How did we get here?

07 March 2019 | Columns

There is not an iota of doubt that the economic pinch has bitten hard.

The construction industry is literally on its knees.

Jobs have been lost as government-funded projects either dried up or are awarded to international companies, particularly Chinese contractors who continue to dominate our construction industry.

In March last year it was already reported that nearly 17 000 people - mostly in construction and fishing - lost their jobs during 2016/17.

The jobs were shed due to retrenchments and the non-renewing of contracts, according to Affirmative Action figures submitted to the Employment Equity Commission (EEC). In the construction sector, 3 411 contracts were not renewed, while 913 jobs were lost due to retrenchments. These figures have surely spiked to a point of a crisis, as businesses continue to endure hard times due to a poor performing economy.

This extremely worrisome state of affairs led to a peaceful march by organised labour unions and the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) to highlight the plight of workers and the continuous overlooking of Namibian contractors, as foreign companies are preferred for most government projects.

During the demonstration workers, mostly under the banner of the Metal and Allied Namibian Workers Union (Manwu) and the private sector, were in agreement that capital projects should be awarded to local companies. We have in the past voiced our concerns regarding the lack of consideration for local companies when it comes to awarding huge state tenders. Our leaders have done little to appease this unflattering state of affairs, especially when it comes to advancing the interests of the country above that of foreign entities, particularly Chinese contractors.

As a result, China has positioned itself strategically in Namibia and the question remains whether its seizing of local contracts has really benefitted Namibians. We can never compromise on the fact that Namibia must come first, especially during this economic dry-spell, which has led to thousands of job losses across sectors.

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