as projects in Tobago.
The budget, which also gave several tax incentives to land developers, allocated approximately $3.5 billion to the Ministry of Housing, Land and Marine Affairs, almost double the $1.9 billion allocated in 2012. “There needs to be proper procurement legislation, and it needs to be enforceable, transparent and demand full accountability and value for money,” said Joseph. Joseph said he did not see another construction boom for some time.
“The indicators are not there. The world economy is down and the only thing that keeps T&T booming is the energy sector,” Joseph said.
He said the construction industry is at a standstill, down to 30 per cent capacity from 2008. Joseph said also many contractors are owed money, so even if they wanted to take advantage of the incentives and develop, they might not have the resources to do so. Commenting on the offer of 150 per cent rebate for employment of the Community-based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme (CEPEP) and Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) workers, Joseph said it would be challenging.
“They want you to hire people who are not used to working eight hours a day. “How do you identify a CEPEP or URP worker? Do they have badges. That is another transparency issue.” Joseph said the measures outlined in the budget provided opportunities but would require a lot of creativity to work.
Chairman of NH international Emile Elias felt much of what the Finance Minister had said depended on his colleague ministers bringing forward specific projects which would create more buoyancy in the construction sector.“I am assuming he means the local construction sector, because we are hearing some disturbing rumours that, once again, Chinese contractors are being given projects without tenders, either on the basis of government-to-government or otherwise,” said Elias.
He said this would be distressing as it would create work for Chinese workers only and because all the products would come from China and all the money would go back to China. Elias hoped the minister could bring a “level of discipline” to his colleagues and that some of the projects coming forward, such as police stations, the Point Fortin hospital and the Couva Children’s Hospital would come out to tender to local contractors.
He was happy to see the increase in allocation to the Housing Ministry.
“We know that most of the housing, if not all, generates a lot of activity with local suppliers and local contractors. If some of these projects could be crystallised then there would be some buoyancy in the sector. I would not describe it as a boom.” Elias said the tax measures for those who developed and sold housing for under $1.5 million were a positive move for the middle class.