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Engineer Chief Eyes Capital Works Boost

By YOURI KEMP

Tribune Business Reporter

ykemp@tribunemedia.net

Bahamian construction industry professionals yesterday said they are hoping “significant” public infrastructure works will further boost the sector's output in 2021.

Quentin Knowles, the Bahamas Society of Engineers (BSE) president, told Tribune Business that “things could have been worse" in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but the fall-out for the industry had not been as bad as anticipated.

"I'm an electrical contractor and, quite honestly, 2020 was not bad for us. There were disruptions and the lockdown, but overall we didn’t see a significant impact," he added.

Looking forward to 2021, Mr Knowles said he has been bidding “on all kinds of different projects". He said: “If these projects come to fruition, from our perspective, I think we will be looking pretty good.”

The construction industry suffered a softer blow from COVID-19 than that taken by many other sectors of the Bahamian economy, as it largely endured no work stoppages apart from during the initial March and April lockdowns.

The Government saw value in keeping the sector operating, due both to its strong links to foreign direct investment (FDI) projects that represented the country's major source of foreign exchange earnings amid the tourism industry shutdown, and its ability to absorb semi-skilled and unskilled workers who might otherwise drift into crime and other anti-social activities.

Mr Knowles said the construction industry's COVID-19 resilience was also down to client patience, and wanting to see work completed properly. “People start a project with the expectation that it will be completed within six months to a year,” he added. “Hopefully the pandemic will be a thing of the past and, you know, they can then reap the benefits of their projects."

The engineers' chief said upgrades to the Thomas A Robinson stadium, in addition to Family Island airport enhancements, are some of the Government-related public works projects that he expects will provide further impetus to the construction industry going into 2021.

"These are not insignificant projects," Mr Knowles. "Then they're going to be refurbishing the airport in Marsh Harbour, Abaco. There's some other stuff coming up with other infrastructure projects."

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