With an economy growing sustainedly 3,9% annually, full employment, and with ambitious public works and housing projects in the books, the ongoing problem of the lack of tradespeople in the Falkland Islands has become more evident and challenging. Penguin News invited MLA Barry Elsby to comment on the situation in an interview this week.
MLA Elsby said: “It's not [being solved] and to some extent we hope the private sector will come up to that. You see if you tot up the amount of work that's waiting to be done in just government housing you're talking hundreds of thousands of pounds.”
He said he envisaged a scenario where the private sector bundled the work together then brought people into the Islands to work on it, “they could bring people down for 18 months or two years of repair work for a small gang working their way through.”
In Penguin News last week, it was reported – in the words of MLA Elsby – that the FIG has contracted the next tranche of housing with the MoD for a contractor in the UK. However, FIG clarified to MercoPress that the tender process is still ongoing and does not end until 19 February.
There were three pre-qualifying companies who had responded to the original pre-qualification questionnaire, both local and from overseas. The final decision on the tender process will be concluded during March based on the tenders received. Details of the successful tenderer will be published once the evaluation process is completed and all tenderers have been informed of the final decision, FIG said.
“Why not? Accommodation is the perennial problem, no matter who's coming in, but that is a perennial problem. But we had hoped that a lot of those private sectors in the Islands would undertake the bulk of the work.”
He said: “Why wouldn't you build your company, hopefully make more money. I think people just feel that they are comfortable where they are at the moment...” He added: “I think it's an odd situation the Falkland Islands where the concept of going out and getting three or four quotes for a bit of work just doesn't exist.
“You just don't; you just beg people to come and do one job, so it is difficult, but I think we just have to hope that it will improve.”
MLA Elsby assured they had spoken to the private sector, “we talked to them, the Chief Executive met with them through the Chamber, and a company is a company and if people don't want to take on all that extra responsibility you can't force people; but we hope with this company coming down from the private sector for the housing for Bennett’s Paddock might look around and go ‘actually, there's a lot of work here and there's much more work at MPA’ and out of that might come more permanently based people here.”
He said details of the size of the gang coming down had yet to be finalised. One problem caused by the lack of tradespeople is that FIG housing requiring refurbishment is often held up, in turn contributing to the housing shortage. (Penguin News)