Fear and confusion has clouded players in the construction industry as they fail to comprehend the root cause for the industry’s collapse.
The construction industry was hit hard by the 2008 recession and has not been able to revitalize, with calls being made to revive the industry to no avail.
“The industry is burdened with a lot of problems that seem to have no solution and the industry is now in shambles,” said one key player in the construction industry (name withheld).
He said they are appealing to government to be honest with them on what is going on with the industry. Last year, the Botswana Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Manpower (BOCCIM) appealed to the government to bail the industry out with some work to do, to keep the industry going. To date nothing concrete has been done to revive the industry.
The criterion used in awarding of tenders and the issuance of work permits are the major issues that have crippled the industry amongst other issues. He said government is conscious of the fact that majority of the experts in the industry are predominantly foreigners; surprisingly, the majority have been denied work permits by the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs.
“We have lost a sizeable number of engineers, architects, artisans, contractors and it’s not possible to bring these people back,” he said.
He said big companies, like BJ Bolus Construction Company, have felt the pinch and have since scaled down. As such many people have lost their jobs and other companies are closing.
“It is devastating for many people are left without payment and devastating for workers left without entitlements and jobs, and also devastating in terms of confidence in the industry,” he said, adding that this race to the bottom is having dire consequences on subcontractors, many of whom are small businesses and their employees, the Government must act now.
Further on, calls were made in June 2012 on why government was delaying in using the P1.8billion allocated for maintenance work. Promises were made that tenders would be advertised for maintenance work.
“Government promised to engage us in some of their maintenance work but we are now approaching end of year, no tender has been given to us,” he said, adding that the industry is dead because there is nothing for the private sector in terms of new projects and now maintenance work is not coming through.
“What is surprising is that they apply for tenders but they don’t know what happens to those tenders,” he added.
The situation has worsened because government has shelved most of its projects and is now focusing on maintenance work. “The way the construction industry is going down is strangling the economy,” he said.
He pointed out that what is shocking is the Bank of Botswana report, which states that the construction industry has grown by 25 percent contrary to the situation on the ground. “We don’t know where they are getting those statistics, as far as we are concerned the industry has collapsed,” he said.
Sometime this year, the Botswana Institute of Development Policy Analysis established that the regulatory instruments in the construction industry are outdated with serious loopholes.
“Enough is enough; our jobs and our industry are in a crisis,” he said.