Name : U Kyaw Lwin
Position : Union Minister
Ministry of Construction
MI : How did you start your career as a civil servant and how did you end up in this position as the Minister of Construction?
I joined the civil service after graduating as a civil engineer in 1971. Throughout my career, I worked in the construction sector climbing up the career ladder to retire as a Chief Engineer in 2008. When the new civilian government was formed in March 2011, unexpectedly I was assigned as a Dep- uty Minister of Ministry of Construction. Later in September 2012, I have become the Union Minister of the Ministry of Con- struction.
MI : As the Minister of Construction, what are your primary responsibilities?
The Ministry of Construction comprises of two main organizations, namely: Public Works (responsible for the country’s infrastructure i.e., Roads and Bridges improvement, construction, upgrading and maintenance and building construction development) and Department of Human Settlement and Housing Development (responsible for urban planning and housing development).
As the Union Minister, I am primarily responsible to improve the infrastructure and building industry of Myanmar as well as to achieve sustainable urban and housing development throughout the nation.
MI : How’s your experience as the head of the Ministry of Construction different from your past positions?
When I was working as an engineer, my main responsibility was to successfully implement a specific work or a project, inspecting the works under implementation. With advancement of my position in the civil service, the responsibility grew to ensure the smooth running of a specific construction sector in a specific area or a region. When I
became the Deputy Minister, my responsibilities included improving and overseeing some parts of the construction sector under the Leadership of the minister.
Now as the Minister, I have to cover much broader perspective, leading the construction & development of the infrastructure in our country as well as urban and housing development sectors of the nation. It can be compared to taking care of a single tree versus a forest.
MI : How’s the Ministry supporting the country’s infrastructure development?
Infrastructure development concerning with planning, construction, maintenance and upgrading of roads and bridges are among the main responsibilities of the Ministry of Construction. The work is undertaken in line with the Union Highway Network Master plan with north-south and east-west roads not only connecting seven regions and seven states of the nation, but also serving as parts of Asian, ASEAN, GMS,
BIMSTEC highways linking Myanmar to the neighboring countries through the upgrading of our roads networks. E.g., we currently have plans to develop Yangon-Mandalay Highway to a four lane by four lane highway through a BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer) arrangement. The Ministry is also supporting the country’s social infrastructure through systematic approach in urban development and housing provisions for different income groups.
MI : Could you explain about current reform processes carried out by the Ministry and policies adapted to accommodate Myanmar’s new trend?
The reform processes carried out by the Ministry include:
- Laying down sector relevant goals and strategies for Myanmar National Comprehensive Development Plan;
- Decentralization of functions from the Union to the Region and State levels;
- Institutional reform to accommodate decentralization;
- Transforming the Ministry from Implementation Body to Regulatory Body;
- Promoting private sector participation through Public Private Partnership initiatives;
- Legal reforms such as Engineering Council Law, Highway Law (Amendment), Road and Bridges Law (Amendment), Myanmar Architect Council Law, Condominium Law (Draft in processing), Expressway Law (Draft in processing);
- Facilitating formation of Myanmar Engineering Council, Myanmar Architect Council, restructuring of the Committee for Quality Control of High-Rise Building Projects;
- Modification of Departmental Code (PWD), Account Code (PWD), Analysis of Rates, and issuing of Uniform guidelines for Contracting Procedure, Provision- al Myanmar National Building Code.
MI : What is the biggest accomplishment the Ministry has achieved from the reform processes?
The tangible accomplishments from the reform processes are better connectivity, reducing the travel time throughout the regions of the nations, initiating the urban development planning throughout the nation and initiating affordable and low-cost housing schemes not only by the government but also through the private sector development.
MI : What could be the biggest challenge the Ministry has to face so far?
We have already passed decades of self-isolation, now we face shortage of capable human resources and financial constraints i.e., insufficient capacity building for the sustain- able development in the construction sector.
MI : Would you like to share informa- tion about current development as well as plans to be carried out in the future?
I would like to invite FDI to speed up the reforms and development process of our country. Now Japanese investors are participating in the construction industry through S.E.Z Thilawa and we are also hopeful for significant investments in S.E.Z in Dawei and Kyaukphyu.
In the future, government sector initiatives and participation will decrease and there will be more and more private sector involvement.
MI : What kind of difficulties the Ministry could be facing in meeting the expectations of foreign and private business organizations?
Insufficient and outdated legal and regulatory framework in urban planning and building construction sectors; for the infrastructure development, we need a lot of financial support from world organizations. Even now, we are getting some limited loans and grants from the friendly countries as well as joint venture investments from the private companies. So, I would like to urge the local companies to take part in the process of Public Private Partnership Development.
MI : In which way the Ministry is re- acting to people’s voices and giving feedback to public?
We act at grass-roots level through delivery units and meeting with the people. We also take feedback from the Parliament.
MI : How is the Ministry addressing high property prices for Myanmar citizens?
We attempt to supply more affordable and low cost housing for Myanmar citizens, in some cases subsidizing the infrastructure cost. We are also undertaking urban planning solutions such as identifying areas for upgrading and densification as well as for expansion. We have also initiated the establishment of Construction and Housing Development Bank with the objective of issuing long term loans for buying houses,
condos and apartments as well as loans for local construction firms and land owners who do not have enough funds to build their own houses and trying to improve rental housing for the low income people.
MI : What is the progress of low cost housing projects in Yangon?
The Ministry is constructing around 19,600 affordable housing units and around 6,000 low cost housing units in Yangon. More are in the pipeline.
MI : What are the critical success factors to make low cost housing projects successful?
The most critical success factors are avail- ability of accessible land and infrastructure,as well as reduction of construction cost and time. That why, our government is giving priority to subsidizing the cost of land in the housing sector.
MI : Expect from your responsibilities and duties as the Minister, what are your personal interests?
My personal interest is in sports if I do have some free time.
MI : What advice would you give to someone who has interests to work together with the Ministry of construction?
Our country has the late comers advantage and I would like to let them know that we expect value for money as well as new technology and creativity for a win-win situation.
MI : If you could make a quick change to improve the construction sector, what would it be?
We need strong institutional, legal and regulatory framework for the construction sector. We have experiences not only planning but also as an implementing agency. In future, we expect more private sector participation. They will have to take all responsibilities relating to the infrastructure improvement like in other democratic countries.[/paypal]