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Infrastructure forum decries poor standards

ALL over the world, good infrastructure is a key factor to any country’s aspirations to achieve economic growth.
Upon this realisation, Zambia convened a housing and infrastructure symposium with the purpose of addressing impediments in the construction sector

and charting the way forward.
For any economy to remain competitive and function effectively, infrastructure development should take priority.
It is for this reason that the Zambian Government, under the public private partnership (PPP) initiative, has made significant investments in infrastructure development.
Investments made are intended to accelerate the country’s socio-economic development and actualise development plans in the fifth and sixth national development plans as well as help the country achieve vision 2030.
However, despite significant investments that have been made to achieve these goals, the effects of climate change have eroded strides the country has made towards the expansion and modernisation of infrastructure in Zambia.
This is evidenced by some newly constructed roads, bridges and schools that were damaged by heavy rains experienced in the country recently.
To address the problem around infrastructure development in Zambia, the 2017 Housing and Infrastructure Development symposium was convened in Lusaka under the theme, ‘Towards Smart and Resilient Infrastructure’. President Lungu, who was guest of honour at the event, shared views that could help engineers and contractors engaged public works such as roads, bridges, and schools, overcome challenges to do with poor state of infrastructure.
Mr Lungu expressed concern that engineers and contractors have continued with a casual approach towards various construction projects around the country.
He said natural calamities the country experienced in the recent past could have been avoided if the people assigned to do the jobs took serious consideration at the planning and designing stages.
The President said it is unfortunate that colossal sums of money continue to be wasted on poor infrastructure.
“It is unfortunate that we have had news headlines in the recent past of damaged roads, schools and bridges that were newly constructed. Such calamities can be avoided if caution is put into ensuring that the construction being done is of good quality from the foundation stages.
“Engineers should be alert at the planning and designing stages to avoid loss of lives and wastage of colossal sums of money,” he said.
Since coming into power in 2011, the Patriotic Front Government embarked on a massive infrastructure projects aimed at creating a conducive environment for socio-economic development.
Roads have been constructed around the country with others being rehabilitated in a campaign to transform Zambia from a land-locked country to a land-linked country.
Houses in both the rural and urban areas of the country are also being constructed in a quest to mitigate the housing deficit.
The construction of houses is also meant to increase productivity of both the rural and urban economies.
The country has also seen the establishment of multi-facility economic zones to enhance Zambia’s productivity.
The economic zones are expected to broaden manufacturing and industrialisation so as to achieve a strong, resilient and diversified export-oriented economy.  
Other projects include the construction, expansion and rehabilitation of agriculture, fisheries and livestock infrastructure and the improvement of water and sanitation facilities.
Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure permanent secretary Charles Mushota called on various stakeholders in the construction sector to work with Government to address challenges to do with infrastructure quality.
Speaking at the housing symposium, Mr Mushota urged contractors, through their various bodies, to make suggestions to Government that could help enhance service delivery in the sector.
He said contractors need to examine their construction standards to guard against inefficiencies that the country has witnessed over the years.
Mr Mushota further mentioned that there is need to formulate a code of ethics to regulate and provide guidelines on how the construction sector should operate.
“My ministry is open to suggestions that can improve service delivery in this industry. And if it is established that the problem has to do with the standards given by Government, we are ready to revise and upgrade them for contractors to perform well,” Mr Mushota said.
And an architect, Douglas Katengo, said Government needs to ensure that contracts are given to licensed and registered contractors for the construction sector to perform according to the required standards.
In an interview, he said it is important to ensure that rules and regulations guiding the sector are effectively enforced to compel contractors to deliver quality services.  
“We have good laws that guide this industry, but there is still a gap in terms of enforcement. We need to have a full policing system to get rid of the high levels of unprofessionalism in the construction industry,” Mr Katengo said.