South Africa is a “ticking time bomb” as the entire economy has gridlocked owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, which Master Builders South Africa president John Matthews laments presents a huge challenge.
The construction and built environment industry is not expected to survive should the provision of new infrastructure not be forthcoming. Investment in infrastructure is needed, presenting a challenge under current global conditions where funds are being reprioritised to the fight against the spread of Covid-19.
Speaking during an International Zinc Association (IZA) webinar, hosted by Creamer Media on July 15, Matthews explained that, while the economy was opening up and restrictions were being eased, there was still not a lot of money "flowing” to help the economy grow or create employment.
Both the private and the public sectors need to invest money into the economy, despite purse strings being tight, as commitments “serve no purpose” if they are not implemented according to plan, he stated.
As an example, Matthews referred to government’s commitment in 2018 to create an infrastructure fund worth R100-billion, which has, so far, seen little to no movement, apart from the head of the fund being appointed in May.
This delay, he lamented, meant that the fund and related investments had not yet boosted the South African economy, or created jobs.
“The promise of a plan does not put food on the table, and we can no longer wait, as [everyone is] frustrated,” he said.
It is for this reason that the Covid-19 Construction Rapid Response Task Team continues to lobby government to start allocating committed funds to growing the economy.
Further, Matthews implored that “quick fixes” and ignoring longer-term effects of standard methodologies were not the way to go, despite saving on costs in the short term.
“We have to start thinking of new and innovative ideas of how to create sustainable building materials and how to use them to [a] long-term advantage,” he said.