Plans by Nipdec to spend $2 billion this year in the construction of buildings throughout the country will have a positive impact on job creation in the sector, said Nipdec chairman Hamlyn Jailal. “I think it is important people are aware of this because you hear the comments about the construction sector,” said Jailal, 53, who was installed as chairman in May 2012. “I’m sure things are happening at the Urban Development Company of T&T (Udecott), but I can only speak of Nipdec, and there are projects we’ve already engaged people already, so very soon, we will have public tenders for the construction aspect. “I did a rough calculation before you came, and we’re looking at more than $2 billion for projects that will be awarded and start this year. (You need to ask him how will they pay for this work) We have rigid timelines. “The Attorney General’s office (corner, Irving and Sutton Streets, San Fernando) will start this year; the Detention Centre (Carib Street, San Fernando) will start this year, the Motor Vehicle Authority (Frederick Settlement, Caroni), will start this year,” said Jailal, who was interviewed last Friday at Nipdec’s offices, St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain.
He said funding for these projects will come from Nipdec’s clients: government ministries.
Among the dozen-plus projects Nipdec is currently working on are:
• Nipdec has engaged consultants for the construction of a Meteorological Services Complex (at Piarco)
• Consultants have been engaged for a Meteorological Office in Tobago.
• Consultants have been engaged for the construction of a six-storey building on the site of the old National Broadcasting Network (NBN) building, Abercromby Street, Port-of-Spain.
• Engaged consultants to build a south Office of the Attorney General. That’s now at the design stage.
• An immigration detention centre at Carib Street, San Fernando. Four consultants have been engaged.
• A judicial complex in Carlsen Field.
• A magistrate’s court in Trincity.
“We’ve gone out for tender for the Motor Vehicle Authority at Frederick Settlement, Caroni, a very big project, where, hopefully, you’ll no longer have to spend half a day to get your permit renewed; it will be ten to 15 minutes. That’s a design/build. That’s a very big project of the Ministry of Transport. “It’s a transformational kind of project in terms of what it’s going to do to this country. The idea is there will be nine access centres throughout the country: Arima, Chaguanas, San Fernando, Pt Fortin, Tobago. “You’ll have a good distribution so people won’t have to travel long distances to have their permit renewed, etc. That project is very much on. We’re currently in the process of engaging international consultants for that project,” said Jailal, who was previously Nipdec’s deputy chairman. Nipdec, which is also the procurement agency for the Programme for Upgrading Roads Efficiency (PURE), on June 14 closed tenders for the acquisition of 100 compressed natural gas (CNG) buses.
Thirty-five will be purchased in the first phase. Twenty companies bought the package. Twelve tendered.
‘Wrong approach’ to Riverwoods project
The Riverwoods housing project was a Nipdec initiative. Prospective homeowners made downpayments on Nipdec’s Riverwoods housing project since March 2006. One frustrated homeowner said in a letter to the media in 2009 that delivery date for his unit was expected to be in March 2007. He did not get his house in that time, but he did get six letters from Nipdec, a subsidiary of the National Insurance Board (NIB), indicating the delivery date had changed. Six years later, the project remains incomplete. Asked on Friday what went wrong at Riverwoods, Jailal said: “Multiple problems. I think the biggest problem at Riverwoods is the approach was wrong. It was not given to one contractor. They tried to probably generate and promote and give small businessmen opportunities. So, for example, you hired a separate plumber, you hired a separate electrician, a mason, a gentleman to do your roof. “To me, for a project of that size, that was a recipe for disaster. If you are building your own house, that could work, but when you have 200-plus units and you adopt that approach, it was a recipe for disaster.
“I really feel sorry for the residents. It was unfair what they had to go through. All I can say is we are actively engaging NIB and we have met in the last month on a number of occasions where we have submitted a detailed plan to NIB to see if we can bring closure to all of those units. We’re waiting on their response. Some of these units have been lying idle for a year or two.
