Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof was appointed Minister of Work on March 10 by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin. On Friday he was interviewed on his first 100 days as the Works Minister and also one of the four senior ministers in Muhyiddin’s cabinet.
1. What went through your mind when you were appointed Minister of Works on March 10?
It has been a challenging 100 days, but I am grateful of how cooperative Malaysians have been and for this reason we are able to pull through the Movement Control Order (MCO) to the Conditional MCO (CMCO) and now Recovery MCO (RMCO).
This is possible under the leadership of our 8th Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and his cabinet line-ups that were appointed amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The outbreak was first detected in Wuhan, Hubei China in December 2019 and then declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organization on the 11th of March 2020.
Thus, a week after the new cabinet took oath, the MCO was announced from 18th to the 31st of March, and it was then extended every two weeks thereafter until the CMCO is announced and fortunately now we are on the RMCO phase until the 31st of August. I was heavily involved in the meeting addressing the transmission of Covid-19, especially during the MCO phase, which was initially held on a daily basis, as well as being present at the National Security Council (MKN) Special Meeting on Covid-19 chaired by the Prime Minister and also involved in the Economic Action Council Meeting.
2. What was your primary focus as the Minister of Works in your first 100 days?
Other than the Ministry of Works, there are five other ministries placed under the Infrastructure Cluster: Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Environment and Water, Ministry of Housing and Local Government, Ministry of Rural Development and Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. I am responsible to chair The Ministerial Meeting for Infrastructure Cluster, while the Infrastructure Cluster Working Committee meeting is chaired by the Secretary General to the Ministry of Works.
The Ministerial Meeting for Infrastructure Cluster is the most crucial meeting for the cluster as it plays a big role in policy-making, planning as well as the development of Malaysia’s infrastructure. The meeting also serves as a platform for resolving administrative and management issues across ministries and government agencies. The cluster system introduced by the government is to coordinate all ministries with the same policy and direction so that no overlap of functions occurs. It is hoped that this system will be more effective and systematically improve the cost effectiveness of the Government’s service which will ultimately benefit the people.
The Infrastructure Cluster also has an additional co-opted members involved with the ministries, agencies and parties pertaining to the issues being discussed; which so far has involved the Ministry of Federal Territories, Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, Ministry of Communications and Multimedia Malaysia and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission. So far we have held two Ministerial level meetings on the 9th of April and 18th June 2020.
3. What are your achievements in your first 100 days leading the Ministry of Works?
Apart from launching the ‘New Normal’ standard operating procedure (SOP) for the construction industry, The Ministry of Works has allocated an additional RM782 million for Federal road maintenance across the country, activating the Highway Privatization Committee to review the direction of private initiative projects, implement new project proposals and quick-win projects under the infrastructure cluster.
It also reviews the implementation method of the Pan Borneo Highway and road development projects in Sabah and Sarawak and re-activates the ‘Zero Potholes’ vows involving all the District JKR Engineers. In line with the current situation, we have launched JKR Small Project voting online to help aid small contractors. After being re-elected to lead the MoW, the ‘RakanKKR’ initiative was reactivated to provide a platform for public complaint which also acted as the government’s eyes and ears.
In order to ensure compliance with the SOP and in addition to ongoing inspection by CIDB, I personally went on the ground to oversee the situation at the construction sites. So far I have visited two construction sites that have commenced operations and inspected the level of compliancy with the SOP set in place at the TwentyFive Seven Mixed Development Project Site in Kota Kemuning and the Bukit Bintang City Center construction site, Kuala Lumpur. In addition to SOP compliance, the construction company also took the initiative to develop a special application to record the presence and health status of the workers and to track the movement of workers not to cross the project area during working hours. The contractor has also set aside workers’ rest areas at different levels of construction sites to ensure social distancing is practiced during breaks.
From the period of 20th April to 14th of June, 7,699 construction sites were inspected by the Construction Industry Development Authority (CIDB). Among these, 17 construction sites were ordered to close temporarily after failing to comply with the standard operating procedure (SOP) in place.
4. The Ministry of Works is also responsible in ensuring the country’s economic status can get back on track, especially for the infrastructure sector. What are the incentives or aid provided by the government to ease the burden of the industry players?
The government has introduced several incentives for the contractors to reduce the impact of the MCO due to Covid-19. This was done through the Economic Recovery Plan (PENJANA) where the incentives include providing cash flow assistance through SME Bank for G2 and G3 class contractors. RM2 billion is allocated for these contractors that were awarded small contracts for the purpose of workforce enhancement programmes to reduce unemployment as well as utilizing local workers to build new skills such as BIM.
In addition, there is also a CIDB Prihatin initiative that provides a two-month deferment of levy on private sector projects from January 1 to May 31, 2020, as well as the relaxation of contractor registration requirements by exempting the Continuous Contractor Development for new registration from April to December 2020.
5. Can you share your experience in jointly chairing the MA63 committee
On the 8th of May 2020, the Government of Sarawak and Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) reached an agreement to negotiate a resolution on oil and gas and taxation on petroleum in Sarawak as announced by the Prime Minister. The solution is the country’s economic, financial and social long-term approach. In this regard, a Joint Committee on Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) was formed and chaired by me and the Finance Minister Senator Tengku Dato’ Sri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz.
The first meeting was held on 17th of June where Sarawak is also represented by the Deputy Chief Minister, Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan and Deputy Minister of Law, State-Federal Relations and Project Monitoring, Datuk Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali.
As announced, the Prime Minister said the resolution would provide the Sarawak State Government with a joint involvement in the development of the Petronas oil and gas industry in the state, without changing Petronas’ role as a national oil company. This is the good news that the people of Sarawak are looking forward to, in line with Sarawak’s rights as enshrined in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63). It is also a manifestation of how the Government, both at the Federal and at State level have always put the people’s interests first.
6. It was reported you helped Sarawak students stranded in West Malaysia, Sabah and Labuan during the MCO period.
Rumah Sarawak in Kuala Lumpur and Sarawak Volunteers are directly involved in ensuring that Sarawakians have access to food supply during the Movement Control Order. Both Rumah Sarawak and Sarawak Volunteers were then involved in bringing back Sarawakian students to their hometown with joint effort from the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Higher Education, Ministry of Rural Development, Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Human Resources, Sarawak State Disaster Management Committee and Malaysia Airlines. I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to all the ministries and committees who jointly coordinate this effort along with Rumah Sarawak and Sarawak Volunteers.
In addition, we also help Sarawakians who are stranded to return to Sarawak.
As the the Patron of Sarawak Volunteers, I continuously brought up relevant issues during the ministerial meeting on MCO, in Putrajaya. Having a committed team has made it possible for us to bring back a total of 9,668 Sarawakian students home.
Now, we are currently assisting to bring teachers back and have successfully attained a reasonable airline tickets price. This was possible as a result of discussion with Malaysia Airlines, the Sarawak State Department of Education and the Sarawak Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. The flights to bring teachers back will commence operation on the 19th and 20th of June 2020.
I have also engaged with students via online video conferencing in our ‘Abas Orang Kamek’ program to closely monitor their situation throughout the MCO.