Contractors call for govt support policy

HARARE - Contracting firms say government should restore investors’ confidence and meet conditions of soon after 1980 when the country gained its independence, in order to address challenges bedevilling the construction sector.

Presenting a paper at the ZimBuild Summit, Zimbabwe Building Contractors Association representative Oliver Chidawu said corporates had failed to maintain a growth in capacity as a result of economic stagnation and hyperinflation between 2000 and 2008.

“The economic meltdown experienced during the last decade has eroded the gains that had happened during the first 20 years of independence,” he said.

“It is clear that most of the contractors were in the fragile phase of their development. Capacity was therefore lost with the contractors going back to their early years at independence,” said Chidawu, adding that those contractors who remained active, could not sustainably keep pace with the need to replace their equipment let alone remain in business.

He added that some contractors had folded up because of the economic challenges as their business models were substantially changed to a survival mode.

“People got involved in doing quick business for themselves compromising ethical conduct and many people left formal employment and got involved in many short-term opportunities for their own survival,” said Chidawu.

Some of the skilled personnel left the country for the Diaspora resulting in an unprecedented skills flight which left companies vulnerable.

He said local contractors had also not been spared by technological advancements that left them holding on to obsolete equipment.

“Technology has moved on and to remain competitive, contractors needed to keep pace with those developments,” he said.

“It becomes difficult for the contractors to match efficiency levels achieved by those companies that have been able to keep pace with technological developments,” he said.

However, the situation changed after the adoption of a multi-currency regime in 2009, where the same contractors who had been decimated by the economic meltdown were expected to participate meaningfully in the economy.

Chidawu said the lack of funding from the financial services sector was also negatively impacting on the sector.

“Contractors are not asking for handouts but for support in equipping themselves and getting the necessary support for working capital,” said adding that project funds must be found for contractors to meaningfully participate in the economic activity of the country.

He added that it was fundamental that contractors be allowed space to grow and compete on an equal footing with foreign firms.

Chidawu concluded that there was not one critical challenge that can be addressed on its own that would make contractors to be successful but a combination of solutions to these challenges.

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