JIS News

Government is developing a Construction Industry Policy as it takes steps to make the construction industry a more efficient and internationally competitive sector that will contribute significantly to national development.
Speaking with JIS News, Dr. Alwin Hayles, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Works, said that with the refinement of procurement rules, especially as they relate to Government contracts, the Construction Industry Policy would ensure that the public got better value for money for works that were performed by contractors.
The policy is being designed to address a number of concerns in the industry, particularly those related to the safety and security of the construction environment; qualitative and environmental factors; the registration of professional enterprises involved in the industry; the refinement of Government’s procurement rules; and, the development of skill levels in the industry, with emphasis on training and certification.
On the issue of certification, Dr. Hayles asserted that although the construction industry involved skilled personnel at various levels, there was no real system of certification islandwide, with the exception of what was being done by the HEART Trust/NTA. The Government, through the Ministry of Transport and Works, is therefore seeking to rectify this oversight.
“The Ministry has had dialogue with HEART/NTA and we are developing systems and ultimately, we’ll also develop legislation to ensure that personnel employed within the industry are properly certified,” the Permanent Secretary disclosed.
Persons, who will be affected include plumbers, carpenters, masons and equipment operators.Besides the issue of proper certification and training, the policy will address security concerns usually associated with construction projects and sites.
According to Dr. Hayles, “part of the problem that the contractors face is that when they go into certain environments, given the high unemployment in some communities, people want work, and they want to be on the payroll. They are not really concerned about skills”.
He pointed out that, “if we have a proper regime for dealing with certification, then the contractor has a basis for employing skilled labour that would be transparent and therefore, some of the difficulties associated with picking and choosing from community members would be alleviated.”
Related to the security concerns, is the problem of extortion, and the Permanent Secretary outlined that the Ministry was seeking “legislative amendments to ensure that anybody, who condones extortion in the construction industry could be held liable and could be prosecuted.”
“There is in fact legislation now governing that [security issues] and the police have a jurisdiction there.under the policy, we are to look at tightening up on the rules to ensure that contractors do not knowingly or unknowingly play a part in any illegal activities associated with the industry,” he added.
As it relates to regional cooperation, this too will be addressed in the new construction policy. This consideration has come at a time when the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has noted that although Caribbean countries contribute significantly to the institution, only two percent of that institution’s business goes to the Caribbean”We think that elevating the standard of our contractors to international levels and then have regional cooperation among contractors can enhance their ability to qualify for some of the larger IDB-funded projects,” Dr. Hayles pointed out.
Turning to the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, Dr. Hayles said, “we have done some work to enable the professionals in the industry, such as engineers and architects, to be able to work in various CARICOM countries without the bureaucracy associated now with getting things like work permits.”
In drafting the Construction Industry Policy, the Ministry had consultations with various stakeholders, including the Construction Industry Council, as well as the four main professional bodies associated with the industry, the Incorporated Master Builders Association, the Jamaica Institute of Engineers, the Jamaica Institute of Architects, and the Jamaica Institute of Quantity Surveyors. Following these extensive consultations, a draft of the proposed policy was published on the Ministry’s website for public scrutiny and comment.
Once the time for public consultation expires, the policy will be going back to Cabinet for final approval, before being taken to Parliament as a Ministry Paper (White Paper) and the Ministry will put a team together to supervise the implementation of the policy, Dr. Hayles disclosed.
Once approved and passed, the Cabinet Infrastructure Committee will have oversight of the policy, “to ensure that policy issues are brought before the Cabinet and to ensure that any legislative or other changes that will be required or any initiative from the Government that requires funding will be addressed on an ongoing basis,” said the Permanent Secretary.
If all goes according to schedule, Dr. Hayles anticipates that the Construction Industry Policy will be on-stream by the start of the next financial year.