DREAMS AND REALITY

What could be better than a cheque handed over, on time, at the end of a completed contract? Possibly the prospect of work for the next few decades on a mega-billion rand project that would most definitely take its place in the history books – one way or another.

John Matthews, President, Master Builders South Africa

Both seemed to be possibilities from the very bullish State of the Nation address by President Ramaphosa late in June, when, together with his reference to the private sector’s commitment to invest R840 billion over the next five years, for a range of projects, he also said he dreamed of an entirely new city to meet the so-called fourth industrial revolution.

There is no doubt that a multi-billion rand injection from any source, has the potential to meet the promise of 155 000 new jobs he described, which will  have a spin-off for the building industry both in terms of capital and employment. But the dream of a massive new city, complete with skyscrapers, had many South Africans expressing reservations about its feasibility, in spite of the President’s strong motivation and some high-profile global precedents.

However, right now, one of the biggest stumbling blocks to the health of the building industry in South Africa (among the other industries servicing the private and public sector) is the less than prompt payment for work done. As I have discussed in earlier Comments, industry leaders are consistently addressing this difficulty at every corporate and government level, to the point where a discussion on the subject is on the cards with the President himself.

Because good and bad practices have a distinct knock-on effect – non-payment by clients both public and private to their primary contractors, means that the next level of service providers doesn’t get paid and the dominoes start to fall.

One can be encouraged by Mr Ramaphosa’s strongly-articulated intention to create an ethical government – which can only in practice imply that the State will, among others, meet its commitments to contracts with service providers, that include timeous payments for work done.

Another perennial preoccupation for the industry is Health and Safety, the major emphasis on which dates back to 1964, when regions first took part in a national competition and it was extended to two categories – Building and Allied Trades.

Today it remains one of the big events on our calendar and is competed in 10 different categories with up to 50 regional Association winners entered into the national competition. Independent auditors have just been appointed for this year and the list of all entries from the regions has been finalised. The outcomes will be interesting and vitally important to this aspect of our industry

We have much on our minds at the moment and notwithstanding the lofty dreams of our country’s leader, we remain in a state of uncertainty.

John

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