Trinidad and Tobago will not begin to see the economic benefits of the construction thrust announced in the 2012/2013 budget until the end of next year, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Contractors Association (TTCA Mervyn Chin has said.
He made the pronouncement during a recent interview as he reacted to statements by Finance Minister Larry Howai, whose October 1 budget presentation identified public-private sector (PPP) partnerships on infrastructure projects as a strategy for stimulating economic growth.
Howai previously told reporters that a list of ten projects for the PPP initiative should be made available to the private sector in November.
Chin welcomed the PPP model as a much-needed shot in the arm for the stagnant construction sector, but warned that the public must receive a realistic timeline in which these gains would materialise.
"I think the Minister of Finance when he said these things will happen in 2013, he should have been a little clearer. It will happen in the latter part of 2013," Chin said. "The proposal will take some time because you need to identify land, you need to identify an appropriate design, you have to cost it, you have to get financiers to partner with you and put this whole proposal (together). By the time you do that on a significant project — say of $100 million and up — six to eight months would pass you by."
At the same time, Chin is advising Government to bring these projects on-stream in a phased manner to avoid a spike in the price of raw materials.
"We have been stagnant for the last two years. We don't want to overheat over the next fiscal year. All that will do is raise prices and create chaos. We need to have them (the projects) sensibly spaced out," Chin warned. "You need to understand that a lot of people who got displaced in construction had to earn a living somehow over the last two years. If they do come back, they will come back gradually, because they were hurt and they were hurt badly."
Even as Government presents the PPP model as a means of stimulating economic growth, the TTCA is appealing for an explicit pledge from Government that local contractors would get the lion's share of projects to be made available to private entities.
"I anticipate the invitation for the (PPP) model is open to both foreign and local (contractors). However when the Minister of Finance says 'I need to get locals to prosper', how are locals going to prosper if they are not employed?" Chin asked.
Citing the mantra "time is money", Chin also advised Government to address inefficiencies in the bureaucratic processes of the public service before embarking on a construction programme with the private sector.