The President of the Botswana Confederation of Commerce Industry and Manpower, Alex Monchusi, last week begged President Ian Khama to come up with a stimulus package to revitalize the ailing construction industry.
Speaking at a High Level Consultative Council meeting last week, Monchusi said the construction industry is the worst affected by the prevailing difficult economic conditions.
“Many companies have shed jobs and scaled down while others have closed shop. We call on government to consider an immediate stimulus package for the construction sector. This is particularly in view of this industry’s potential to create many jobs for Batswana,” he said.
Such a stimulus package would include fast tracking maintenance and renovation works, reactivating suspended projects, and advancing design work on planned projects.
Monchusi also asked government to unbundle large projects and use the Economic Diversification Drive to breathe life into the construction industry.
Monchusi’s comments come at a time when most local construction companies have closed shop, saying they have been edged out of business by foreign companies, especially the Chinese.
The Minister of Infrastructure and Technology, Johnnie Swartz, recently revealed that Chinese companies enjoy the largest share of government’s construction and procurement projects, which are currently valued at over P20 billion. Some of the massive projects include the Morupule B Power Station, construction of major dams in the northern part of the country, and the expansion of airports in Gaborone, Maun, Kasane and Francistown.
When analyzing the 2011/2012 national budget earlier this year, the Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organizations (BOCONGO) warned that government will not attain economic diversification and international competitiveness if development projects are enjoyed by foreign companies.
“There is limited skills transfer from foreigners to locals in the construction industry.
This leads to more and more foreigners coming into the country with the excuse of lack of skilled domestic labour,” read the BOCONGO report.
In defense, the China Enterprises Association has argued that they cannot be accused of any wrong doing as they tender for jobs just like any other company. They also said the participation of Chinese companies renders a competitive market oriented tendering process, which results in massive cost savings for government.