FORGING NEW FRONTIERS FOR THE BUILD INDUSTRY
An interview with YB Dato' Sri Haji Fadillah bin Haji Yusof, Senior Minister, Ministry of Works, Malaysia
We had the pleasure of meeting YB Dato’ Sri Haji Fadillah bin Haji Yusof who incidentally was the recipient of the International Road Federation Man of the Year Award in 2016 as one of the most prestigious individual honour in the global road industry. He was recognised as the chief architect behind Malaysia’s spectacular Trans Borneo Highway also known as the Asian Highway 150 (AH 150) of the Asian Highway Network.
Here are the excerpts of his perspective as he shares his views on the challenges and the way forward for the construction industry in facing the COVID-19 pandemic which is in its third wave.
What are the challenges faced by the construction industry in Malaysia during this COVID-19 pandemic?
The COVID-19 pandemic has struck all economic sectors including the construction industry in an unprecedented manner which is unimaginable in our life time. Among the short-term effects, we are witnessing many projects being delayed or cancelled and supply chains disrupted. However, the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) during the initial phase of the Movement Control Order (MCO) approved 13 types of construction activities to operate subject to strict adherence of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) drawn up by CIDB.
As the COVID-19 cases tapered, the government decided to allow all economic sectors to operate where the main issues faced in particular the construction-related companies include financial difficulty, project delivery and availability of labour.
This is an astonishingly difficult time but strategic interventions and initiatives can help the construction industry stakeholders manage the immediate crisis, stabilise supply chains and reinforce the industry to emerge from this pandemic on a more structured and solid manner. The construction industry can be assured that the Ministry of Works is mindful of its leadership role and is looking forward to ensure sustainability and financial prudence in emerging successfully from this crisis.
How can the industry overcome the current challenges?
In the short term, the construction industry players must focus on gaining financial stability with the government to ensure that all public sector construction projects are awarded and implemented quickly. Construction projects are the catalyst to ignite positive economic impact on the construction industry supply chain and have a two times multiplier effect in which another 120 sectors were identified as being inter related to each other. This will mean that we have to constantly relook, rethink and replan our business models to ensure survivability for the long term. Needless to say, we are in this fight against COVID- 19 as a nation regardless of the industry sectors and must work together in synergy for the well-being of the country.
Safety & Health
Companies must focus on keeping their workforce safe and healthy by adhering to the SOPs for the construction industry which has been put in place by CIDB on Centralised Labour Quarters (CLQ) to ensure minimum risk of COVID-19 spreading in the workers’ accommodation and construction sites. The CIDB is continuously monitoring the compliance of these SOPs at construction sites. I have personally led a few construction sites visits to inspect on their compliance to the SOPs and found that 80 percent of the construction sites have complied accordingly.
In addition to health and safety, the COVID-19 pandemic and MCO has more than ever, emphasised the importance of technology adoption in the construction industry.
Notably, construction sites should no longer have large groups of people working at the same time in order to avoid the risk of infection. This emphasised the need for the construction industry to reduce the dependency on foreign unskilled labour and instead adopt mechanisation and technology which will allow us to reduce the workforce significantly and offer higher wages to a few highly skilled local work forces.
The Malaysian Government will continuously ensure that the construction industry will adopt and embrace the use of the Industrialised Building System (IBS) and Building Information Modelling (BIM) which is anticipated to transform the construction industry as a whole in the future.
The construction industry stakeholders should take this opportunity to relook, rethink and replan their business models as I have mentioned earlier in order to strengthen their business strategy and focus on upskilling and upgrading their workforce. I believe when the economy recovers from this pandemic, the construction industry will be ready and be resilient to compete at all levels through their enhanced capabilities and capacities to ensure productivity and competitiveness.
This is an astonishingly difficult time but strategic interventions and initiatives can help the construction industry stakeholders manage the immediate crisis, stabilise supply chains and reinforce the industry to emerge from this pandemic on a more structured and solid manner.
YB Dato’ Sri Haji Fadillah bin Haji Yusof,
Senior Minister of Works, Malaysia