In restarting the economy, government needs to implement a recovery plan that focuses on opening up different sectors that will enable them to partially operate during the ongoing pandemic while remaining cognisant of the risks associated with Covid-19, says industry association Consulting Engineers South Africa (Cesa) CEO Chris Campbell.
“Economic activity needs to be restarted, including in the mining industry.”
In the mining industry, several projects rely on the construction industry and its associated professionals to allow for ongoing production, thereby creating opportunities for professionals, consulting engineers, manufacturing suppliers and contractors, Campbell points out.
“The private sector, through the various professional services, should work with the public sector, where there is a need for capacity, to start up and progress procurement processes for infrastructure delivery,” he adds.
Campbell refers to this reliance on other sectors to operate efficiently as “an integrated ecosystem”.
The mining industry needs construction companies, professional service providers, and materials and equipment suppliers to support their full operations, including that of monitoring waste sites, he explains.
Campbell points out that a lack of monitoring these tailing dams can have “a tragic effect” on the community and environment around the dam and can, ultimately, result in loss of life and/or mine closure.
This is why professionals from the consulting engineering environment – the service providers to the mining industry – should be allowed to operate to ensure efficiency and safety.
“This is just another example of the synergy between the mining and construction sector.”
Meanwhile, Campbell says that consulting engineers – and associated industries –face not only the prospect of not generating income but are already hampered by nonpayment by both government and the private sector clients.
This can result in companies being adversely affected, which, in turn, can also have a negative effect on their suppliers, with staff retrenchments or businesses closing down as a possible outcome.
More than R600-million in outstanding payments is owed to small and medium-sized enterprises in South Africa – many of which are Cesa members – for work completed. This should be addressed and corrected to ensure the sustainability of such companies, many of which are now turning to the many aid funds created as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown, adds Campbell.
He points out that the mining industry contributes about 8.1% to the country’s gross domestic product, with the construction industry contributing about 5%.
Taking into account the number of individuals employed by these industries, as well as their contribution to the local economy, restarting production in these industries is vital, advocates Campbell.
Meanwhile, the private sector should also play a “large” role in investment in economic infrastructure to ensure economic growth. Campbell highlights the Investment and Infrastructure Office in the Presidency, led by Dr Kgosientso Ramokgopa, as a mechanism to assist with infrastructure growth.
The Investment and Infrastructure Office is responsible for developing the country’s investment strategy, refining the institutional infrastructure for investment mobilisation and establishing an investment intelligence capability.
It also enables the Presidency to oversee coordination between all structures dealing with infrastructure development and monitor progress. The office will also be able to address blockages in priority infrastructure projects and private-sector projects identified through the Investment Conference it was planning to host prior to the lockdown.
Campbell notes that there needs to be greater trust between the public and private sectors to provide momentum for economic infrastructure development, which is key for economic growth.
“Cesa hopes that all role players in the country continue to have confidence in our President and his infrastructure development efforts, capabilities we witnessed during this pandemic, and that the economy survives and thrives.”