Contractors: No worry over cement price hike as construction sector dead in Tobago

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

HARD PRICES: The price of TCL cement is set to increase between 5 and 8 percent on March 26, the third increase in the past 14 months. –

TOBAGO contractors are not bothered or perturbed about the impending increase in cement prices – because they say construction on the island is dead.

On Wednesday, Trinidad Cement Ltd (TCL), the country’s sole cement supplier, confirmed it is set to raise prices by March 26 – the third increase in the past 14 months.

Company officials confirmed the ex-factory prices will increase by five per cent for ECO cement and eight per cent for the premium plus.

This translates to respective increases per 42.5kg bag of $2.08 to $43.65 and $3.54 to $47.83 before VAT.

Shareholders in the construction sector learnt of the impending increases last week.

TT Contractors Association president Glen Mahabirsingh noted the upcoming increase will be the third in 14 months. He recalled in the last increase, in August, prices went up by seven per cent. Some contractors have said there is need for competition in the sector.

On Friday, contractors told Newsday there is not much buzz in Tobago about the increase.

“Membership not really talking about it because there is nothing happening in Tobago,” said a contractor. “There is no work in Tobago to talk about. Only a few private buildings going on, but that is about it. And they would make their private arrangement with the concrete suppliers. Nothing is happening in Tobago.”

Another contractor, with more than 20 years’ experience in the sector, said his colleagues are feeling the pinch.

THOSE WERE THE DAYS: Scenes such as this one, where workers move concrete blocks on a worksite in Scarborough back in 2021, have all but stopped as contractors say the construction sector in the island is dead. FILE PHOTOS –

“Recently, I went by a contractor during the week and he is one of them fellas who used to have a fair amount of work. I see the man have about five trucks just park up.

“So clearly, if the trucks washed down, clean and shining – but park up, then things bad over here. To me, construction dead in the island at the moment.”

He said one can usually gauge the buoyancy of the construction sector by the number of trucks on the road.

“Cars and animals can make style on the roads now…no trucks, so it is really dead.”

The contractor said that to be fair, the sector was dead long before the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) won the December 6, 2021 THA election.

“When the PDP got into power, everybody was living in high hopes that something was going to happen, well we all see what happened.”

Saying he does not believe the situation will improve in the foreseeable future, he claimed the THA still owes contractors over $390 million.

“That is $200 million that is not going into the economy, and contractors use their money to reinvest in equipment and other things, so the money keeps circulating. But nobody is paying: WASA not paying and THA not paying.”

In a television interview last August, Chief Secretary Farley Augustine said contractors owed by the THA would only be paid “the true value of their work,” and not what was laid out in the terms of their contracts.

He blamed the former PNM administration’s pre-election spending for the THA’s exorbitant debts.

On Friday, the contractor said the decision by Augustine and his executive to declare themselves independents last December was not helping the situation. “At the end of the day, who is guarding the guards?”

The contractor said his colleagues cannot make pronouncements about the impending increase because they do not buy cement to stock.

“The people who buy cement to stock are the hardware owners and concrete manufacturers. Most of the contractors do not own concrete plants.”

The price of concrete, he said, “has been going up very slowly, (but) in Tobago it affects us a little more, because the cost of concrete here is slightly higher because we have to bring over (on the ferry) things like sharp sand and cement. And the excuse is that outsourcing parts becomes very expensive for contractors.”

The contractor said a part for a backhoe, for example, costs almost twice what it would cost in the US.