Local contractors were last week awaiting an assessment from the government of Antigua/Barbuda on the extent of work which will be required in the reconstruction of the islands following the passage of the devastating Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Category Five hurricane Irma, quickly followed by Maria, roared through the Leeward Islands and Cuba earlier this month, causing many deaths and destroying structures, particularly in Barbuda and Antigua, and Dominica.
President of the Trinidad and Tobago Contractors Association, Ramlogan Roopnarine said the association was approached by the minister of foreign affairs of Antigua & Barbuda to see what work local contractors could do in rebuilding the ravaged islands. Barbuda was particularly hard hit with the island being declared uninhabitable and its population evacuated to Antigua. Roopnarine said it was too early to say how much work local contractors will get in the rebuilding of the islands but the board of the association had already decided that they will help in any way possible in the reconstruction of the devastated islands. “There is some documentation to be passed to us through the ministry of foreign and caricom affairs. We can’t just run into an island and start doing things. What we need to do is have the process put in place and have it done properly before we can get in there and start doing things.”
Roopnarine said, “they’ve agreed to do an assessment for us to know what’s neceesary. That’s expected by (last) Friday. Once (that’s) in, we’ll know what’s involved.” He added that it might even be necessary for the association with some of its members to do a site visit to the islands to make sure that they can provide what is needed. Roopnarine said local contractors can supply steel roofs to replace those blown off in the hurricanes and general hurricane proofing for vulnerable structures.
Former President of the association, Mikey Joseph, who remains a board member, said the islands are familiar territory for local contractors. “In the past we have campaigned there successfully, we’ve done some projects during the heady days of the Caribbean tourist season when they had a lot of projects doing and we’ve gone in sometimes after storms in some of the islands...so now we expect that quite a few local contractors would be seeking opportunities in these islands that have been affected by the hurricanes.” Joseph said there is already a local presence in some islands by contractors who are doing projects, including major contracting firm, NH International which is building a hotel in Dominica, though, he added, “I’m not sure what is the condition of it once the storm has passed.” He said Trinidad and Tobago contractors will be looking to increase their presence in those islands. “We believe once our members are out there and they perform credibly, they will find work.”
In the case of Dominica, which has been savaged by Hurricane Maria, Joseph said the TTCA has a relationship with the Contractors’ Association of Dominica but the local association had been trying unsuccessfully to contact them to find out if they needed help. He said the contractors would not be looking to work with individual homeowners because many of the islands have their own skilled tradesmen who would attend to the needs of owners whose roofs had been blown off, adding that, “I dare say that in many of these islands the skills levels are far superior to ours and these people are going to be looking after the interests of the private homeowner to get themselves back on their feet. Where you have opportunities is where you have institutions requiring professional services and organized contractors because in some of these islands some of the contractors, or the people who are in the contracting business, may not have the resources to take on a contract or a project for E.C $300,000 - E.C $400,000 or to E.C $1 million and this is where the Trinidadian contractor, who has experience in money management and all those things, would be able to get in and get work but it would be for the businesses and the State and things like that.”