Why was it felt the need by the government for a reform?
There is no doubt that the construction industry has experienced unprecedent growth over the past six years. I would attribute this phenomenon to an array of factors, not least governments’ commitment to instil investment confidence across the board. During the year 2017, a staggering €356 million was generated from this sector alone which figure translates into the equivalent of 3.2% of the annual GDP. This is not to say that 5.1% of the total gainfully occuppied people in Malta also come from this industry.
Having said that, I am in no position to say that the sector can go unchecked. It is high time to take stock of the current situation, however the successful statictics, identify the current challenges and provide solutions.
Earlier this year, we have already embarked on a radical overhaul in the way construction sites are regulated. Undoubtedly, the introduction of the Avoidance Of Damage To Third Party Property Regulations, 2019, delineating the responsibilities and obligations of clients, architects and site technical managers in a clear manner, were a huge step forward. On a separate note, only last week, Cabinet has also approved a draft bill aimed at regulating estate agents and property brokers.
Certainly, we cannot stop there. We are committed to ensure that the sector is better regulated insofar as operation and enforcement is concerned.
In what way will the Building and Construction Reform contribute to a more regulated construction industry?
As communicated earlier this year, the Building and Construction Authority will be eventually set up with the aim to make provision for both regulation and enforcement of the sector under one roof. This will be possible once current legislation and building regulations are updated and codified in one piece of legislation. We will also seek to ensure that service providers are fully aware of their obligations. This will be achieved through a registration system. In this way, it is thought to achieve the required legal certainty which unfortunately remains lacking at
the moment and which is a precursor to better enforcement.
What major developments does the Building and Construction Reform offer?
As I said, the new Building and Construction Authority will become the focal point of the industry, taking over the role of the Building Regulations Board, the Building Regulations Office as well as
the Masons Board. That said, it will not only act as a regulator but also serve as a research platform keeping abreast with changing developments and an advisor to the government when policy is concerned.
Are there any other actions in the pipeline which the government intends to take in the industry?
As I stated earlier, the Building and Construction Authority, which will be set up with the aim to make provision for both regulation and enforcement of the sector, should be up and running by the end of 2020. Independent of that, government also hopes to be in a position to launch a legal framework which will regulate those involved in the property market, that is to say estate agents and their subordinates as well as property brokers. Once again, this move will bring added certainty in a sector, which until today is hugely unregulated.
I firmly believe that the success of any reform ultimately depends on the way it is perceived by stakeholders. I can assure you that in the process underpinning both reforms I mentioned, namely that involving the setting up of the new Building and Construction Authority and also the introduction of the Estate Agents Act, the relevant stakeholders were closely involved and an agreement by way of principle was achieved at each and every stage. This is not to say that the general public will be excluded from giving its views. Indeed, we will ensure that in both situations, a copy of the draft bill will be available to the public for consultation prior to discussion taking place in Parliament.
Chris Agius is the Parliamentary Secretary for planning and property management