Time To Join Hands To Uplift the Construction Sector Economy
An Introduction to the Chamber of Construction Industry, Sri Lanka

By. Ranjith Dayaratne

It is not unfair to say that recently the construction sector Economy of Sri Lanka has faced a severe and unprecedented downfall. Reasons for this are of course manifold. The world was undeniably heading for a recession and the events of the September 11th in USA have made it a nightmare for the world economy. Sri Lankan economy has been on a slippery road for the past decade or so emanating from the extra-ordinary expenditure of war efforts, loss of preparedness to harness the benefits of the open economy and globalisation and indeed, the general sense of hopelessness that has gripped the Nation in an alarming atmosphere of growing corruption, petty politics and misguided economic policies and misadventures. We may debate these issues but whatever the reasons behind the downfall are, the outcome is clear and visible all around us. As the professionals in the construction industry will confirm, large numbers of employees in all levels of the construction sector from the architects' offices, contractors' firms, Valuers and quantity surveyors offices all have been laid-off and continue to erode the work force employed within the construction sector. Clients have begun to scratch the bottoms of their pockets and have postponed paying for the services already done and dare not commission any more new work. No doubt, the machineries idle, offices shrink, unemployment on the rise and financial transactions hard to come-by. In fact, the entire economy of the construction sector has begun to dwindle away in an alarming speed. As one of the leading architects, put it "I have been in practice for thirty years or more, our office work load just ran dry. There was nothing coming in. I could not find the money to pay staff salaries: that was a major problem, because the clients did not pay. Some of the clients have still not paid. When they will pay I do not know. Then again there was no prospect of getting new work. We were forced to retrench some staff, more will follow if the situation does not change. Now this is a serious matter".

So it has become a serious matter; so serious that across the construction industry at all levels, from the labourers at sites to managing directors of companies, this has been an issue that has demoralised and shaken the very energy that could have been productively engaged to gear up the industry. The doomsday scenarios were being painted and those who could find the ways to get away have begun to leave. Construction Industry no doubt is likely to face a bleak future.

Unless of course something is done.

At this very moment, however, that something is being done and as it always happens in crisis situations, leaders rise from the ashes and so it has happened in the Construction Industry. A month or so ago, the construction industry professionals have come together to form what they call the " Chamber of Construction Industry of Sri Lanka. In short, CCI.

CCI is not an unusual organisation. In many parts of the developed world such organisations exist and they spearhead the development of those sectors. Chambers exist in other professional fields and we know very well the existence and the great achievements of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry. The Chamber of Construction Industry thus has its models very well established; roles defined modalities worked out and practices in other fields to learn from. They have shown that such organisations can tremendously boost the economies of such sectors and it is this perception that a CCI in Sri Lanka can perhaps get us out of the misery that is descending upon the industry that led to some of the professionals to take this initiative.

Temporary located at the Head quarters of the Sri Lanka Institute of Architects and nurtured by its resources and facilities, CCI hopes to rejuvenate the construction industry and generate collective benefits to its members. It hopes to lead the Construction Industry and build up a "think-tank" for its development. It believes that it should be able to influence government policies as a powerful organisation representing the entire industry as a whole and instruct the government where it is going wrong and how to get to the right track for the upliftment of the industry in specific and the country in general. It feels that the industry has been led like the blind being led by the blind, over the decade and that has to change. A single voice is needed to make such a change.

Its singular aim is to generate more work for the Industry locally initiated or foreign funded. It is determined to ensure that the projects funded by the World Bank, IMF, ADB and others are channelled properly, performed and brought in to the local economy. In the past, many such projects have not materialised due to inadequate arrangements for public private partnerships, lack of organised local counterpart funding, and without doubt the over arched desire to employ the foreign architects and contractors. CCI is determined to reverse these trends and regenerate the construction Industry for the benefit of all its members, Companies Professional employees and workers.

There is no doubt that the Chamber of Construction Industry is a major undertaking within the construction Industry and must be nurtured. Most countries such as Brazil, Philippines, Malaysia, and India are marking progressive developments led by their CCI's. It is time that we join hands with the newly formed CCI and participate in its creation and contribute to its decision- making. If we join hands there, we can collectively determine its future and the future of the construction industry, Indeed, to a certain extent, the future of this country.

It invites Architects, Engineers and Contractors, building material manufacturers, skilled workers, real estate developers, insurance companies, development banks, state agencies and all others connected to the Construction Industry to individually and collectively to join. It is their partnerships that will make-up the 'single voice' with which the Industry will influence the future of the industry. CCI believes that we have the expertise, the resources and the opportunity to take our construction industry to a bright future. It is the will that needs to be mustered; it is the power of the collective that should be harnessed. It is only if we all in the construction industry join hands that we can get ourselves out of the misery that is befalling us. The Chamber of Construction Industry, led by an energetic, experienced and a visionary President like Deshabandu' Surath Wickramasinghe offers us this opportunity to do so.

It says that there appears the chance of a rainbow in every dark cloud. It is for us to be optimistic and hopeful that we can together, enable the rainbows to dawn in the otherwise dark clouded construction Industry in Sri Lanka.



 

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