SA's Infrastructure programme focusing on Municipal needs

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South African Government announced a R4-trillion infrastructure plan last year, with roll-out expected in the next 15 years. South African Government announced a R4-trillion infrastructure plan last year, with roll-out expected in the next 15 years.

The state announced a R4-trillion infrastructure plan last year, with roll-out expected in the next 15 years. It focuses on improving the economic performance of lower-income provinces, but also intends to leverage the busy trade and service corridors between Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape.

The government’s ambitious but slow infrastructure spending programme has been focused on municipal needs, South African Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors (Safcec) president Norman Milne said yesterday.

“While civil engineering work has struggled in a slow-growing economy and low budgetary allocations from the government, we have seen greater activity in municipal work,” he said.

SA’s private sector had criticised the slow pace of the roll-out of major infrastructure projects in the country.

And firms involved in the construction industry complained that development of municipal infrastructure, which would provide them with low cost, consistent work, was still too slow to get off the ground.

They said that the paper work around tenders for such projects had been cumbersome and the process long-winded, Mr Milne said. These included the building of basic housing, and water reticulation and sewerage works.

“The tender process is heavily complicated. It’s too complicated for municipal work. We have to find other ways,” Mr Milne said.

Safcec had recently proposed its Adopt a Municipality initiative. This was to get experts in multiple sectors to look at individual needs of municipalities.

But Mr Milne said this had faltered amid red tape. “Because tenders for basic projects needed by many municipalities — especially those in poor areas — are so political, or just slow to get going, the construction industry just loses out,” said Fred Platt, CEO of AltX-listed Accentuate.

Last week, Ketso Gordhan, CEO of PPC, SA’s primary cement producer, unveiled his vision for a special negotiating process to get the country’s infrastructure spend on track. He wanted this to be modelled on the Convention for a Democratic SA (Codesa) in the early 1990s, which brought together diverse groups in SA to chart the democratic future.

This “economic Codesa” would be a planned series of talks between government, business and labour, and the subsequent execution of critical infrastructure projects in the country.

“Safcec has met with Ketso Gordhan. We told him we wanted to play a role in his idea. It is early days now, but business is coming together to tackle this infrastructure challenge,” Mr Milne said.

However, he also said that he was concerned Eskom’s Medupi power station delay would cause some contractors to shy away from big infrastructure projects.

This week, Safcec released its State of the Industry report for civil engineering covering the second quarter of the year. It said that many contractors had struggled, but this was expected to ease.

“Some of the challenges that continue to impede growth potential in the industry include corruption in the tender process, delays and postponements in tender awards, and a shortage of qualified and skilled engineers,” it said. But the report put faith in government spend nonetheless.

It said spending on infrastructure would remain a priority and there were growth opportunities in renewables. But getting infrastructure planning and execution right was critical.


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