Sector Unsure Over Construction Law Implementation

Source: Phnom Penh Post | Thu, 04 February 2016, by

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Discussion panelists David Marshall, Simon Griffiths, Sok Siphana, Hun Chansan and Kim Heang on “Urban Planning & Construction.” Photo supplied

Real estate agents, lawyers and architects on Saturday addressed the importance of adopting the long-awaited construction law that would standardise practices and legally enforce building codes to keep up with the booming construction sector, suggesting that the new law could come into effect this year.

The new construction law that is still in the making was a central part of the discussion of the Urban Planning and Construction panel at IDP’s Global Alumni Convention 2016, a forum where decision-makers from the government and the private sector provide updates on multiple topics associated with the country’s economic development.

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Guests mingle between discussions on Cambodia’s economy. Photo supplied

Dr Sok Siphana, principal attorney of Sok Siphana & Associates and Advisor to the government, stated that the drafting of this law over the last two years would soon be complete and that “the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning, and Construction (MLMPUPC) will push for [it] to be operational this year.”

Construction law according to Seng Lot and Sok Siphana

Seng Lot explained that before the new law was in the process of drafting, there were already legal mechanisms in place supposedly regulating the construction industry in Cambodia in the form of a general land management law that was passed in 1994.This law from 1994 however, is not a consistent document but it comes in the form of separate legal documents, technical instructions, and sub-decrees. With the new law, these documents are supposed to be consolidated and put into one whole comprehensive construction law.

“The [current] draft law is not adopted yet, but we have a lot of legal documents to form a basis for our ministry to manage the construction sector. A law is a higher level of a legal document; the main legal construction point of the 1994 law was used to prepare this current law, with many points added and updated,” Lot explained.

As there is no existing governmental body to regulate industry standards, such as Singapore’s ACRA (Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority), Siphana’s part in drafting the law included producing a “very comprehensive construction law … and also introduce a whole chapter on construction contracts.”

How urgently operational construction law is needed in Cambodia was underlined by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who, two months ago, called on various ministries tasked with construction developments to crack down on illegal building projects.

“We have a whole formula to regulate the whole industry – from the blueprint, to the building company, to public safety. When the law comes out, we will have a ready set of formulas to regulate and check the quality of the building practitioner.”
David Marshall, board member of CanCham Cambodia, however, questioned the implementation process of the law amidst ongoing developments.

“To implement [the law], you really need an army of educated people to go out there and enforce it,” he said, while also raising the question of how the private sector could be adequately informed of proper real estate valuation practices and unified building codes.

Marshall’s doubts in the law becoming operational soon were echoed by other industry experts.

Andre De Jong – who was not present at the convention – board member and Chairman of the Real Estate and Construction Committee of EuroCham and managing director of Robert Bosch (Cambodia), who has been involved in the drafting of the current law, pointed out further challenges for the implementation.

“The new law will appear to be a great challenge for those construction workers, contractors, and developers who have been following unsafe practices as part of their everyday work. It will take some time to instill the knowledge and get their buy-in to the safety concepts expressed in the law, which they generally believe to be a more expensive approach,” he said.

De Jong added that until then, authorities in charge will have a lot of work on their hands in the education of the industry and enforcement of the new law, and that “there is a significant need of trained personnel in a number of fields.”

While leading private sector representatives pointed out remaining challenges that have to be overcome, the MLMUPC confirmed that they are pushing ahead with the law for this year, but acknowledged that it would likely not happen soon.

“We are pushing to finalise the law soon and plan to get it adopted by the end of 2016, but there is still much work in the process to reach our plan,” said MLMUPC spokesperson Seng Lot.

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Audience members at the GAC 2016 last Saturday. Photo supplied

He added that there is no solid date set for the construction law, which is still in the final drafting and revision stages before being submitted to the National Assembly for approval.

“It is a long process in making laws, and we can only hope to get it adopted at the end of this year” after which its enforcement could take an unspecified time before coming into effect, he explained. (The Phnom Penh Post is the media partner of the Global Alumni Convention)

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