Workers welcome China deal

Saturday June 15, 2019 Written by Published in National
A local construction company working on the Avarua harbour project last year. Local companies can now bid for projects financed by the Chinese government. 19061432 A local construction company working on the Avarua harbour project last year. Local companies can now bid for projects financed by the Chinese government. 19061432

Construction has been on a go-slow, so first dibs on China projects will help local economy, reports Rashneel Kumar.

 

Cook Islands construction companies have welcomed the world-first deal with China giving local businesses first dibs on Chinese-funded projects.

Until now, China has insisted that projects funded by its grants or loans were tendered to Chinese companies only.

The owner of John Short Construction said the latest deal was great news for the local companies.

Short said it was pleasing to see they were getting an opportunity to bid for the projects in this country funded by Chinese and New Zealand aid and loans.

His company would be looking to bid for tenders involving Chinese-funded and other aid supported infrastructure projects in the future.

“We haven’t had any aid projects for a while because there aren’t that many commercial projects taking place. At the moment, we are working on housing projects,” Short said.

“However we will be interested and willing to put tender on any major projects funded through overseas aid, including China.”

Mike Rennie Builders also welcomed the move.

The company undertook and successfully delivered some major government infrastructure works in the past, said Rennie,  and was currently working with McConnell Dowell on stage two of the Te Mato Vai project.

“Anything of that sort that aids local businesses is good for us. This sounds promising, but it’s early days and we are looking forward to hearing more about this move,” Rennie said.

Deputy prime minister Mark Brown led the Cook Islands team in the negotiation in Beijing earlier this year where this breakthrough deal was made.

Brown earlier said through some discussion with their Chinese counterpart, they had agreed to change the way they do business with the Asian superpower around Official Development Assistance grants.

China is contributing almost a quarter of the $65 million the Cook Islands expects to receive in official aid for the 2019/20 financial year.

The Cooks had pushed their agenda that local companies be used to do the infrastructure projects, Brown said.

It had always been a little difficult to try and “impose our rules on somebody else’s money”, but they had been fairly successful in the last few years in changing the way their development partners worked with them.

New Zealand, which contributes the largest chunk of the country’s official development assistance (39 per cent) was the first to enter an agreement with the Cook Islands government, allowing local companies to carry out construction work on projects they had funded here.

Landholdings Limited was granted the contract to complete the New Zealand-funded Tereora College upgrade.

However the company declined to comment on the Beijing deal.               

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