Boomtime construction: the National Convention Centre, Dublin

To capture the mood of professionals in the construction industry, Hays commissioned a short online survey to discover their opinions about Nama. We wanted to assess whether they felt it would have a beneficial impact on construction and whether it would meet its objectives of ensuring the stability of our financial system, while in turn, freeing up the banks to begin lending to businesses.

Firstly we asked whether Nama would speed up the recovery of the construction industry in Ireland. Opinion was almost evenly divided on this point with a slight tip in favour of the affirmative response (52%). Many respondents felt that the €5bn fund available to Nama to complete half-finished, viable developments would give a short- to medium-term boost to activity in the industry.

There was some confusion about what constitutes viability in an oversaturated residential and commercial market, though.

It is also unclear which type of companies will benefit from this. Many developers – regardless of their financial stability – are involved with Nama, but it is difficult for them to see how the asset management agency will impact positively on contractors and design practices. That said, they would welcome any boost to employment in the industry.

Next we moved to assessing the goals of Nama. Since its inception, Nama has been pitched as the best approach to ensure the banks are healthy enough to begin lending again.

The results in this section of the survey showed a lack of faith among the respondents that Nama could deliver in this regard.

When asked whether they had confidence that Nama would ensure the stability of Ireland's financial system, three in five (60%) replied they did not. When asked if they felt Nama would free up banks to lend to Irish construction companies within the next three years, 62% replied they did not.

This points to trouble in an industry which is projected to experience a 75% decline in peak activity in 2010. Not even the most prudent companies entered the recession cash rich. The country is littered with half-finished projects where the managing contractor's cash flow has simply run out.

According to data released by Insolvency Journal this month, there were 165 insolvencies in construction between January and April 2010, an average of 41 per month.

Therefore, it is probably not surprising that the mood about Nama's ability to do 'exactly what it says on the tin' is pessimistic in the sector that's been hardest hit in the economy.

The response to our survey's questions regarding Nama were largely negative. Even though the banks are generally a little elusive about their current lending policies, most observers have formed the opinion that the appetite to extend credit is simply not there. It looks like money pumped into the banks by Nama simply will not trickle through to the construction industry in the short to medium term.

This is extremely frustrating for construction professionals. One survey respondent made the point that if the money used by Nama had been injected directly into the economy, the beneficial effects would have been more or less instantaneous. Instead, there will be a lengthy delay while the banks act as middlemen using state money to improve their funding position, but freeing up very little for lending purposes. Subsequently, a little more life is choked from the construction industry.

Industry professionals are acutely aware of over-supply in the market and are not calling for credit to be made available to begin residential or commercial project work again. Nor are they advocates of boomtime building levels – quite the opposite in fact. Many in construction feel the property bubble promoted poor practices in planning and building quality and have no yearning for a return to this type of environment. Therefore, there will be little bereavement within the industry for the once-off developers who over-populated towns and villages with superfluous housing. Several quality-led, expert contractors and design practices working on valuable public-service projects are now struggling to survive due to cashflow constraints and the current forecast for financial aid doesn't help.

If Nama is not the vehicle to unfetter banks and free up credit flow, we're in a very worrying position. With more than one construction company going out of business every day we need an urgent response from the banks with regards to responsible credit.

The recent pressure being exerted by enterprise minister Batt O'Keeffe on banks to meet their lending promises is welcome, but more must be done or the construction industry will have the life choked out of it completely.

Paul O'Donnell is operations manager at construction and property recruitment firm Hays