by Charmaine Ngatjiheue

THE CONSTRUCTION industry faces huge challenges in completing a number of projects.

PROJECTS STIFLED … Despite Namibia being in stage 3 of the lockdown exit plan, the construction industry is faced with raw material shortages as a result of a backlog in imports. Namibia imports about 80% of its raw material from South Africa, and with import backlogs, the construction of many local projects has been delayed. Photo: Garwin Beukes

Stakeholders in the sector have called for pooling resources together to tackle the challenges the sector is facing.

Speaking at the Covid-19 communication centre yesterday experts said despite Namibia being in stage 3 of the lockdown exit plan, the industry still experienced raw material shortages as a result of a backlog in imports.

Namibia imports about 80% of its raw materials from South Africa, and with import backlogs, the construction of local projects has been delayed.

Mwiitumwa Mungandi, deputy director of architectural services at the Ministry of Works and Transport, said the Covid-19 pandemic was unexpected and had negatively impacted the construction of certain government projects.

He said work at different sites had to come to a standstill and delays are still experienced despite Namibia moving to stage 3.

“All work at the sites has come to a standstill, and despite stage 3, the industry is not working at an optimal level because of raw materials being imported at a slow pace,” he said.

He said if the Covid-19 related delays are prolonged, the money budgeted for these projects will be returned to treasury.

Mungandi said the ministry has come up with guidelines to ensure the industry mitigates the effect of Covid-19.

This would include preventing the spread of the disease and adhering to health guidelines.

National Housing Enterprise spokesperson Eric Libongani said because of the Covid-19 outbreak the construction sector needs to collaborate and come up with concerted efforts to deal with the challenges it faces.

He said prior to Covid-19, the NHE had not met its housing target because of slow land delivery by local authorities, including serviced land.

The biggest challenge for the enterprise is meeting demand, because land is not easily available, he said.

“Our target is 1 000 units annually, but the land delivery from local authorities is not in tandem with our set targets. Despite these challenges, N$167 million has been invested with over 400 houses constructed last year. However, in relation to our resources, we are meeting our targets, but many could argue we are not meeting them,” he said.

The Construction Industry Federation’s general manager Bärbel Kirchner said it is essential for the industry to keep going and avoid retrenchments, while complying with the set regulations and guidelines.

Kirchner said the construction industry is now fully operational with the exception of the Erongo region which had to return to stage 1.

She said: “We have approached works and transport to establish a task force to get the sector active again, involving local companies. Our people are faced with cash flow issues, although this was partially addressed by the stimulus packages from the government in terms of the payment of VAT returns.”

Kirchner called for the introduction of the National Construction Council to allow the sector to be properly regulated and to address issues such as tenderpreneurs, and for enabling construction projects to be allocated equitably.

She urged the government to assist the sector through three-year corporate tax reductions and the reduction of pay-as-you-earn tax.

“Procurement regulations need to be set up to help secure funds in our industry to remain in our country and be able to contribute to revenue,” she said.

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