It is therefore unfortunate and not unexpected that our attendance as well as media coverage of the Construction Summit held last week in Midrand has been drowned out and overtaken by other bigger national events beyond our control as alluded to above.
Our previous theme of “Courage and resilience in the face of adversity” could not be more relevant under these circumstances. It is therefore important that we do not lose sight of the positive intent and beneficial impact of the Voluntary Rebuilding Programme (VRP); and associated Declaration of Integrity (DoI) that was the predominant subject of the Construction Summit as a potentially strategic tool for the advancement of transformation in our industry/sector.
Master Builders South Africa affirmed its commitment to this new covenant as a blueprint and strategic road map for real, meaningful and sustainable transformation in our sector. While we acknowledge that it is not a perfect document, its foundational and ground-breaking aspects cannot be ignored. It is therefore up to all role players as well as all interested and affected parties to play their part in the realisation of its vision, objectives and “desired end-state” for the benefit of the industry as a whole.
We remain steadfast in our belief that the VRP together with the new Preferential Procurement Regulations and the imminent Construction Sector Charter Codes will deepen and accelerate transformation in the construction industry bearing in mind that transformation is a long-term project.
It was also heartening to read that the FNB/BER Building Confidence Index improved for the third consecutive quarter, rising by 3 points to 43 in 1Q2017, marking the highest confidence in more than a year. However, even though confidence improved, the current level of the index indicates that the majority (close to sixty per cent) of respondents are dissatisfied with prevailing business conditions. The investment downgrade will most certainly exacerbate this sentiment unfortunately.
This will no doubt undermine confidence in the public infrastructure build programme operating under the slogan “Turn South Africa into a Construction Site” considering that public expenditure accounts for about 55% of total construction expenditure. This is also against a 14% decline in total capital expenditure in 2016 by State-Owned Entities.
It was therefore somewhat reassuring to also read the findings of the inaugural Afrimat Construction Index which suggests that construction activity in South Africa is not as depressed as suggested by the media, large construction firms or industry analysts.
This study supports Afrimat’s argument over the last five years that construction is healthier than many people believed. This bodes well for the future despite recent political and economic setbacks by which we must not be overly panicked but remain resolute and focused; difficult as that may be under the currently over-charged political, social and economic environment of volatility, uncertainty, unpredictability, complexity and instability compounded by low growth.
I am reminded at this time of one of my favourite poems, “If” by Rudyard Kipling. “…If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run…” Have a blessed and safe Easter. Let’s unite around Freedom Day to reclaim the promise heralded by the dawning of our new nation in 1994.
Bafikile Bonke Simelane