There's plenty of construction going on all around the island these days.
You name it, they're building it.
Mixed commercial space? Yep.
Luxury condos? Yep.
Roads? You betcha.
Still rebuilding homes after a terrible hurricane three years ago? Unfortunately, yes.
All of this construction got me to thinking. It seems like many of these projects have been going on for quite a while. Caribbean construction typically takes much longer to complete than North American construction due to variety of factors. Most people would quickly point to the stereotypical concept of lazy workmen. Though somewhat true, but the problem is deeper than that.
A fairer conversation would include problems involving material shortages, untrained labor forces, and unavailability of proper machinery for the job at hand.
For instance, the popular Minnesota based Ryan Construction is much more likely to have the funding to regularly invest in new, modern equipment than a local construction company. (Having the investment capital is only part of the trouble - access to decent pricing and logistics to the Caribbean are another story...)
The local companies often buy older, used heavy equipment. The tax structures in place here can levy a large tax burden on costly new heavy equipment driving the costs far beyond their reach. A local firm would need to purchase cheaper (older) gear to fit their budgets.
Alas, the older stuff is more prone to breakdowns...
Then you've got to import parts and pay new taxes on those parts...
All the while your construction site sits idle, eating up precious days.
So, the firm bids for a job. All is going well for a few weeks until the cement mix runs out after a kink in the supply chain from Jamaica. Then your crane breaks and you need to purchase a new part that will take two weeks to arrive. After that, you can't get your plywood from Trinidad cleared through the Port because Customs lost the paperwork. Then you may have a tropical storm blow through!!
On the flip side, there are government programs that allow for tax relief to industrial companies. My understanding of these programs is quite limited but from what I do know it is quite difficult to navigate the red tape that clogs access to import tax relief/exemptions.
As with anywhere in the world, corruption plays a part in construction headaches. North American contracts often have built-in incentives for finishing a job early. In the Caribbean dragging out the job will keep you employed longer and put more money in your pocket. Why work faster when you'll have more work tomorrow if you stick to a slower pace? :-)
I suppose construction is never easy but these guys definitely have their hands full.
Taken from atop Market Hill
St. George's, Grenada