HARARE – Zimbabwe’s government has announced a new strategy to revive hundreds of construction companies that have closed.

The plan, announced by George Magosvongwe, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing recently, will see the State making the unprecedented move to pour capital to giving construction firms support and take part in reconstruction efforts in the provinces where they are based.

This strategy is in line with a devolution programme currently underway in Zimbabwe, which will give provincial governments significant autonomy to run their own economies.

Magosvongwe told the construction industry recently that Zimbabwe’s government would be pursuing a proactive strategy in helping troubled firms regroup, as it moves to tackle housing backlog that he said was now a “threat to economic development”.

The country’s national housing backlog is estimated at 1,25 million.

The ministry sees its strategy as having multipronged benefits.

Houses will be constructed to help people, at the same time jobs will be created in a country where the construction sector lost over 40 000 jobs in the past 15 years.

“Given this (housing backlog), the government came up with the initiative of the national command housing delivery programme to address the shortage of affordable housing as shelter is a basic human right which must be accorded to every human being,” said Magosvongwe.

“Emphasis to this programme is on inclusive settlements and utilising the local resources available. To this end, it is also focussing at the revival of moribund local industry in order to jump start productivity. It is generally agreed the world over that sustainable human settlement development leads to socio economic growth of any nation, and Zimbabwe is no exception. Provinces will thus be asked to identify industries or contractors that can be quickly resuscitated, and these will be given seed capital to revive operations. This will not only come as a loan but the same will be expected to do work equivalent to sums that would have been advanced. Let me take this opportunity to highlight that the increasing number of unplanned settlements that lack basic social services is worrisome in most developing nations. In Zimbabwe, the ballooning housing backlog of 1, 250 000 is a threat to economic growth and sustainable development,” added Magosvongwe.

Under the new plan, provinces would be asked to identify closed construction firms, which will then be given loans and get the opportunity to participate in housing development programmes as they repay their loans.

The advantage programmes like the one proposed by government is that State loans are cheaper compared to high interest lifelines accessed through banks.