PARAMARIBO – Plans by the Surinamese government to build 18,000 houses before 2015 are far from realistic, says Anthony Wong, chair of the Surinamese Association of Contractors. ‘Even if they would hire all contractors in the country, the goal would still be unachievable. Who will make the 90,000 doors?’ Wong wonders.
News surfaced yesterday that the government plans to allocate SRD 243.2 million on the budget for housing. The People’s Republic of China will come in with a loan of SRD 158.2 million. The planned 18.000 houses are destined for low-income groups. Wong thinks that 3,000 houses in three years is a much better attainable goal, however.
Ferdinand Welzijn of the Trade and Industry Association (VSB) points out that without outside help, from China, the government’s plans cannot be realised. ‘I cannot say the government has done enough to widen our construction capacity’, Welzijn says. He calls on the government to negotiate an obligation for Chinese construction firm to forge partnerships with local companies. The VSB official urges local contractors to participate in government tenders.
Wong criticizes contracts for Chinese firms, explaining that the doors are opened wide for ‘new imperialists’. ‘Capital flows back to China and if we allow Chinese workers to come over here, our employment issues will not be solved.’
Welzijn does not see Chinese involvement as a threat to local industry however, arguing that the Staatsolie refinery project offers ample opportunities for local constractors. What he calls for is an integral approach for the new residential areas. ‘The people who will get the houses need jobs to maintain them.’
Wong argues that the government exaggerates the demand for houses. ‘It looks like the Civil War in ’80ies caused a shortage of houses because many people migrated from the interior to Paramaribo, yet there are many empty houses and houses up for rent.’