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Construction Sector on Brink of Collapse
As a contractor who has been in the business for over 20 years in T&T, I have never before seen such a volatile situation that faces us today. There are two issues which I urge all stakeholders, in particular this “government of change,” to address. The first is the late and/or non-payment of professionals and contractors by state agencies and state-owned enterprises. The impact of this is a viscous cycle in that contractors cannot meet their own obligations to their subcontractors and suppliers. The reality is that today in T&T, numerous contractors, suppliers and professionals cannot pay salaries and wages. I urge the Government to contact all local financial institutions and have them confirm that numerous contractors and subcontractors have exhausted their overdraft facility and simply cannot continue.
The reality now facing so many of us today is that we may have to close our businesses and send everyone home. We simply cannot continue without the settlement of these outstanding payments from so many state agencies and enterprises. I urge the Government to initiate a debt recovery act similar to Sweden which has improved overdue payments. Simple legislation was enacted giving the creditor a right to debt recovery compensation where companies paying late must add eight per cent above Central Bank rates. The second issue is the lack of work to sustain the architects, engineers and contractors in T&T today.
Despite the so-called mega road projects, the fact remains that many professionals and contractors are on the brink of collapse. The work is simply not there to sustain the staff and other overheads that are required to keep our businesses open. One has to ask whether the Government is out of touch with the reality of what is facing the construction industry today. There appears to be two key issues that need to be considered urgently by the Government to ensure that the construction sector is quickly revived:
n The Government must start to spend money. The apparent approach of the Government to curtail the spending of the previous administration by simply not spending is not a sustainable option. The reality of large unemployment in the construction sector is fast becoming the norm here in T&T. In The Government must have a plan in place for what it intends to build/deliver over the next four years and be able to present this to the public. At the moment the Government does not seem to have a plan which outlines the priority projects over the next four years and, more importantly, how they will get built and be paid for. We are tired of tendering for projects which simply never get started.
I urgently call on the Joint Consultative Council for the Construction Industry, the Profes- sional Engineering Association, the Institute of Architects, the Contractors Association, the Chamber of Industry and Commerce and the T&T Manufacturers Association to lobby the Government to ensure that pubic funds are disbursed in a timely manner and that the Government revitalises the construction sector, which is on the brink of collapse.
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