YCDC Policy Hits Developers, Workers

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 17 June 2016

RANGOON — A month after the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) announced the suspension of certain high-rise construction projects across Rangoon, developers have complained that the move is hurting their businesses and workers.

Without giving the developers prior warning, on May 14 the YCDC announced a halt to the construction of more than 200 buildings in Rangoon that were to be nine or more stories high.

“Developers like us are facing big problems,” said Myo Myint, M.K.T Construction’s chairman, who was forced to stop work on at least five construction sites around Rangoon. “We have no idea whether we should keep our skilled laborers at the sites or not. We have at least 300 workers per site.”

According to the YCDC, the previous Rangoon divisional government and municipal council had given “initial approval” for proposals to build 204 high-rises (classified as buildings with nine stories or more) from 2013 to March 31 this year.

“There are many related industries and people, like construction workers, who have also been impacted by this suspension,” Myo Myint said. “We’re not breaking any rules. What we want is to be allowed to continue working on the projects while [the YCDC] conducts its inspections.”

“Authorities said they will form a committee to review these suspended buildings soon, but it’s been more than one month now,” Myo Myint said. “If the delays continue, how can we survive?”

Developers said there have been many consequences following the YCDC’s announcement: labor issues, complaints from buyers of the unfinished apartments, delays on repaying bank loans, cash flow issues and lack of business for construction suppliers.

Kyaw Kyaw Naing, director of i-Green Construction, which has now stopped two high-end properties in Yankin and Hlaing townships, said he has no idea how to resolve his customers’ complaints, as his company has sold more than 200 rooms at each site.

“Who will take responsibility for this? Most developers have lost the trust of our customers because we don’t know how to explain what has happened or when construction will recommence,” he said. “Some customers stopped payments on their apartments, which will make our continued operations difficult.”

“We have started work at each construction site many times, and we have had to fill out a lot of paperwork and wait for government approvals on different occasions,” Kyaw Kyaw Naing said. “It is a convoluted process, but we are not breaking any laws.”

Khun Naung Myint Wai, chairman of Waminn Group of Companies, said the developers are not blaming YCDC, they are just hoping for more rational policies.

“For my site, I tried hard to receive approval to build, and the land was won at an auction by the government. We’ve been making a massive investment, and I’m worried that now that it’s the rainy season, the site needs care to prevent landslides,” he said.

“We’re not cronies and tycoons. We’re just small- and medium-[level] businessmen. If government policy harms us, it means many people will suffer, so the government should address this problem as soon as possible.”

“There are more than 100,000 construction workers who have been affected by this policy,” he said.

In construction industry, workers’ daily wages range from 7,500 kyats (US6.40) per day to 12000 kyats, while architects and engineers earn 3 million kyats (US$2,500) per month.

“We don’t earn money every day like we used to,” said Aung Htoo, a construction worker for developer Naing Group. “This is a big loss, and now school is starting, so we will really have problems supporting our children, and might not be able to cover some of the costs of daily living.”

“Most workers came here from rural areas and don’t know how to survive in Rangoon without a job,” he said.

But developers have been lucky that workers have not protested yet.

“Actually, construction workers are still holding out hope,” Myo Myint said.

Than Htay, head of YCDC’s building department, said the Rangoon government will solve this problem very soon as they are aware of the impact the policy is having on the bottom rungs of the construction industry.

“The Rangoon government will form a committee very soon—as soon as possible,” he said.