Policy to enhance professionalism in Bhutan's construction sector

THIMPHU (Kuensel/ANN) - Bhutan is experiencing construction boom with mushrooming of numerous building projects.

Bhutan is experiencing construction boom of a sort with mushrooming of numerous building projects.   

The construction sector is one of the major contributors to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It contributed 15.87 percent to GDP in 2017 and 16.28 percent in 2016.  

In 2016, the sector employed 2.56 percent of the labour force, equivalent to 6,624 construction professionals in construction and consultant firms. 

However, the sector is also often accused of being profit-driven and irresponsible. 

As per the Construction Development Board’s (CDB) 2017-2018 annual report, between 2015 and 2018, about Nu 1.2 billion was in dispute in the sector for reasons like termination of contracts, audit memos, time extension, deviation, price adjustments and force majeure, among others. 

According to the National Construction Industry Policy 2019,  the progress of the construction industry in terms of professionalism remains poor despite the growth of investment in the construction of infrastructure. 

Inadequate expertise in project planning and management both in public and private sectors and poor professional execution and supervision of construction works are some of the reasons for the bad reputation the construction industry is suffering from today, the policy stated. 

The policy calls for the establishment of enabling environment for a vibrant and green construction industry through innovation, standardisation and regulation. 

Professionalising the sector 

As per the policy, the work and human settlement ministry will establish an engineering council to register, regulate, and professionalise construction professionals in the country. 

Labour ministry along with relevant agencies will conduct need assessment for human resource development in the industry and formulate its human resource master plan. 

Encouraging construction firms to invest in human resource development programmes with focus on skill development and knowledge sharing will also be promoted. 

Improve construction quality 

To provide infrastructure of acceptable quality, strengthening the monitoring system, and ensuring certification of products and required infrastructure facilities will be put in place. 

According to the policy, CDB and the engineering council will develop code of conduct and ethics for contractors, consultants and construction professionals. 

The human settlement ministry will develop guidelines for quality assurance and worksite safety along with ensuring universal access to all public infrastructure, which would be in line with the guideline for differently-abled friendly construction. 

Bhutan Standard Bureau in collaboration with relevant agencies will develop national standards and code of practice applicable to the construction industry including certification of materials and products. 

Laboratories to test construction materials would also be established at appropriate locations. 

Procuring agencies will ensure the execution of quality assurance plan and environmental management plan for all public works including restoration of damaged local areas and public amenities. 

Contractors will have to submit monthly expenditure plan, in their proposal for disbursement and effective utilisation of mobilisation advance fund. 

To strengthen enforcement and regulation, CDB will institute a mechanism to regulate and enforce strict compliance of the regulation, quality and standards in the construction industry.

All agencies involved will have to ensure incorporation of traditional architecture as per the existing regulations, standards and guidelines. 

Employment generation 

Employment generation would be at the core of construction planning and programmes to address the employment needs of the country, particularly women and youth, as per the policy.  

It was learnt that majority of the jobs in the construction industry were taken by foreign workers. 

In 2015, the ratio of foreign workers to Bhutanese employed in construction industry stood at 9:1. Although about 690 TVET graduates enter the job market annually, it was found that the number was inadequate to meet the human resource requirement in the construction industry.  

The Royal Monetary Authority annually remitted Nu 7B (US$ 98.591M) in Indian currency as payments for the foreign workers and Nu 5.76B (US$ 81.126M) for the construction materials. 

According to the policy, labour ministry will have to increase TVET graduates numbers, and upgrade the skills and certification of workers to meet the requirements of the construction industry. 

The ministry will also have to create a platform to bring together the industry and academia to address skill mismatch and promote entrepreneurship among skilled worker through appropriate programmes. 

Procuring agencies will have to ensure only certified construction personnel as skilled craftsperson in infrastructure construction. 

Going green  

To promote green growth and sustainable financing in the construction industry, the policy states that incentives would be provided to those who adopt construction standards that take into account energy efficiency, environment-friendly and new traditional buildings using traditional materials and resilient traditional construction techniques. 

Providing incentives to local manufacturers that provide environmentally friendly and energy-efficient materials and also help minimise imports of construction materials in the manufacturing industry, will also be incorporated.   

Use of locally grown timber and other alternative materials such as bamboo will also be encouraged, as per the policy.     

All government agencies would also be required to undertake infrastructure development work to promote integrated service ducts.

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