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Construction labour, services being imported, industry stakeholders concerned

Published:Friday | January 17, 2014 | 6:00 PM

KINGSTON, Jamaica:

Local players in the construction industry are raising concern about what they say is a crisis in the sector, which they believe is contributing to the current levels of crime in Jamaica.




The Incorporated Master Builders Association of Jamaica (IMAJ) says there’s been a progressive sidelining of local entities with almost all significant construction works being awarded to foreign-owned companies.



And it says in addition to importing construction services, the country is also importing construction labour.



The IMAJ says the negative results of this move towards using foreigners are manifold and demand attention if the current slide in Jamaica’s economy is to end.



According to the association, the slide in the economy over the last two decades mirrors the decline of the local construction industry.



In a media release president of the IMAJ, Carvel Stewart said despite the valiant efforts being made to combat crime only marginal gains will be achieved without higher levels of employment particularly in the construction industry.



He notes that unemployment drives crime and most of those who are without jobs are males aged 14-25.



He says this is the cohort which provides a large portion of semi-skilled and unskilled labour to construction.



Stewart also says unemployment in construction also contributes to the chaos on Jamaica’s roads from the plethora of legal and illegal taxi operators.



He says a large number of former construction workers have had to take to the roads as their means of earning a living.



Stewart also argues that there is little benefit for the country from the employment of foreign companies as they are often granted waivers and in some cases only as little as 15 per cent of earnings from the project are spent locally.



He wants the Government to immediately make amendments to its procurement rules to give local firms a better chance at securing works contracts.



He also says the government must ensure that bidding requirements do not effectively exclude local firms.



In addition he wants it to be made a requirement that foreign owned companies undertaking work in Jamaica associate with a similar Jamaican company which will participate in the project.



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