PART4, Advanced Civil Engineering Construction
MT KAO (Blog: http://mtkaoforum31.blogspot.tw/) (email@example.com)1)
4. Of the macro-Economy and Construction Industry
1). A quick developing economy really needs good infrastructure to keep bustling, or to lose momentum. Consider the case in IT-savvy India, the dilapidated roads, ports, and power systems often slash several point GDP off every year while Japan, Asian tigers, and China seem not to be bothered by poorly or untimely construction of infrastructure for their economic success.
2). Construction of infrastructure projects for its diverse requirement will stimulate demand of building material, construction machine and tools, furniture, and services like advertisement banking. On the other hand, when social and economic developments come up, the construction industry will be benefited, for example, people are more affordable for new houses.
3). Important government posts in young democracies need participation of civil engineers. Often they hold positions up to the cabinet level drawing national development plans for years and decades. It is the term “technocrats" applicable for those people that their expertise is hardly to be replaced under regimes of different ideologies. Possibly their political life will outlive the politicians promoted them.
4). However, construction people sometimes risked to become accomplices of powerful people stealing public money. The reason is that infrastructure contracts usually involve tremendous sums and require different sub tier companies to perform the works, therefore the illicit money is easy to hide and parking convenient. And when a regime runs out of cash there will always be wicket foreign governments or syndicates eager to provide loans and aids without strings in the name of infrastructure development for bad political intention further damage the country.
Thus many developing countries with abundant resources can be end up in debt and poverty, the so called resource curses, because the politicians and their cronies will take advantage of the countries' limited fortune. Under simple calculation, money spent will never buy equal value of infrastructure, and contractors are blamed as scapegoats.
The bad story of construction conglomerate, Odebrecht of Brazil demonstrates the farce/tragedy in the past few years: presidents, premiers, ministers, parliamentarian, businessman and people of significant suicides, imprisoned, indicted in more than 10 countries.
5). Contractors always excuse themselves for the need to continue business as the reason to be the collaborators of the kleptocracy; but the cruel truth is they enjoy lucrative contracts and believe their political masters will cover them up forever. But in the long run the systematic fraud will have destabilized the economy and country, the politicians will no longer hold up the regime and the professionals forsaking their principles will be expended before anything will happen.
Professionalism should be the only antidote to fight the greedy and impunity behind the organized corruption. Ethic education has to be enforced since the early days of engineers training. Of course, it needs time, patience plus a little bit of luck to work out a fair system in a society still in obscurity.
Unlike many developing world, Taiwan escaped endemic corruption during and after the days massive infrastructure projects are under construction. There was time that people had to build everything from scrap with their own hands, the mere money dispensed by the then authorities could only pay subsist livings of surplus rural labor and retired soldiers withdrawn from Mainland in 50's. And the factional politics followed the period hardly allowed the people involved for public expenditure had leisure and chance to scrounge for personal gains, compared to what happened in other third world country.
6). An engineer trying to promote top notch infrastructure projects sometimes may feel frustrated because the resistance from general public is so much. Under the circumstance, he should realize public works should always be kind of choices by their eventual owners and not to be imposed by the experts as pure scientific matter.
The civil engineers should realize the efforts he rendered explaining the idea for new construction or to comment upon the existing unfit things will not be in vain, because each time he gives reasoning, persuasion and novel idea following professionalism, he can shake, crumble, and change public perception incrementally. And finally it will be crystallized in truth’s favor, the process though taken long, also prove that everything related to construction is not simple logistic yes or no.
On the other hand, the civil engineer should realize all the information offered to public will only be considered as brute data instead of precise evidence, which can be refine or redefined as environment and situation will change from time to time.
5. The Modern Construction Industry and its Major Players
1) Frontage Players: general contractors, engineers and consultants, architects, specialty contractors, labor gangs, investors.
(1). General Contractors
In most of the countries (markets), general contractors are leaders of construction industry commanding critical portion of resource and exercising vast influence in democratic government and authoritative regimes alike. Wherever their interests go, the construction tycoons can decide how infrastructure projects are done, and affect politic at different levels.
Given the imagination that big construction company always have the clout to maneuver for what they want, young talents flock to them before they know the industry. The stories of power and money associated with construction projects are tellingly true from country to country as the industry get momentum to grow and prosper before any other business have chances to evolve.
However, in countries like Taiwan, the wary authority and public are too eager to see the competition flared among the contractors and always think it's a good way to save government expenditure. So, every contracting procedure related to public works from budget allocation till their completion is mired with details presumed to plague constructors so public interest can be safeguarded. There it develops a mentality that the consultants responsible for design and supervision can be more trust-able to protect public interest in the ceaseless feuding with pigheaded contractors.
As a result, the bureaucrats and public prefer to ask the contractors to do the works according to what had been specified on the drawings, i.e. pure construction; they believe they would be able to prevent collusion by squeezing the space normally granted to designer and contractor for settling the ensuing conflict.
The purposed regulation as explained above existed so long has weaken the contractors, besides, in a society much influenced by Confucian culture, the traditional teaching that the scholars are superior to any other social classes further reinforce the prejudice that the employees of constructors working outdoors under all-weather would be secondary to pedants shouting instructions in the air conditioned rooms.
Finally the employees of general contractors have to do the most grinding part of the works to ensure punctual completion and well-functioning of the projects, which is nerve raking throughout entire contract period. And in return construction engineers only received diminishing amount of pay under constant annoyance that the threshold for tenderer to cross is lowered time after time allowing more people to contend.
It's true that general contractors in Taiwan were not so privileged compared to the coddled consulting firms because of some historical and cultural reasons. However, constructor of the 21st century should not only be able to deliver timely and quality completion of the projects, he needs also to give the clients solutions for challenges and risks brought by exceptional design, complicated operation and maintenance systems, special environmental protection requirement, unique financial arrangement; and it means, the imbalance between the images of general contractors and consulting firms now tilts a little bit toward the former.
It's also good for general contractors in Taiwan that the procurement laws and regulations overhauled in recent years: design and build contracts are welcome; division of business lines now blurred; BOT or BT style of contracting are taken and design consultants can be put under sovereignty of general contractors; projects become more sizable and fit for companies with bigger assets; labor law is more sensible thus favorable the contractors' employees who used to work in onerous long hours.
The trend compel owners, governmental or private, to accept more reasonable and liberal form of contracting, so that the constructors can pursue expertise and efficiency they need for true competition. Obviously, general contractors burdened with less red taps and enjoyed elevated status, are the biggest winners in the change