Builders ask govt to liberalise imports of building materials

PETALING JAYA: The Master Builders Association Malaysia (MBAM) has urged the government to consider liberalising imports of all building materials and equipment.

MBAM President Kwan Foh Kwai said the high import duties had resulted in the increase of 10 per cent in construction costs compared to last year.

Currently, he said, the import duties on marble tiles, sanitary ware and sinks, window and door ironmongeries and aluminium formwork were very high and this burdened the construction companies.

"We are badly disrupted because we sign fixed-price contracts with property developers and the government, thus disabling us from raising the construction fees when the import duty and inflation rate increases.

"We have been discussing with the government for the past 10 years on this issue and so far, they have granted zero import duty rule on cement products and steel which is not enough," he said after a dialogue with the MBAM affiliates here on Friday, June 17.

Kwan said Malaysian import duties on building materials were regarded among the highest in Asean.

The association hoped some announcements from the government on this issue in the upcoming Budget 2012, he said.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is expected to table the government's 2012 budget in the Dewan Rakyat on Oct 7.

The MBAM also sought the lowering of import duties on construction machinery and apparatus, citing the need for heavy duty construction and mining equipment in infrastructure development locally.

"Most of the machines in the current construction industry are pre-1997 and may be too old for challenging jobs as the product's lifecycle has been stretched to the limit, and further usage may result in unwanted incidents.

"As the number of projects available have increased drastically as compared to the recession time of 1997, it is best that the industry is given the incentive to purchase and utilise newer machinery," Kwan said.

In view of the jobs created by the government under the Economic Transformation Programme and Entry Point Projects, he said lower import duties would further open the construction market and benefit all the players.    

"Another point to note is that the employment of locals with higher salaries can also be made possible once the industry is given better incentives to invest in modern machinery and construction technologies.

"The investment in modern machinery and construction technologies will reduce our dependence on unskilled foreign construction workers," he said, adding that this would help make the national vision of moving the economy towards high income an achievable objective. — Bernama

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