BUILDING BIG

Dominican Republic 2019 | REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION | INTERVIEW

Educating the architects and engineers of tomorrow depends on a robust and vibrant construction sector, especially in SMEs.

Eliseo Christopher
BIOGRAPHY
Eliseo Christopher, a prominent civil engineering professional, has held important positions in the Dominican state, as deputy minister and advisor to micro businesses in the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Development and representative of the micro business at the National Council of Social Security (CNSS). From an early age, Cristopher showed entrepreneurial skills and high social sensitivity, which have earned him to actively participate and lead projects relevant to the economic development of Dominican society.

Can you tell us about your SME construction entrepreneurship program?

At the moment, we have various educational programs, aimed at SMEs in the construction sector. With these programs, we work in collaboration with nine of the main universities in the country. We work with young professionals who have recently graduated with high academic degrees, from engineering and architecture majors; we take it on our own to guide and form their companies. We provide them with all the necessary technical preparation, so that they can begin their careers as entrepreneurs in their desired sector. Universities prepare them in their profession, as we prepare them as entrepreneurs to compete and face the dynamics of the construction market. We make it our responsibility to train them in topics such as labor security, social security, tax payments, and state tenders, among other issues of the construction market, as well as dealing with the financial sector. Likewise, we provide them opportunities for participation as entrepreneurs in our projects as well as other public and private institutions. The idea of this program is not for professionals to become employees, but to create opportunities for them to become successful entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurship program has had extraordinary results; to such an extent that we started in 2017/2018 with 24 students and concluded with 106 fully prepared and competitive professionals. Today, in 2019, we have laid the foundations to receive 300 new professionals from extraordinary universities, with the aim of finishing more than 500 entrepreneurs and construction SMEs in the year 2020. We have managed to awaken the interest of many students and professionals in participating in our program. Not only do major universities support us, but public and private institutions also see the vison and results of our program.

What should change to help state funds find their way to SMEs in construction industry?

In the Dominican Republic, the construction sector follows a somewhat despicable tendency. While the years of 2015 and 2016 marked positive growth, the construction sector in 2017 slowed down remarkably, only to rebound again in 2018. According to my conclusions, these fluctuations are the result of huge investments made through large companies, which have intervened in the overall growth. However, the positive trend of 2018 in the SME sector does not feel such growth. While the government has established a legal framework to safeguard and support SMEs, very little of this has been implemented. Evidently, the funds released from the legal reserve for the development of low-cost housing have been allocated for the purposes in recent years. SMEs in the construction sector simply need opportunities. If the state facilitates some of the funds released by the Central Bank to small construction companies instead of directing them to large companies, it would provide a great opportunity for the country in the general growth of the economy. Through the “Fideico COPYMECON" program, we are developing housing and tourism projects in which it will be built by the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). As a result of their participation with us, they will be able to manage their own trust projects.

What are you goals and expectation for 2019?

We hope to see considerable opportunities for SMEs in the construction sector, continue developing important construction projects and promote our initiated projects (low-cost housing in which we built 2,400 low-cost apartments, up to 10,000 units), and encourage support for women in the construction field, with the objective of creating greater opportunities. We also want to continue developing educational programs, as well as work to integrate 300 small businesses in our new projects and promote a solid year in which we hope to have the support of the central government to help us reach our goals.