EMBRACING THE NEW NORMAL IN CONSTRUCTION
An interview with YBhg. Datuk Ir. Ahmad 'Asri Abdul Hamid, Chief Executive of the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) of Malaysia
We checked in on Datuk Ir. Ahmad ‘Asri Abdul Hamid, the Chief Executive of CIDB Malaysia. He has more than 30 years of experience in Construction with 13 years in the Public Works Department, 3 years as the President for the Professional Services Development Corporation (PSDC) and 20 years in CIDB. Datuk Ir. Ahmad ‘Asri have recently been awarded the Construction Professional of the Year in the RICS Awards 2020. Let us listen to his insights on the topic “Embracing the New Normal in Construction”.
YBhg. Datuk, Malaysia has gone through the Movement Control Order (MCO) since the middle of March this year and today, we are going through the third wave of the pandemic. How has the pandemic affected the construction industry?
The construction industry has been severely affected by the MCO, just as any other economic sector.
CIDB records show that the value of construction projects awarded reduced 42% in 2020 compared to the same period last year. From January to October 2020, the value of projects awarded was at RM55.3 billion, compared to RM94.6 billion in the same period last year (2019).
The construction industry has experienced losses up to RM11.6 billion during the implementation of MCO from 18 March until 14 April 2020. The losses were estimated from value of salaries, building materials, machinery rentals, project management and profit which was lost when the industry was not allowed to operate. From 14 April to 1 May, the losses have reduced to RM6.9 billion per month, when 13 types of construction works were allowed to operate.
What can be done to mitigate the effects?
First and foremost, we welcome the government’s move to introduce Malaysia’s Temporary Measures for Reducing the Impact of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Act 2020 (“COVID Act“) which was gazetted and came into force on 23 October 2020. The COVID Act will be in force for two years from 23 October 2020, or in accordance with the date or duration in the relevant parts of the Act.
Secondly, the government and project owners must address cashflow issues including expediting payments to companies. Other measure includes:
- Legalise existing undocumented workers with control, as a short-term measure
- Ensure compliance to regulations related to workers’ welfare such as ensuring proper workers accommodation (Act 446)
- To impose strict requirement on the use of local workers in construction projects, especially government projects.
- Enhance technology adoption in construction industry including IBS, BIM and mechanisation.
What is CIDB’s outlook for the industry moving forward?
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that the construction sector is too heavily reliant on unskilled foreign labour because of low technology adoption.
The best way for the construction industry to move forward post Covid-19 is to ensure that contractors are no longer reliant on a foreign workforce.
The construction industry players need to adopt technologies such as Industrialised Building System (IBS), mechanisation and automation to enhance the quality, safety, sustainability and productivity of their construction projects. By doing this, they will be able to attract more skilled local workers and in turn, increase their productivity.
The construction industry players would inevitably have to re-evaluate the old ways of doing things and adopt a paradigm shift to remain viable in the long-term. At the same time, the industry needs to minimise their dependency on foreign workers and instead, embrace new technologies and upskill their local workforce so that they can thrive in the new normal
Innovation and technological development are now happening at a very rapid pace around the world to modernise the way buildings and infrastructures are constructed. What seems clear is that, the world will not go back to where it was before. The new processes implemented with technology adoption is now the new normal for the construction industry.
YBhg. Datuk Ir. Ahmad ‘Asri Abdul Hamid, Chief Executive,
Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) of Malaysia