NATIONAL Council for Construction executive director Charles Mushota says the government should this year award more contracts to local contractors in the road sector to help salvage the falling kwacha.
And Mushota says the National Council for Construction (NCC) has this year put aside K8 million for 21 training programmes for local contractors in all the provinces aimed at building |capacity.
Mushota in an interview said in the face of the weakening local currency, it was important for the government to seriously consider giving contracts to Zambian contractors because the money would remain in circulation.
“Giving works to the local contractors has advantages in terms of sustainability and maintenance of infrastructure,” he said.
The government in the 2015 national budget set aside K5.6 billion for road infrastructure development, which included the Link Zambia 8000 and the Pave Zambia 2000.
“In the face of the weak kwacha, more work should be given to the locals. That will reduce pressure on the kwacha because if these jobs are given to local contractors, the money remains here,” Mushota said.
The local currency had last week broken the K7 psychological barrier per dollar to trade at K7.03 for the first time in eight months, influenced by the falling copper prices, compounded by a mining tax regime dispute and shrinking foreign currency reserves.
Mushota further appealed to the banking sector to consider assisting Zambian contractors with loans to boost their financial capacities that would enable them favourably compete in bidding for jobs.
“If the local contractors acquire loans from the banks, they will put their money in the same banks; it remains here and helps the kwacha. But foreign contractors externalise the money, thereby pressurising the kwacha,” he said.
And Mushota said the NCC training programmes were also targeted at changing the perception that local contractors delivered shoddy works because they did not have necessary skills and capacities.
“NCC is changing that perception by training local contractors in areas of financial literacy, financial management and technical capacity so that we can change the outlook of the sector. After these trainings, there will be no room for shoddy works from local contractors,” he said.
Mushota added that NCC had also put aside K3 million for meeting costs of bidding for tenders by trained local contractors.
On February 20, NCC had concluded a week-long training for 50 Lusaka-based local contractors while the next training is targeting the Copperbelt contractors