By Dilshani Samarweera
With the government heralding the end to the war, the construction industry says conflict reconstruction needs to be better planned, to avoid tsunami reconstruction mistakes of corruption and domestic cost escalations.
An official cost estimate of conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation is still not available, but the bill is expected to run into billions of dollars in total.
Given the widespread construction inputs that are required, the potential for large-scale corruption is seen as a major threat to successful conflict rehabilitation. Uncontrolled corruption and inflows of funds, are also expected to add to cost increases inside the country.
Therefore, construction sector professionals say clear guidelines need to be set out for conflict reconstruction and should involve legitimate construction industry professionals, to contain corruption and ensure quality standards.
“Tsunami reconstruction did not focus on mobilising the recognised construction community in the country. A majority of contractors involved, were not contractors registered with the ICTAD, but were fly-by-night operators. This resulted in poor quality constructions and also large scale corruption and unwarranted cost escalations in the country,” Dakshitha Thalgodapitiya, the CEO of the Chamber of Construction Industry told The Sunday FT, after a recent press conference.
The Chamber says it represents a large private sector pool of construction specialisations, including architectural and engineering services providers, quantity surveyors, construction contractors, and suppliers of construction raw materials, that can be linked up with reconstruction programmes.
The Chamber also says reconstruction should focus on building regional skills and capacities, for sustainable rehabilitation.
“There will be huge amounts of construction activity happening, if the war ends and reconstruction begins. So the forerunner to this, should be to set up training facilities in the conflict affected areas themselves,” said Mr Thalgodapitiya.
Skills development in the conflict affected regions, says the Chamber, will reduce construction industry skill-shortages and will also generate regional employment. This is also expected to reduce corruption and control quality standards of construction activities.
The Construction Chamber says it is equipped to provide a range of construction industry related training. “We can provide the training. We have already done training in the South. We do the training in partnership with the Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission (TVEC) and this is an accepted certificate,” said Mr Thalgodapitiya.
The government has already set aside nearly Rs 15 billion for the first budget of the Eastern Provincial Council and another Rs 3.5 billion for reconstruction and resettlement in the north, in its 2009 budget.
Multilateral lending agencies and other donors are also slowly allocating funds for reconstruction of conflict affected parts of the country. These funding inflows are expected to increase with peace.