Thursday, 12 July 2012 02:30
By caribarena news
Antigua St. John's - Prominent contractor Nicholas “Nick” Hadeed is questioning whether or not the Government of Antigua & Barbuda has considered the livelihood of local contractors in the signing of its multi-million dollar investment deal with UK construction firm Bau Panel Systems Ltd.
The Secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda Contractors Association posed this question as he attempted to analyze and possibly understand the facts behind the move.
Hadeed, like many others, questioned the rationale behind the company’s proposal to construct a factory in Antigua considering the cost of doing business here when compared to sister nations across the OECS and the wider Caribbean.
The veteran contractor suggested that the decision could have been made solely on the basis of the long term of the agreement entered into with the government (25-years), and most importantly the yet to be disclosed level of concessions that accompany the agreement. The initiative is projected to inject some $200 million into the local economy.
“Antigua is a very expensive place to operate and freighting is no exception,” Hadeed said. “The fact that they have chosen here is because of the permission to build low-income housing, which is the backbone of the operation. They have probably gotten good concessions.”
The contractor suggested that the company would be using the project here as the “jumping off point” for the use of their technologies in other territories.
What troubles Hadeed mostly, however, is not necessarily the quality of the homes that could be developed at the proposed price range of $135,000 to $400,000 but rather implications for local contractors and the local construction industry in general.
“What study was done to see how this affects the livelihood of local contractor?” Hadeed asked. “I believe that they (government) were so keen to get projects going that it seemed like a win-win situation without consideration of the impact,” Hadeed said.
He admitted that his suppositions were based on the usually limited information that comes from government on initiatives like these.
“I have no details to work on. No details on the arrangements and how the 5000 (overall homes) figure came into play and how it will be feasible,” Hadeed conceded.
He has, however, injected some known facts. For example, the number of projects approved by the Development Control Authority (DCA) hovers at around 400 annually during these past few years. Previous to that it stood in the region of 700 projects approved annually.
With that, Hadeed asks how it is that contractors are going to get by with a commitment of 200 projects annually to just one firm.
In the meantime public concerns have centered on the quality of homes that would be provided within the proposed price range and why the government did not spend its efforts encouraging contractors already on the ground, rather than reducing their slice of the pie.
“Why are they not using this initiative with local builders?” one Caribarena reader asked. “This is crazy, why this country cannot get anywhere, reduce import costs and any local builder can compete with this builder… I can assure you that when they are done, there will be no house for EC$135,000: maybe for US$135,000 - unless they intend to manufacture every piece of material that goes into building this house, and that is not feasible. That is what makes this outrageous,” the reader opined.