T&T ‘Building industry on brink of collapse’

(Trinidad Guardian) The state of emergency, coupled with curfew restrictions, is the last straw for T&T’s suffering construction industry, according to Mervyn Chin president of the T&T Contractors Association (TTCA). He said the industry had quickly moved from overheating in its boom period (2007-8) under the Patrick Manning administration, to stagnation from global economic shocks in 2008 and negative growth of the T&T economy. Add to that, he said, the Government was still owing contractors payment for public sector works. Chin painted a gloomy picture of the construction industry at the TTCA’s year-end awards ceremony at Hilton Trinidad on Saturday. “The building industry cannot afford another year of stagnation, as already, it is on the brink of collapse,” he said.

He added that the state of emergency had negatively impacted on productivity of the sector by limiting hours of work, and losses suffered by the private sector, as a result, would most likely curtail any planned expansion in the immediate future. On the issue of the Government’s debt to contractors, Chin said: “Outstanding debt by the Government has been relieved somewhat with Minister of Finance Winston Dookeran, in a post-budget interview, stating that the outstanding debt was reduced to approximately 40 per cent, which we value at approximately $500 million. “Notwithstanding, we cannot identify where in the current budget settlement of the balance is allocated,” he said.

“We are still hopeful every effort will be made by Government to settle this matter, which will bring much welcomed relief to hard-pressed contractors and, by extension, the manufacturers, suppliers, workers in general and their families, as well as the banking industry.” Chin said a key feature of the construction sector returning to vibrancy and profitability was the Government meaningfully inviting local content and participation to work on large projects. “Looking further ahead, I have no objection to foreign participation in mega projects if it is the will of the Government,” he said. “However, meaningful local content and participation are a must to overcome present stagnation. “I caution if future developments by foreign participation exclude the local fraternity, then the Government will be paying the cost and more due to attendance for displaced locals through social support.”

He said implementation of expenditure under the Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP) and State Enterprises Investment Programme (SEIP) should be done in a productive manner to create employment and positive benefits. Chin said TTCA welcomed the strategy announced in the budget by the Minister of Finance of having established a P3 Unit—Public-Private Partnership—towards a useful investment strategy to involve private sector to assist in the Government’s goal towards efficiency and achievement. Last Tuesday, the High Commission of Canada and the International Finance Corporation held its Public-Private Partnership seminar to share the Canadian’s P3 experience at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad hotel, Port-of-Spain.


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