Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister.
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A Cabinet minister yesterday said the overall Bahamian construction industry remains "very strong and healthy" despite Cavalier Construction's decision to cease operations and appoint a liquidator.
Desmond Bannister, minister of works, told Tribune Business he was unaware of the factors driving the 64 year-old contractor to take this decision but said the Bahamian construction industry was asking his ministry to put "more and more government projects out to tender every day".
Citing this as a sign of a vibrant sector, Mr Bannister said: "With respect to the work we put out to tender, and the small contractors of the country, as far as I can see the industry continues to grow.
"On major projects we have put out, and we have put out a number of them to tender this year and last, every one of them attracted bidding from highly experienced and qualified companies. There's such a variety of large and small projects."
Mr Bannister cited as examples the selection of Bahamas Marine Construction to do the $9.6m Staniard Creek bridge in Andros; the contracting of Treco to handle the demolition of the Clarence Bain Building, and project awards to multiple other contractors as signals of the sector's current condition.
"I could take 20 projects off the top of my head, and there would be 20 different contractors doing them superbly and expertly. From what I have seen in the industry it continues to be very strong. As much work as we can put out to tender, contractors are asking for more and more every day. As far as I can see from my perspective it looks very healthy."
Leonard Sands, the former Bahamian Contractors Association (BCA) president, told Tribune Business that the "most damage" from Cavalier's decision to close its doors permanently lies in the message it sends about whether there is sufficient business in the local market to sustain five to six large general construction companies.
"I think the blow will mostly be experienced by the outlook on the industry," he said. "I don't think it's going to have a ripple effect for any other builder or contractor. The perception, though, is that the market is not big enough to sustain five to six major contractors. That's the the unfortunate message that will go out because of this, and that's the message that will cause most damage.
"It's sad. It's going to have a negative impact because of the [Cavalier] name and what it's done in the country, but it will cause the industry to become smarter and look at how it does business on this scale."
Mr Sands added that he expected Cavalier's construction equipment supplier affiliate, Bobcat Bahamas, to survive in some form given that it provided a vital service to the sector. "Their equipment rental is critical to the industry," he said, "so I can't see that being totally shut down. Every day there's a need for equipment rentals."