Issues remain far from solved after 130 contractors met the Prime Minister Lyonchen Jigmi Y. Thinley last May, to discuss solutions for problems faced in their line of work.
The Construction Association Board (CAB) Secretary, Cheku Drukpa said they were helpless since none of the issues submitted were solved even if it was presented to the ‘Prime Minister’.
The contractors presented issues attached with suggestions as possible solutions in areas of; shortage of engineers, absconded laborers and other related issues. They said it should be solved jointly with Ministry of finance (MoF) and Ministry of Works and Human Settlement (MoWHS).
“Even the genuine issue of labor problem was not solved effectively,” said the CAB Secretary.
An official from CAB, Ugyen Dorji said most of the contractors were not happy as the meeting was not that helpful. From the 10 submissions of contractors only few were looked into.
Many laborers flee taking payments made in advance and as a result constructions are put to hold or delayed.
Lhundub Dorji from East West Company said he incurred a loss of about Nu 0.2mn for a project worth of Nu 50mn simply because laborers absconded with advance-payments.
Ugyen Dorji said Lyonchen would be assigning Police department and Immigration to look into the labor issue more seriously.
Lyonchen told the contractors, checking each and every vehicle plying through bordering checkpoints will be inconvenient for the public.
The Labor secretary Pema Wangda said the labor agents are responsible to recruit, select and supply laborers for contractors. “…but they don’t, instead they take commission”.
The CAB secretary said government and private sector should elaborately make an attempt to attract Bhutanese laborers to work in construction sites.
Timber-related issues made up for major discussions with the PM. Timber, a controlled item is not freely available and its supply is regulated by the Natural Resources Development Corporation Limited (NRDCL).
Abrupt unavailability of timber delayed projects and contractors had to pay millions in penalties. The contractors proposed a free market for timber as government agency alone is not able to supply timber sufficiently and efficiently.
Neten Wangdi of Neten Construction who once paid a penalty around Nu 2.5mn said problems that government could not look into was left unsolved.
He had proposed during discussions with the PM that the issues related to timber, labor, engineer shortage should be discussed between engineers, architects and the contractors involved when drawings are prepared and documents are tendered.
The Executive Director for Construction Development Board, Wangdi Gyeltshen said that the issue related scarcity of engineers would be solved jointly by CAB and CDB by reviewing the requirement for engineers depending on the nature of project and agency themselves.
Most of the Class A contractors were disappointed and were discouraged to continue with business in the construction sector.
Jigme Drukpa from JD construction didn’t attend the meeting since he felt that it’s of no use submitting the issues to the government.
“Penalty for 5 days’ delay after the deadline in the project was expunged by ABSD project,” he said.
He had issue was put it up to the government a year ago but there was no benefit. “Therefore it’s of no use to attend the meeting,” said Jigme Drukpa.
He had a penalty of Nu 3.3mn and on top of that construction materials and labor cost had been increased.
Contractors said that the Government didn’t have solutions for their issues and they might have to live with problems forever.
Gyambo, who attended the meeting, said “Demanding quality-work is easy but to have that quality we need the issues to be solved”.
Out of 10 submissions of contractors, double licensing fees to CDB and trade department, and taxes on spare parts of heavy earth moving equipments were not raised.
The CAB Secretary said all the contractors felt that paying taxes isn’t a major issue if other issues were solved.