Date: 19 December 2017
After six months of redrafting and deliberation, Yangon will lay down the latest version of the Yangon City Development Law very soon, Yangon Hluttaw bill committee chair U Thein Myint told The Myanmar Times.
The bill, which was drawn up with the help of 31 experts and nine members of parliament in line with the State Counsellor's instructions, has already drawn fierce criticism, particularly from the professional community.
Within the engineering community, for example, the view is that at least half the bill will need to be revised, veteran engineer U Kyaw Kyaw Naing said.
One of the clauses in the new bill that has come under fire is section 409, which stipulates a fine of K1 million -K5 million on contractors, architects, engineers or civil engineers working without a license from the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC).
Individuals engaged in those professions said that have already obtained certificates of qualification from the relevant professional bodies. They stressed the Myanmar Engineering Council Law and Myanmar Architect Council Law are enacted at the Union level and should take precedence over the Yangon City Development Law.
"If the bill is enacted, any engineer or architect who is already registered with the engineering council or architect council and has paid the annual fees will have to apply for another license from the YCDC to work," said Ko Soe Myint Tun, a qualified senior engineer.
"The new bill has shortcomings for both engineers in Yangon and people across the nation," he stated.
Monopoly of rights
The other issue is if the new bill is enacted, power to govern the development of Yangon will be monopolised by the YCDC. "The new bill confers all rights to the development committee, which is worrying," said Ko Soe Myint Tun. For example, residents have no right to sue against any wrongdoing by members of the YCDC.
Furthermore, residents are not permitted to inspect the YCDC's revenue and expenditure. "The accounts should be available to for the public's inspection. Many sections of the bill contain restrictions, but responsibility and accountability cannot be found anywhere," U Kyaw Kyaw Naing said.
Also, as the new bill is "extremely complex," it will be very difficult for the public to understand the pros and cons. "They may understand only after reading the bill repeatedly readings," the engineers pointed out.
Some other sections of the upcoming bill will also need to be reconsidered. Included in the list of new regulations is a fine of K1 million-K5 million on Yangon water treatment facilities for the disposal of untreated waste water into the public sewage system.
Engineers said the fines are not commensurate to the cost of installing a water treatment facility and will not deter the irresponsible disposing of wastewater. The cost to build a water treatment facility is around K200 million-K300 million.
As such, many owners are likely to just pay the fine for not complying with the regulations.
In addition, the punishments for committing severe crimes which have repercussions on the public are not strict enough compared to minor crimes. "The punishment for severe crimes is too relaxed and almost equal to minor crimes. It is very dangerous," U Kyaw Kyaw Naing said.
Some other new clauses in the upcoming bill involve approvals for housing construction. Under section 87 of the law, if a person who applies for approval to build a house in Yangon receives no response from the YCDC within a prescribed period, approval is deemed to be granted and construction permitted to commence.
Meanwhile, "the quality of construction materials used in YCDC projects will be inspected at the committee's laboratories. Procedures and checks for quality will also be conducted by a team formed by the committee," said U Kyaw Kyaw Naing.
"The quality of the materials used in the projects of the YCDC will be checked at committee's laboratories and it will be allowed only if qualified. It is also stipulated that quality control will be done by the team formed by the committee." U Kyaw Kyaw Naing said.
Yangon in "chaos"
Since the urban planning duties of the Department of Urban and Housing Development were transferred to YCDC in 1990 under the prevailing development laws, Yangon city has descended into chaos, said Ko Soe Myint Tun.
"Even though the 2017 bill contains very detailed stipulations, professionals, especially, are not satisfied," he said. "We are not happy with the regional bill and cannot support it."
When contacted, U Thein Myint, chair of Yangon Region Hluttaw bill committee, said he was unable to make any comments as the bill has not reached the Hluttaw yet. However, the bill will be discussed at the upcoming Hluttaw sessions and suggestions on revising the bill will be taken into consideration, he added.
Currently, stipulations under the 2014 Development Law are enforced in Yangon and as soon as the new bill passes in the Hluttaw, it will be disclosed to the public, he said.
Still, U Kyaw Kyaw Naing reckons the bill should be revised before passing the Hluttaw. The way he sees it, by the time the public is aware of the shortcomings of the law, it will be too late to make any amendments. "One thing is for sure," he said. "If unrevised, the bill will certainly come under fierce criticism."