Is the Construction Industry in Pakistan Ready for a Transformation?

January 5, 2022

The transformation of construction industry in Pakistan has been long overdue. The current system is outdated and needs to be replaced with an advanced, integrated system that will provide a framework to facilitate growth and development. This paper highlights some key issues which need urgent attention so as to bring about this change. It also suggests ways in which these changes can be made possible. 

A review of legislation regarding project approval and supervision 

This includes revisions of relevant laws such as the Planning Commission Act (PCA), Environmental Protection Ordinance (EPO) and the Urban Development Authority Ordinance (UDA). These are all outdated and not suitable for the present-day requirements. They have remained unchanged since their inception due to lack of political will or because they were never intended to be used by private sector entities. The main problem lies in the fact that there is no clear demarcation between public and private sectors which makes it difficult to regulate them effectively. 

The establishment of a new regulatory body – Pakistan Bureau of Standards (PBS) – which would ensure uniform standards throughout the country 

This would help eliminate confusion over quality control measures. Currently, each state has its own set of rules and regulations. There is no standard operating procedure for measuring materials or establishing safety standards across different states. As a result, projects often end up being delayed or abandoned altogether. For example, many buildings erected in Lahore are far inferior to those constructed in Karachi. This disparity exists because of differences in the standards applied by the respective authorities. Establishing a single national agency to oversee the quality of construction products and services will go a long way in resolving this issue. 

Creation of an independent authority responsible for monitoring compliance with environmental protection laws and regulation 

Currently, enforcement of environmental laws is left to various government agencies which have limited resources. This means that violations may slip through the cracks. An independent body could monitor the activities of local governments and hold them accountable for noncompliance. Such an entity would be empowered to levy penalties against violators. 

Establishment of a single central authority responsible for issuing permits and licenses to construct buildings 

All building projects require permission from one or more government bodies before construction begins. Currently, there is no single body responsible for granting permissions. Every time a permit is required, the process involves multiple layers of bureaucracy. This delays project approvals and increases costs. One centralized authority could handle all applications and grant permissions accordingly. 

The introduction of modern technology in the construction industry 

This would help streamline operations and reduce human error. Smart meters could be installed on electrical lines to automatically measure power consumption during peak hours. Automatic temperature controls could be incorporated into HVAC systems to maintain a comfortable environment. Computer-controlled traffic signals would allow vehicles to travel at optimum speeds. Electronic lock mechanisms could be developed to prevent unauthorized entry into secured areas. These devices would greatly improve efficiency and increase productivity. 

Standardization of procedures for inspection and testing 

The current system of inspections and testing is inefficient and prone to errors. Each state has its own set of rules and practices. This results in inconsistencies and unnecessary delays. Uniform standards should be established across the country so that all inspections are conducted using the same protocols. 

Establishment of a single database to track construction activity and performance 

This would enable a better understanding of the industry’s strengths and weaknesses. It would also help identify opportunities for improvement in terms of cost savings, quality assurance and delivery schedules. 

Provision of incentives to encourage compliance with environmental protection laws 

Enforcement of environmental laws is a costly affair for local governments. However, failure to comply carries heavy fines and penalties. Fines levied by provincial authorities are collected by the federal government. This means that the financial burden falls squarely on the shoulders of local authorities. To make matters worse, the collection of fines is often delayed due to bureaucratic red tape. Thus, enforcement of environmental laws is weak and ineffective. Providing local governments with financial incentives would help motivate them to enforce environmental protection laws effectively. This would go a long way in improving the overall quality of life in Pakistan. 

Establishment of a unified system for tracking construction projects 

There is currently no single source of information regarding the status of all ongoing construction projects. Some companies maintain internal databases to track their own projects while others use spreadsheets or word processing programs. This leads to incomplete data and inaccurate reporting. A single centralized database would be able to provide a comprehensive picture of the entire industry. This would give investors, clients and stakeholders a clearer idea of the market dynamics. Such a system would help identify emerging trends and opportunities in the industry. 

Introduction of standardized contracts to improve transparency and accountability 

Contracts are essential documents used to outline expectations between parties involved in a project. They play a critical role in ensuring that projects proceed smoothly and without any unexpected delays. Unfortunately, the current system is fragmented and lacks transparency. Multiple contracts may exist for the same project. Furthermore, contractors often enter into separate agreements with various subcontractors. This leads to discrepancies in contractual obligations and responsibilities. To resolve this problem, all construction contracts should be standardized. 

Standardization of forms and templates for documentation 

Documentation is another important aspect of a construction contract. However, the current system is inconsistent and confusing. Some companies use Microsoft Word as a template while others rely on spreadsheets. This creates confusion among clients, investors and subcontractors. All construction contracts should be standardized so that they are easy to understand and follow. 

Establishment of a single database to facilitate trade between buyers and sellers 

Currently, construction projects are sold via several channels including auctions, direct sales, and intermediaries. Buyers and sellers may not know each other and thus fail to establish relationships. This leads to problems such as duplicate orders and unscrupulous practices. A single online platform would enable buyers and sellers to interact directly. This would create greater transparency and eliminate the possibility of fraud. 

To Conclude 

Pakistan’s construction industry has been stagnant for decades. As a result, it is now lagging behind its peers in India, China and the Middle East. The transformation of this sector requires a paradigm shift in thinking. It is high time that we adopt new technologies to bring about a revolution in the way things are done. This will help us leapfrog our competitors and lead the world in the construction industry. 

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