As Novac writes on the 12th of September, 2020, half a year after the devastating earthquake in which one person lost their life and about 25,000 houses and buildings were damaged, the major Zagreb restoration is ready to begin, which is still associated with many doubts. The only certain thing is that it will be expensive and long-lasting. Scaffolding and cranes will be a common sight on the streets of Zagreb for years to come, especially in the city centre where the damage was the greatest. For many, there will be a lot of work to be done.
“Croatian producers must have priority in the post-earthquake Zagreb restoration”, emphasised the Vice President of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce for Construction, Transport and Communications, Mirjana Cagalj, presenting a new project of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce under the name – Let’s build Croatian. She stated that the damage done to the Croatian capital estimates range up to 86 billion kuna, and it’s difficult to say with certainty how much the complete reconstruction will cost.
“It regards a lot of public money that requires transparent spending and support for the Croatian economy. It will take decades, depending on the inflow of funds. Thw Zagreb restoration project is a great opportunity. From this, the city can come out more beautiful and safer than it was before, and our construction industry and economy will become stronger. History teaches us that these unfortunate situations can be an opportunity for the future of Zagreb. After the earthquake which struck back in 1880, Zagreb became a modern Central European city, and until then it was a small town,” noted Mirjana Cagalj, who believes that the idea that Croatian producers must have priority in the Zagreb restoration process.
“In the case of this project, we can say that there are three lines of action – towards the state, regional and local self-government and towards all professions and actors involved in construction. We have connected professions through the associations of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce with the Ministry of Physical Planning, Construction and State Property, the Faculty of Civil Engineering, the Croatian Chamber of Civil Engineers and Architects, HUPFAS and other institutions. The Chamber already had an online database of Croatian companies and products, our Catalog of Croatian Products, and now we’ve adapted it especially for renovation products in order to make the process of including Croatian products as simple as possible. We’d like to invite our clients to send out a strong and unequivocal message that they want to preserve Croatian manufacturers and jobs in the production of construction materialsm” pointed out Cagalj, adding that the reconstruction of a city of millions is a complex job in which there is room for people from a wide array of sectors.
The lack of manpower in Croatian construction companies is often mentioned as a major problem, which is why many large construction jobs in Croatia are carried out by foreign companies.
“This problem didn’t just pop up yesterday and it has its oscillations. From 2008 to 2015, the construction sector lost almost 40,000 jobs. Although the building sector began to recover in 2015, many workers left Croatia, some retrained for other occupations, and there was no quota at that time. We’ve been importing workers since back in 2017, but it’s difficult for qualified labour from third countries to choose to come to work in Croatia. Although a large number of the largest construction companies were lost in that crisis, and now we’ve got a situation in which projects are being carried out by foreign companies and the Croatian ones work as subcontractors, this doesn’t necessarily mean a slow down for the Zagreb restoration process. We have enough capacities for the work ahead of us. The contractors and manufacturers of materials and equipment are ready,” claimed Mirjana Cagalj, who also provided an answer to the question of how the state or the Croatian Chamber of Commerce can give preference to Croatian companies during the Zagreb restoration process, especially if foreign companies will offer better and cheaper products and services.
“We’re aware of the EU principles of the open market, but it’s crucial to make the professional and general public aware that Croatian products have quality. In the law itself, we presented the possibility of implementing provisions that would enable the greater use of Croatian products through the faster implementation of tenders with the proximity and availability of products and services. Thus, the main criterion is the criterion of urgency in supply. In this way, through technical specifications, we’ll provide an opportunity for Croatian resources without the need for discriminatory provisions for other EU entities,” said the Vice President of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce.