M.Batbaatar: Builders are coming to the association almost every day complaining they aren’t being paid

The following is an interview with the president of the Mongolian Builders’ Association M. Batbaatar, translated from the Daily News Newspaper.

-What is your opinion as the president of Mongolian Builders’ Association on demolishing constructions built without legal permission?
-The Mongolian Builders’ Association has a history of over 20 years. We don’t see that the construction and building sector of Mongolia is truly developing as too many disordered buildings are being built. The Mongolian Builders’ Association took part in drafting the government’s 40,000 apartment housing program, and later on, the 100,000 apartments housing program and the ‘New Construction’ medium-term target plan. For example, when we planned the 100,000 apartments housing program, it was decided that 70,000 of them would be built as apartment housing complexes in 33 areas. We drafted the plan, intending that the potential of the construction should be on at least 5-25,000 apartments planned with their own kindergartens, schools, hospitals and roads. The plan was approved by the government and the parliament—and we decided to start the 100,000 apartments housing program. Basically, it is a program to supply affordable housing for low-income citizens. However, it has been a whole two years since the program began but only on one of the designated 33 areas—the Buyant-Ukhaa area—has began construction work. While this government plan was being processed, those people who knew what to do with their money were thinking: “After the plan is approved, we will build apartments in every hole in Ulaanbaatar, which will be profitable and good. We will then sell our apartments and earn three times the money we have invested.” The previous parliament made a list of the households that wished to be included in the program. There were over 150,000 families. But the apartments of those people are now placed in the city centre. But there aren’t any hospitals, and schools. There are 12 storey-buildings built within only 10 meters from each other. When it comes to the people who are in charge of these buildings, they are more likely to be rich people; not professional construction companies and contractors.
-So right now the work of about 70 to 80 construction sites which represent about 90,000 apartments has stopped. Will they be demolished?
-I have no idea what to say about this. When I think about the builders who are working there, I feel quite sorry for them. It is because my builders are working there. For the last two years, the builders in Mongolia have been working for almost 24 hours a day. The summer is so short. During this time, the company that contracts with them urges the construction companies to finish the work. The builders have had to work so hard without rest in order to earn a living. So I don’t want to close those construction sites when I think of the builders. The contractors who hire the builders have been saying “We have obtained all the required permits. We will pay you. You just need to work.” But now they would say “We haven’t gotten this or that permission. The construction projects are being seized by the higher authorities. We can’t pay you.” Builders have been coming to the association almost every day, complaining that they aren’t being paid. I think this is the result of people with only money and who just wanted to make a profit have been working in the building and construction sector of Mongolia.
-I heard that it takes years of work to get permits to build on a site because over 50-60 signatures are needed. The idea that only wealthy people are in the building and construction sector causing accidents seems to be quite one-sided since builders are the ones who are working on the construction sites.
-It isn’t like the building and construction sector is going to fail when several construction projects are seized. But behind this, issues regarding many interests such as the safety, comfort of the residents and the rights of the builders are being raised. People have thought that money can buy everything. But now it is only their business whether they get their buildings demolished or get the permits in any way. The thing which we are upset about is that they are not paying for the builders. That is wrong.
-How many thousand builders are there in Mongolia?
-There are over 37,000 builders in Mongolia currently.
-Is it really necessary to acquire permits to construct buildings?
-Think that one constructed a building without permission. The negative consequences of it would be so great. There has been a crane accident. Lately, almost everyday people lose their lives because of construction site accidents. People are blaming the builders for this and saying to arrest the president of the Mongolian Builders’ Association and to imprison him. There is a certain space required to conduct construction work. A ten-storey building should have a span of 100 square meter area around it, in order for the crane to operate safely. As it is now, people and cranes are using the same spot. Within 10 meters, there are two 12-storey buildings. So we should impose the responsibility to the ones who were allotted the land, who made the builders work there without sleep. It is not the fault of the builders. If we keep blaming the people who do the construction, there would be no-one left to become builders.
-Basically, the builders have been blamed for these accidents. But, on the contrary, you’re blaming the company who contracts them.
-People who became rich in other sectors have been coming to the building and construction sector thinking they would triple their money which they put into the project. They are hiring the builders at low costs and making them work day and night.
-Why is it so low?
-About 15-20 percent of the whole construction budget must be used toward labor protection. If you’re building an apartment near the road, you have to have a safety net so that a small stone won’t fall on that road. You have to give the builder a professional helmet and work clothes.
-There must be specialized inspection agencies that are responsible for this.
-Specialized inspection agencies do supervise such things. They have to demand the necessary requirements from the construction companies. If the companies can’t meet the safety requirements then they have to be fined.
-What role does the association have in such issues?
-We raise such issues to the related organizations regarding this.
-How about the buildings included in the list to be demolished? They are still private property though. What do you think about those buildings that will surely influence the city’s appearance?
-It is right to speak about this as its considered private property. Buildings should be constructed under certain laws, but people have been constructing buildings however they want. And those buildings don’t have an entrance for vehicles from the fire department; or a playing ground for children. If the building is constructed causing a danger to the environment, those buildings should be destroyed. The specialized inspecting agencies should keep an eye on the newly constructed buildings if they were constructed in an environment where it is appropriate to live. Also, I am worried about the construction and if these buildings can survive an earthquake.
-All of the buildings, no matter whether newly built or old, could be destroyed during an earthquake right?
-In old times, the Ulaanbaatar’s infrastructure was well organized; the buildings have a certain distance between each other. But today, buildings are almost fastened to each other. There are no buildings that can keep safe a human’s life in the incident of the earthquake.
-The development of any country can be estimated by the development of its building and construction sector. Doesn’t Mongolia need wealthy people in its construction sector in order to develop the sector further?
-Most importantly, we need a well-organized arrangement. People have to stop complaining after they have constructed buildings without permission at their own will.
-Not all companies build wherever they want without permission. Some are re-constructing on buildings which they had privatized many years ago.
-There isn’t any company like this.
-I heard that the ‘Gatsuurt’ Company had privatized the building of a central heating system by open auction many years ago. They are now building a 12-story building on this location.
-Ulaanbaatar City’s Mayor, E.Bat-Uul, has closed the illegally-built building. I met him. He said that a further inspection should be made and if they are really conducting construction work on their own land, then the permission will be given back. If companies are really operating without permission then the government has no choice but to demolish their buildings. The decision has already been made by the government.
-Will the prices of the apartments drop if there is a re-organization of the sector?
-Of course. The ones who are boosting the prices are the owners.

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Posted by on Sep 25 2012. Filed under Топ мэдээ. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

1 Comment for “M.Batbaatar: Builders are coming to the association almost every day complaining they aren’t being paid”

  1. If there were an earthquake in this city almost everyone living in an apartment would die. Almost everyone living in a ger would survive.

    After the dust had settled the people living in ger would see the wreckage, see that there were now no schools, no hospitals, no jobs. They would leave and this city would be finished. Mongolia would have to build a new city somewhere else. Perhaps they would build it correctly next time.

    The construction of buildings is fatal to the people building them, fatal to pedestrians walking past and fatal to the people living in them.

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