|23 January, 2020

Contracting sector in Jordan urges government to implement amended National Building Law

The contracting sector has the potential to positively impact the national economy as a whole, according to Vice President of the Jordan Construction Contractors Association

Image used for illustrative purpose A construction worker pushes a wheelbarrow on the site of the "Jordan Gate" project in Amman.

Image used for illustrative purpose A construction worker pushes a wheelbarrow on the site of the "Jordan Gate" project in Amman.

REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

AMMAN — The construction and contracting sector is “on the brink of collapsing”, with more than 70 per cent of contractors currently unemployed, according to President of the Jordan Construction Contractors Association (JCCA) Ahmed Yacoub.

“This is a painful and unprecedented occurrence in the history of the Contractors Association since its establishment in 1972,” he said in a statement made available to The Jordan Times, adding that the sector “desperately needs the amended National Building Law to be passed”.

Contractors have urged authorities to activate and implement the amended National Building Law and bring its new version into force.

“The amendments submitted by the Association to the National Building Law could limit unauthorised and unqualified contractors in taking on important projects, something which has been damaging the reputation of the sector for years,” said Rafeeq Murad, a contractor and association member.

He told The Jordan Times in a phone interview that lately, contractors who carry out government grants have been committing “massive violations, most notably by neglecting to follow the public safety system in light of oversights and the absence of supervision”.

Murad and many of his colleagues accused the government of giving grants to an “elite few” contractors who “exercise certain political pressure”.

Calling for increased government capital expenditures in the construction sector, Murad said that, to benefit as many local contractors as possible, major projects should be divided into small packages so that more than one contractor can take on the same project.

In 2011, the Gulf Cooperation Council allocated $5 billion to finance development projects in Jordan during the 2012-2016 period, and upon the completion of that grant, Murad said that the sector’s donations and grants “need to be put under close scrutiny, as mismanagement, inefficiency and corruption practices were discovered to have taken place throughout the completion of the grant projects”.

The association also stressed that alongside regulating the sector's grants through amendments to the National Building Law, there is also a need to regulate its workforce.

“The law demands that government projects be implemented by local contractors, which is a condition the sector is in dire need of. Foreign contractors and their migrant workers pose a threat to local contractors in the private sector,” said Azmi Zuraiqat, vice president of the association.

He told The Jordan Times over the phone that one-third of Jordanians work directly or indirectly in the contracting sector, and are “more than good at it”. The Jordanian market is very small, and does not need a large number of contractors, especially when there are foreign companies.

He also stressed that government capital spending in the contracting sector is “weak” and does not serve the Jordanian market or the local contractor, adding that the government must act quickly to implement the National Building Law to allow more private-public partnerships.

If stimulated effectively, he said, the contracting sector has the potential to positively impact the national economy as a whole and the 150 sectors that revolve around it.

"I have the right to ask the government about its plans for the sector," the association president said, noting that he is “dissatisfied” with the JD108 million allocated for the sector in this year’s budget.

He pointed out that the proposed auditing of private sector activities, “which are surrounded by corruption cases”, was shelved by the government in May 2019.

"How will the government simulate the sector when one of the most important legislations concerning it is still trapped in its drawers?” he asked.

The Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation was contacted repeatedly by The Jordan Times, but was not available for comment.

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