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Wednesday, 31 October 2012
Singapore shows why doing business is harder here
Topic: Construction Industry

Dear Editor,      

         I read with interest your article in the Caribbean Report, of 24 October 2012, titled “ Doing Business just got harder: Jamaica slips two Spots in World Bank Rankings”.  It is clear, from the assessment, that regulatory reforms were instituted in the majority of economies to improve ease of doing business.  But, it might not be clear how much new technologies played a part in the best of the regulatory practices.  This in mind, I write to briefly explain how Singapore manages to lead the world: at least with regard to dealing with construction projects.   

As early as 1995, Singapore’s Ministry of National Development implemented a project called CORENET: which stands for Construction and Real Estate NETwork.  Its objective was to re-engineer processes in the construction industry to achieve faster turn-around times, as well as increased productivity and quality.  CORENET was implemented by the Singapore Building and Construction Authority in collaboration with other public and private organizations.  An I.T. infrastructure was developed to facilitate integration of processes in a building’s life cycle: such as Design, Procurement, Construction, and Maintenance.

         The current effort provides (1) information services to speed up business planning and decision making; (2) electronic building plan submission, checking and approval; as well as (3) IT standards for communication between involved parties.  The benefits involve provision of (a) one-stop convenience for private and public sectors alike; (b) one-stop submission of plans to multiple authorities from any location at any time; (c) online access to check submission status; and (d) single billboard for approving authorities to post submission status.

         While we argue how to approve submissions within 3-months, Singapore is doing it earlier.  But, this did not occur overnight.  It started with the political will to improve the system, then the allocation of resources and controls to achieve it.  It really depends on how important business is to the political directorate and whether it is willing to look beyond short-term fixes to a long-term overhaul for the ultimate good of Jamaica, and those doing business in it. 

Posted by phcjam at 2:47 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 21 November 2012 4:54 PM EST
Tuesday, 25 September 2012
Construction Industry's Use of updated Codes and Standards
Topic: Construction Industry

                Thank you for your article titled “Pay Now or Pay Later”, published in the Sunday Observer dated 23 September 2012.  Loy Malcolm’s advocacy for updated codes and standards being used in the construction industry is well founded.  But as with so many other things in Jamaica, implementation is the real problem: not the inability to have them drafted or their lack of acceptance.

                I can attest to the need for these codes and standards.  While working in the Projects Unit of the Ministry of Health, we had to use British standards to rehabilitate our hospitals, because our specialist health-facility consultants were British and no local codes existed for this purpose.  Had the original U.S. consultants who drafted the hospital programme been used for this phase of works, we probably would have adopted their standards.  We also need codes to address “green”, or sustainable, buildings.

                The industry is generally in agreement with Ms. Malcolm.  Updating codes and standards has even been written into Jamaica’s Vision 2030 Sector Plan for the Construction Industry.  Building professionals will even give of their time and effort freely to achieve this end.  Again, I can attest to the commitment of professionals that voluntarily worked on the steering and working groups that drafted the local adaptation of the International Building Code [IBC] in 2006.

                The IBC gets updated regularly every three (3) years but, after six (6) years, the relevant legislation has still not been passed to enforce our code.  It is hoped there will be no further delay on this matter.  Jamaica’s construction industry is poised to return to pre-recession levels of activity in the medium term, and planning has already begun on buildings that will be designed in the short-term.  If we are really serious about codes and standards, the time to act is now.  If we really want Jamaica to progress, let us stop procrastinating on matters as serious as this.

Posted by phcjam at 11:48 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 25 September 2012 12:18 PM EDT

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