By Sunimalee Dias
Ex-combatants and war widows in the North and East are now trained to boost the local construction industry in providing for capacity building.
With the current tendency being for design, build and transfer with funding being brought in by the contractor, a concept adopted worldwide however, it is accepted that there is limited scope for Sri Lanka in terms of infrastructure development, Chamber of Construction Industry (CCI) Secretary General/CEO Dhakshita Talgodapitiya told the Daily FT during an interview.
In this respect it was highlighted that if local contractors were to be deployed in accelerated programmes then they must have a larger capacity.
Currently there are two major programmes underway for the training of 7000 craftsmen in the Mannar and Vavuniya Districts and about 5000 in Batticaloa that commenced in August/September.
These programmes are aimed at creating awareness at the local level and carrying out gender surveys. In respect of gender concerns, the programmes are also targeting war widows in a bid to bring in a gender balance. These are being assisted by USAID and funded by the government of Germany through the GTZ.
As part of the rapid capacity building drive of the North and East construction contractor, the CCI aims at providing collaborative arrangements with local and foreign companies through joint ventures.
Talgodapitiya pointed out the need to change the mindset among the regional construction contractors to facilitate formation of consortia by pooling scarce resources and obtaining pre-qualifications through consolidation.
The next stage of development is training of middle level technicians, technical officers and managerial staff. This programme will be launched on 1 November for construction development in the Eastern Province in Batticaloa and Ampara targeting 96 SMEs engaged in the construction industry while also small time contractors amounting to about 130 in the North. "We have noted a similar approach being adopted
in countries such as South Africa where marginalised communities have been provided with facilities and opportunities to play an increasingly important role in development," Talgodapitiya said.
Trincomalee has one major contractor out of the 138 registered; while in Ampara there are only 6 major contractors out of 101 contractors; and in Batticaloa only 8 out of the 90 contractors who could be classified as major contractors.
In the Northern region covering Jaffna, Vavuniya, Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu out of 137 registered contractors only 4 construction companies have been graded as major contractors.
"These figures amply demonstrate the need to aggressively address the issue of developing regional construction industries in the conflict affected areas," he said.
"I have seen a kind of growth in the construction industry in the North and the East," he explained adding that it was imperative to engage them in the main development drive.
However, the chamber CEO observed that with only four construction companies in the North falling within the classification 'major contractors' there is a "big need to develop smaller players in the Northern Province."
He noted that it was crucial to attract more Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) with the aim of reaching the present or anticipated growth of 8% of large scale development which is a necessity.
The CCI has been advocating the need to deploy regional contractors on infrastructure development and construction related projects in the respective regions.This becomes increasingly important in the context of conflict transformation, which will inevitably result in the accrual of benefits of development to the people of the area.