HARARE – Elsewhere in this edition, we report a major Zimbabwe government policy announcement that it is mulling to prioritise local construction firms on mega projects as a way of preserving scarce foreign currency.
This move will provide a lifeline to local contractors during this time of intensifying economic hardships.
It’s not a secret that the country is in the throes of an acute shortage of foreign currency, which has affected importation of critical products such as fuel and medical drugs.
George Guvamatanga, the permanent secretary in the Finance ministry, has said as part of the economic development plan, engagement of external contractors should be done in cases where there is no local capacity and expertise, that way reducing foreign currency exposure.
We propose that even in the event where there is no local capacity, it must be mandatory for multinationals to form partnership with local contractors when applying for multi-billion dollar contracts.
Government must ensure that a minimum percentage of shareholding of their local operations goes to local partners before they are allowed to operate.
This is line with government’s empowerment thrust.
No doubt, this move will boost local contractors’ stature and capacity to handle large projects that cost billions.
The move would also see local contractors seek mergers to form strong firms that provide a wide array of services from surveying, legal work, branding, construction, engineering, IT, research and development, among other consulting services that foreign firms offer at no extra cost.
This must be urgently codified into law.
In the same vein, government must come up with some Contractors Development Fund of sorts that would be well funded to enable it cushion local contractors against high
interest fees charged by local banks for project guarantees.
And we totally agree with Guvamatanga that in the event of an external contractors being engaged, the contracts should be thoroughly scrutinised to ensure value for money while also considering the participation of locals as sub-contractors.
The former Barclays boss further noted that the engagement of local contractors enhances economic activity, boosts job creation and propels the country’s goal of becoming an upper middle-class economy by 2030.
This proposal must be polished and statutory approvals sought before they are sent to the public for deliberations.
We can’t be exporting foreign currency when the country is in the throes of such hardships.