The Federated States of Micronesia is bracing for challenges ahead as it prepares to embark on approximately $400 million worth of capital improvement projects underway in its four states.
With such an unprecedented amount of projects in the pipeline, the FSM government and local contractors begin to evaluate and find solutions to the local construction industry's handicaps including a manpower shortage.
During a recent meeting with Secretary Carlson D. Apis of the FSM Department of Transportation Communication & Infrastructure, Pohnpei-registered private contractors expressed concerns about their ability to compete with foreign contractors given their limitations such as a lack of necessary equipment, manpower, licenses, or cash reserves to take on major projects.
“Our government’s preference is really to have our own companies participate more in our projects,” Apis said in the meeting.
The construction boom is fueled by funding secured from the Compact of Free Association, Federal Aviation Administration, World Bank, and Asian Development Bank among others.
According to the FSM Information Service, the infrastructure agency hosted the meeting to update industry stakeholders on the current status of the FSM’sInfrastructure Development Plan.
The department also solicited the local companies' suggestions on how to improve the partnership between the contractors and the national government, "so as to ensure that local contractors play a more active role in the implementation of the plan."
One of the concerns raised during the meeting was the conflicts in building standards, considering that designers from foreign countries, such as the United States and New Zealand, follow different building codes. Consequently, the result on the ground in the FSM is inconsistent.
Apis noted that the FSM is in the process of developing its own building code, which would universalize construction requirements in the FSM.
Apis explained that, while there has been good progress in securing necessary funding for infrastructure programming, that an ongoing issue remains the scarcity of contractors.
He suggested that in addition to the development of the FSM’s own building code, "it may be fruitful for FSM-based contractors to consider partnerships with foreign construction firms."
Projects in four FSM states are currently in different stages of the procurement process.
In Yap, the rehabilitation of the airport runway is already out to bid. The replacement of the water treatment plant, and the replacement of the wastewater treatment plant are expected to have their request for proposals ready in July. Improvements on bridges and schools are currently being designed and/or in the process of hiring a designer. In Chuuk, the construction of five dispensaries, and three schools are having their bidding documents prepared. A design consultant is being procured for the extension of Weno’s paved road and scoping and design is expected to start in mid-2021 for the construction of the new Chuuk State Hospital. In Pohnpei, the RFP is ready for the Kinakapw to Lehn Diadi Waterline Project, as well as the new Teaching Clinic at the College of Micronesia-FSM. Meanwhile, bidding documents are being finalized for the construction of the Pohnpei Primary Healthcare Facility, as well as Pohnpei Island Central School’s Campus & Library Improvements. A design consultant is being procured for the replacement of the Awak Bridge.
In Kosrae, design consultants are being procured for the re-paving of the airport runway, improvements to Malem Elementary School, and improvements to the Lelu Causeway.