Building projects on standby

Public works projects amounting to €800 million are still awaiting a decision by the government, even after public tenders were launched and despite EU funding being available to finance the works.

Projects on a standstill include the new fishing port in Tavira, the second phase of Hospital Sousa Martins in Guarda and the bridge over the Trancão River in Sacavém, which all await a decision regarding the award of public contracts, reported online publication Dinheiro Vivo.

In November last year, the former economy minister had announced in Parliament that public works would benefit from €3.7 billion in funds through the QREN programme (including mainly EU funds) in a bid to support the struggling construction sector.

Reis Campos, president of the Portuguese Confederation for Construction and Real Estate (CPCI), has stressed that “the government has €800 million worth of construction projects that could start tomorrow. It has the funds, public tender procedures have been concluded, so all it needs to do now is make a decision to award the contracts”.

The €800 million correspond to the difference between all the public tenders launched between January 2012 and June 2013, amounting to €2.425 billion, and the projects that were approved already to the tune of €1.6 billion.

Reis Campos believes that this could be the “turning point” for the construction sector, which has been hit by the “longest and deepest crisis in living memory”, and asks the government to move swiftly and make the most of the recent positive economic indicators (a 1.1% increase in GDP).

“This turning point could be possible through the construction sector. The €3.7 billion funding through QREN represents two years’ worth of construction projects, mainly funded by the EU. The national input equates to just between 5% and 15%. It would be a waste to lose the funding, particularly when investment in the sector has been in the red for 23 consecutive semesters,” he said.

Just this year, 1,048 public tenders were launched totalling €769 million. The CPCI president recognises that although the figures are still low, a growth of 6% has been registered in the value of projects and of 31% in the number of public tenders, which means construction projects are being announced but on a smaller scale. These include water supply and sanitation projects and road improvement works.