Bloodbath in construction sector

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Tiri Masawi

Windhoek - Namibia and South Africa have lost a combined 60,000 jobs in the construction sector in the past six months as a brutal mix of economic and new coronavirus-related factors take their toll.

Construction formally and informally employs tens of thousands of people and is a major economic driver in the two countries.

According to a new report from the Southern African Steel and Engineering Federation (SASEF), “Given that that the recently published gross domestic product figures of the fourth quarter of 2019 to the first quarter of 2020 confirmed a stagnant demands environment, the decease in employment for the same period correlates with structural faced by the South African industrial production.”

While South Africa’s construction industry shed off 28 000 jobs, the sector in Namibia lost an estimated 30,000 jobs – half the workforce – according to that country’s Construction Industry Federation.

Construction Federation of Namibia Spokesperson Barbel Kirscher said the situation was dire, and pleaded for government financial support.

“There is an obvious a need for government and those that owe project managers in the construction industry to speed up owed payments as this will go a long way in saving the companies that are in the industry from sinking deeper into financial trouble,” she said.

Kircher said while the global COVID-19 pandemic had certainly taken its toll as operations have been scaled down as per lockdown and social distancing requirements, the problems bedevilling the sector in Namibia had been going on for about four years now.

Director of architectural services in Namibia’s Works and Transport Ministry, Mwitumwa Mungandi, weighed in: "Reduced government expenditure has drastically reduced capacity in the construction industry because traditionally most of the projects in that sector are driven by public spending.”

Namibia’s construction sector has not been helped by the government’s cuts in project spending. Governments are traditionally major construction financers, particularly in emerging economies, via development infrastructure spending.

 

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