Chinese Investments – Roles of Construction Professionals

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Nain Early Childhood Institution, Nain St. Elizabeth

Fifteen years ago, and five hundred years after the arrival of Christopher Columbus on our shores, a second Spanish Invasion took place.  Five years before the start of the “invasion”, the country was warned about the impending investments, and that the pipeline was filling up at a rapid pace. The Minister of Development at the time, Dr. Paul Robertson was aptly titled Minister of the Pipeline.

The pipeline opened up, and the Spanish investment in the tourism sector started flowing like a river during a hurricane.  Sadly the expected economic impact did not materialize for the construction industry sector.  Architects, engineers, and quantity surveyors were left standing on the sidelines, not participating in this investment boom.

I am not sure what took place during the negotiation phase for these investments by the Government agencies and the Spanish investors, but a critical sector of the local construction industry was left behind, that is the architects, engineers, and quantity surveyors.  Ignoring the roles these construction professionals play in the local construction industry resulted in numerous accidents, such as collapsed slabs during the construction of these hotels.

Fast-forward to 2013 and the same mistake is about to take place unless the policy makers do and think otherwise, and more so respect the Laws of the land.  On the just concluded official visit to China by the Honourable Prime Minister, it was announced that the Chinese would be constructing two new infant schools, one in Tower Hill, in Kingston and the other in Morant Estate, St. Thomas.  These schools will be gifts to the Government and people of Jamaica.  The Press release from the Office of the Prime Minister stated inter alia:

“Under the agreement, the Chinese government will assist in constructing the classrooms, playing rooms, auxiliary rooms, outdoor corridors, outdoor playground and other facilities. The Chinese will also be responsible for the design of the project, supplying the necessary construction machinery, equipment, materials and dispatching the necessary number of Chinese technical personnel to Jamaica to organize construction.”

If one should take this announcement at its face value, then it would be safe to conclude that there is going to be absolutely no work for any Jamaican construction professionals, as the Chinese will be dispatching technical personnel to Jamaica to design and execute the construction.

When I read this I was appalled, because I wondered where are the Jamaican construction professionals in the scheme of things as it relates to both these schools, and the much bigger Logistics Hub investment?

Two out of the three named construction professionals are regulated in Jamaica under an Act of Parliament.  The architects are regulated under the Architects Registration Act 1987, which was amended in 2005 and the engineers under the Professional Engineers Registration Act 1987. These two Acts of Parliament require all architects and engineers intending on practicing in Jamaica to be registered and issued with a practicing certificate much the same way as doctors and attorneys-at-law.  The Quantity Surveyors are self-regulated through the Jamaica Institution of Quantity Surveyors.

Fifteen years ago, the construction professionals were left behind because these two Acts were in their infancy.  These two Acts are now considered mature and it is my hope that the two Boards entrusted with the Regulations and the Administration, act  accordingly in the public’s interest and of the professionals who they regulate.  After all, the Chinese are international investors, and we must ensure that they abide by the rules as laid down by our Sovereign Parliament.

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