“We have submitted a detailed, unit by unit, proposal on what is required to bring them up to living standard, and we are waiting on word.” According to Nipdec’s March 18, 2011 report: “The Riverwoods gated community was planned to comprise of 274 units (147 single residential units and 127 townhouse units on 50 acres at D’Abadie. “Construction works on all 147 resident units have been completed. Only outfitting and finishing works are ongoing,” the report stated. Nipdec said it advised its client, the National Insurance Board, that the townhouses should not be constructed at this point as the existing market rates would not support the proposed selling price. “A joint committee, including members of Nipdec and NIB, has been appointed to oversee the completion of the project, which is expected to be completed by August 2011. The committee meets once per fortnight,” the report stated.
Asked about his predecessor Calder Hart, who suddenly left Trinidad in March 2010, Jailal was ever the gentleman, kind to a fault. “I never met the gentleman. We came here and met a system and we will build on it. I don’t want to look back and condemn the man.” Throughout the hour-long interview, Jailal said repeatedly said Nipdec is a business which gets no government handouts, and generates its own revenues. He spoke of reviewing Nipdec’s management structure. “There’s now a general manager, head of pharmaceuticals. When I came on board, there was no head of legal services, although we had lawyers attached to the organisation.” Heads of finance, property development and human resource have been appointed. On June 25, Lynford Cheddie, who has a degree in mechanical engineering and a masters in project management, will assume the role of general manager. Cheddie worked at ArcellorMittal Pt Lisas Ltd as a general manager of utilities and engineering division. Fifty-three people applied for the general manager’s job, which Jailal figured had much to do with Nipdec’s attractive compensation packages. “When I came here, I did not meet a strat (strategic) plan. Right now, we are engaging to come up with one for Nipdec. “As a board, we want to leave a legacy to lift the bar at Nipdec, so those who come after will meet a solid foundation, so there is a bit of restructuring that we are looking at.”
About Hamlyn Jailal:
Jailal was a teacher long before he ventured into business. He grew up in Carapo, but attended Presentation College in Chaguanas. At age 19, having sat Ordinary and Advanced Level exams, he needed a job and was assigned to Belmont Secondary School, where he taught English, history and geography for four years. Then he did a bachelor’s degree in history with social sciences at the University of the West Indies (UWI), before teaching English and history for two years at his alma mater. Without going into details, Jailal said an opportunity presented itself for him to attend the private Ambassador University in Los Angeles, California, from which he obtained an associate degree in communications and a degree in theology. He also got a certificate in public speaking. Typing, music, sports were compulsory in the degree in communications. “It prepared you for the real world. The emphasis wasn’t on heavy academics as it was at the UWI. When I reflect now, I value that training. I don’t know how many men can type,” he said, with a laugh, “but I value that skill now.” “Here’s a Trinidadian who understood Indian culture and Carnival, now developing an appreciation for Mozart and Beethoven. At that university, leading bands from around the world performed, including the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.”
He said students who were on a waiting list for US$300 tickets got those when patrons didn’t show. “It was a very special experience, broadening your horizons and experience of first world culture,” Jailal said. “When I came back to Trinidad, I got involved in business and I have remained in business. It was essentially import business. I have diversified into real estate, investment, procurement. I’ve been a businessman for the last 25 years.” Jailal was at this point asked about his compensation package as Nipdec chairman. He said the position is “national service.” “I don’t have a company credit card and I don’t want one. I don’t have a company vehicle and I don’t want one. I’m very, very careful of those things.” About the actual compensation package, Jailal said in accepting such a position, the payment doesn’t complement the demands of the job.
Why did you take this job? “There are a few reasons. At age 53, I’m happily married, I have two young daughters, one is a medical doctor, one is at Hugh Wooding Law School. I don’t know if there’s a perfect time to serve country, but it is as good a time for me. I always feel it is an honour and a privilege to give back.” He said while the job is very challenging, it is also rewarding. “I feel this is my small way of giving back something to my country. Probably, I didn’t expect it to be so demanding. At the end of the day, the buck stops with who’s the captain, who’s the head. “If it goes well, the chairman and the board will get credit, but when it goes wrong, it’s the chairman who carries the blame.”