27 March 2003 | David Arminas
British firms could be frozen out of major reconstruction work in Iraq unless they start seeking tenders immediately.
Colin Adams, chief executive of lobby group the British Consultants and Construction Bureau (BCCB), told SM that UK companies should begin planning and networking to ensure they know where aid money will be spent to rebuild Iraq.
As the first US and British incursion into Iraq took place, he said it was doubly important for British firms to start now as the US government would be giving aid to the United Nations, relief agencies and charities for projects contracted to American firms.
It was also likely that the US, as the main occupying power, would sidestep outside agencies and contract directly to US firms for reconstruction projects as it saw fit in the time between the end of hostilities and the establishment of law and order.
"Firms should start knocking on the doors of British government departments and agencies, work with the Ministry of Defence and get to know how they can help," Adams said.
"There's no point in UK companies beating around the bush over the tying of US aid to contracts. The real issue for British supply chains is that UK aid is not similarly tied, so they must compete in an open market."
But UK companies should not give up hope of working on US projects, according to the Construction Confederation, which represents contractors.
"We would hope that UK construction companies further down the supply chain are considered for lucrative subcontract work from major US firms," said a confederation spokesperson.
The American media has reported that the US government could spend $1.8 billion on reconstruction in the first year, but only around $50 million would go to the UN and relief agencies.
The UN has estimated that reconstruction could cost $10 billion a year.
Trade Partners UK, the government agency that helps British firms to establish contacts for overseas contracts, has already been talking to companies about working in Iraq once the fighting stops.
• More than half of purchasers are concerned about the effects the war in Iraq will have on their supply chains, according to SM's latest online poll. Almost a third expressed "very" strong concerns. Have your say at www.supplymanagement.com