'Bated breath wait' for construction regulation


Tribune Business Editor


The Bahamian construction industry is "waiting with bated breath" to see when legislation to regulate it will be given effect, one contractor yesterday suggesting implementation could provide a $1 billion economic boost.

Leonard Sands, the Bahamian Contractors Association's (BCA) president, told Tribune Business that appointment of the Board that will oversee the Construction Contractors Act is the last remaining obstacle to its implementation.

He added that the construction industry was "kind of in limbo" until the Minnis administration acted, with the situation putting Bahamian contractors "in a difficult position" due to the uncertainty surrounding whether the Act's new regulatory regime was in effect.

Explaining that the legislation had been passed by the previous Parliament, Mr Sands said the sector was "only waiting on" the Minister of Works, Desmond Bannister, to appoint the members of the Construction Contractors Board that is key to the industry's self-regulation.

"It only needs Government to appoint the Board, and we're certainly hopeful that will happen by July 1," Mr Sands told Tribune Business. "If that does not happen, we would like to know imminently when that will happen. It's that important to our economy.

"We're facing significant challenges with revenue for the country, a huge debt burden, and we believe with enactment of the Act - and regulation and regularisation of the industry - $1 billion could be added to the economy through construction.

"It needs an effective pronouncement by the Minister to say this is the effective date of the legislation; this is the law of the land. There is some work for the new Minister to do."

Some observers will likely question Mr Sands's $1 billion estimate, but the Construction Contractors Act promises to yield significant benefits for the industry, consumers and the wider Bahamian economy if it functions as intended.

For the Act, when implemented, will introduce a system of licensing and self-regulation, where Bahamian contractors are certified according to their qualifications and scale/scope of work they are capable of undertaking.

This would place them on a 'level playing field' with foreign contractors, enabling them to better compete for multi-million dollar contracts on foreign direct investment (FDI) projects that come to the Bahamas because their capabilities are certified.

The Act also includes provisions giving Bahamian consumers means of redress, and protection, against shoddy workmanship by so-called 'cowboy contractors' - something that has been a frequent complaint among residents.

The construction industry is the last professional trade in the Bahamas to be regulated by statute law, and efforts to finally achieve this are now into their fourth administration. The Act is similar to those regulating the engineering and architect professions, in that it will self-regulate contractors via a Board comprised of members from both the private and public sectors.

Mr Sands said the Board's creation, and issuance of instruments of appointment to its members, needed to occur quickly to end the growing regulatory uncertainty in the construction industry.

"The BCA have been inundated by contractors and interested persons asking what the process is now," he told Tribune Business, "can we get a Business License, and are we registered under the new Act?

"Right now it's the status quo until the Board gets its instruments of appointment. It's put us in a difficult position; kind of in a limbo. We need the Board and government agencies to work together to go from a Business License to registration and a contractor's license."

Emphasising that there was "good stuff" in the Act for contractors, developers and consumers, Mr Sands added: "It's significantly important to the national economy and how business is done in the construction sector.

"We are waiting with bated breath to see what is the next step, and when it will happen. We are waiting."


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