Towards the Modernisation and Professionalisation of the Construction Industry

“With Government’s plans to embark upon several major infrastructural works such as the smart cities, the transformation of Highlands into an administrative centre, the new road decongestion programme, the restructuring and extension of the port, the redevelopment of the airport, among others, it is essential to bring order, revamp, and regulate the whole construction industry.”

The modernisation and the professionalisation of the construction industry under the aegis of the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB), was the main focus of a press conference by the Minister of Public Infrastructure and Land Transport, Mr Nandcoomar Bodha, yesterday in Port Louis. He welcomed the nomination of Mr Gaëtan Siew, renowned and experienced architect, as Chairperson of the CIDB, stressing his expertise in the area, and his competency which will contribute, he said, to the Board achieving its objectives and performing its functions effectively.

The Minister also provided figures regarding the construction sector in Mauritius, stating that investment in the sector stood at Rs 47 b in 2014 while direct employment was around 46,000 people. Recalling that the construction sector declined by 6.7% in 2014 after the contraction of 9.4% in 2013, Minister Bodha stated his belief that it would recover with the upcoming various infrastructural projects, thus the necessity for implementation of good practices which will result in high quality of work, services and construction materials in Mauritius.

Adequate training for those employed in the sector was also highlighted by Mr Bodha, who expressed the wish for Mauritians, and particularly the young people, to turn to the various construction sites across the island as from next year. He added that required measures will be taken by the CIDB to train people and improve their employability so that the country has a qualified labour force in the sector.

“A Memorandum of Understanding will be signed on Friday 11 September 2015 between the Councils of Engineers of Mauritius and India for the training of Mauritian engineers to enable the country to have a pool of qualified technicians,” affirmed Mr Bodha, adding that his Ministry is already sending several young engineers for training abroad, namely in China and the United Kingdom, in the field of construction and maintenance of tunnel, bridges and viaduct. The Minister also urged the private sector in the construction industry to recruit and train adequately the young people through the Youth Empowerment Programme, and he encouraged the youth seeking a professional career to join the sector.

Other improvements envisaged in the construction sector, as mentioned by the Minister, include a webpage compiling the list of registered builders and contractors, the establishment of an Ecole de Metiers (vocational school); the possibility for Municipal and District Councils to integrate, in the provision of building and land permits services, the delivery of free architectural house plans complying with national standards; and amendments to legislation to allow for contractors to be debarred from construction contracts with the Government for unsatisfactory performances, as well as to prevent the importation of plants and machinery available in Mauritius by foreign companies undertaking construction works locally.

Improvements proposed by CIDB

For his part, the Chairperson of the Construction Industry Development Board, Mr Gaëtan Siew, said that the Board is in the process of registering consultants and contractors. Some 100 contractors have thus already been registered while 250 files are awaiting registration. Interested parties have a period of four months from now to register with the CIDB.

Mr Siew also detailed a five-year plan which aims at stimulating and structuring the CIDB. The thrust areas of the plan are:

* consolidation of the board through registration, development of quality labels and training;
* innovation and sustainable development to encourage benchmarking, better quality and affordability;
* protection of the general public through elaboration of standard construction agreements and contracts complying with international standards but in line with the local context;
* empowerment of the labour force to boost efficiency and quality-orientation, and retain the best elements in the industry for the emergence of small and medium enterprises; and
* breathing new life in the construction sector by first streamlining the various procedures regarding access to the market and the tender exercises while balancing effectiveness and transparency, and second, establishing collaborative linkages with neighbouring and regional countries with the objective of exporting the local construction services in the near future.

The CIDB, set up in 2008, is a body corporate working towards the development, improvement and sustainable growth of the construction industry. Mr Ram Bahadoor, Consultant and Chartered Engineer, has been appointed as Executive Director of the CIDB.