With construction boom, Govt working to prevent shortage of building materials

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Construction workers carrying out work on one of the elevated housing units.

 

With the construction boom and the increased demand for building materials, Natural Resources Minister Vickram Bharrat on Tuesday made it clear that the Government is working overtime to prevent shortages.

Minister Bharrat was the keynote speaker during the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association luncheon on Tuesday. During his presentation, he spoke of shortages and the ways the Government is striving to mitigate that.

Touching on the high cost of living, Minister Bharrat also spoke of the threat of shortages in building materials. According to him, this has required inter-agency collaboration between agencies like the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC).

“Government is working on all fronts to address these issues. For example, the boom in infrastructure, the boom in construction, has resulted in higher demands for local building materials. So, it requires us, GGMC and GFC, to be working overtime, to ensure we don’t have shortages in materials, which obviously will carry up costs.”

“And that is something we have to prevent… you would have noticed that over the last year and a half, we probably issued over ten or 12 new quarry licences. Because when we took over Government, we were producing 600,000 tonnes of aggregate stone. While the demand on the local market was 850,000 tonnes,” Minister Bharrat said.

He explained that between 2018 and 2020, Guyana was importing over 200,000 tonnes of aggregate or stone from Suriname and other countries. This is despite the fact that Guyana itself produces aggregates.

“So, we sought to address that by issuing licences to people or companies who have the resources and the skill set as well, to invest. Because what we have seen in Guyana and especially when I took over the Ministry, we have seen mining lands being awarded to thousands of Guyanese.”

“But yet we don’t see them working those lands. We have seen forestry concessions being awarded to hundreds and yet they don’t work the lands. And that is something that must be addressed.”

The threat of shortages is not only restricted to products. There is also the threat of human resource shortages in certain key fields. According to Bharrat, work is underway to get a batch of at least a dozen youths trained, through the mining school at GGMC, as goldsmiths. These youths, he said, will be selected from all over the country.

Similarly, Bharrat noted that the potential shortage of joiners is another problem being dealt with.

“Only a few moments ago I was having a discussion with Mr (Rafeek) Khan. And I was telling him that we had a meeting with the goldsmiths and jewellers of this country. And what we realised is that if we don’t start training young people to get into that sector, we will have a shortage of goldsmiths in this country.”

“Mr Khan was mentioning the joinery trade. Soon we won’t have people working in those areas, because the skilled people are either migrating or they would have aged over a period of time. And the young people now, I don’t want to say they’re not willing to get into the sector. But they’re not being encouraged as much as they should and they’re not being trained,” he said, emphasising that the Government and Private Sector can partner in addressing this issue.