Tuan Baru Bian

Minister of Works

YB Tuan Baru Bian knows that faith is something to be earned, not give. He knows that the rakyat are nervous of another disappointment, and is set to do everything in his power to ensure that does not happen. In his solemn demeanour and frank approach, we are assured that he will take to his tasks with utmost focus and dedication. But even amid the formality, there is an earnestness about wanting to do more meaningful work for the people his team has fought so relentlessly for. International Business Review discusses his insights into correcting past mistakes while maintaining his own vision for the people’s prosperity.
Correcting the Present

One of these strategies includes his pledge to improve the execution of open tender system for government project bids. Tuan Baru Bian pushes through the mismanagement and inefficiency to strive for healthier meritocracy. “As far as I’m concerned, we must ensure that open tenders are being implemented and supervised strictly so it remains open and more competitive.”

In accordance with more extensive use of open tenders, the MOW is placing heavy emphasis on transparency, especially large-scale government projects. “It is crucial to prevent wastage and it is the obligation of the government to always ensure that this money is spent prudently. The Pakatan Harapan administration will improve the government’s procurement and tendering system to ensure it is more competitive generating the best value for public funds.”

Tuan Baru Bian does not believe in wasting any bit of the rakyat’s money. Not only does his plan include making the best use of public funds for future government projects, he is also committed to tackling the huge cost of present infrastructure projects that result from corruption or poor supervision. The Ministry is dedicated to improving the standard of living of its citizens. In their review of all previously approved infrastructure projects, each one will be prioritised based on how essential they are to citizens’ needs. This follows stringent criteria not only will the MOW attempt to renegotiate prices (taking accountability for prices that previously could have been politically motivated), they will also discontinue projects that are less than 15% complete.

Tuan Baru Bian still makes exceptions to this rule, “We will continue these projects only if they cater to specific special needs, like having a direct impact on economic mobility, human interest and helping the underprivileged.” These would include road user safety (replacing existing bridges that are prone to road accidents), emphasis on more technological projects to improve seamless connectivity and the Pan-Borneo Highway that he has expressed interest in looking into again.

When discussing the issue of reassuring investors that some projects need to be stopped, Tuan Baru Bian is unshakeable in his belief that their priority is always the betterment of the rakyat. “Given the context of our country’s economy, awareness of political circumstances before this and our openness and transparency on all reviews, investors will undoubtedly understand. We will be very firm on projects that are not critical.” He has stated that with a diminishing budget allocation and at least 30 percent of Malaysian highways suffering from backlog, budgets must be allocated to the right places and pledges to remain attentive to this problem.

"My focus is on Sabah, Sarawak, Kelantan, Terengganu and Perlis. These are indicated by the Road Development Index to be the poorest in the nation, and it is natural for us to assist them, especially in the area of construction and infrastructure."

YB Tuan Baru Bian, Minister of Works Tweet

Tuan Baru Bian has already announced his focus on Sabah, Sarawak, Kelantan, Terengganu and Perlis, indicated by The Road Development Index to be the poorest in the nation. “It is natural for us to assist them, especially in the area of construction and infrastructure,” he tells us before going into his plan to boost their economic potential by speeding along the growth of businesses in these areas. He speaks with passion on this topic, a man who grew up living in rural Sarawak and had to walk 3 days and 2 nights to get to the nearest secondary school in Lawas. With more businesses booming in the area, comes better roads, with growth and urbanisation as a consequence. Additionally, Tuan Baru Bian wants to expose the many natural commodities present to the businesses by making them more accessible, encouraging people to develop these lands. With places like Mulu as a world heritage site and Bario being a place of huge tourism potential in the Pacific region, he believes its strength grows from connecting the hinterlands and smaller roads back onto main highways.

His childhood years in Lawas and Lima also speak of the burdens of development, of pristine rivers and mountains giving way to pollution from excessive logging and a lack of supervision in the area. Lack of sustainable practices is considered one of his biggest hindrances in pushing the construction industry forward and is met with financial constraints and absence of a push factor in regulations. Significant investment costs result in import of green materials and technology and while the technology may be better, it slows down the race for sustainability even further. To combat this, the Ministry is looking to adopt the Malaysia Green Highway Index for sustainability in road construction while also collaborating with the Ministry of Natural Resources & Environment to ensure extensive green procurement.

New Moves Forward

Beyond sweeping up messes, the Ministry has set itself many long-term goals for its own successes. They hope to better accomplish programmes and initiatives implemented in the Construction Industry Transformation Programme (CITP), a blueprint by the MOW to drive the construction industry to be globally competitive and sustainable. One of these is the gathering of expertise and manpower to ensure the development of technology, innovation and human capital. Tuan Baru Bian addresses the urgent need to upskill the construction workforce to keep pace with modernisation within the industry, which will require better vocational and technical training. They will also be fighting to reduce dependence on foreign labour by making the industry more attractive to locals and reduce the stigma of construction being a dangerous, dirty and difficult job.

One of the Ministry’s plans to spearhead development of infrastructure and the construction industry is to be on par with other developed countries in their technology and innovation. Where we would disregard the need to assimilate the Internet of Things (IoT) and seamless connectivity in construction, Tuan Baru Bian seeks to use a pioneering technological project known as Highway Information Modelling (HIM) to reduce error and rework during the construction phase of current projects. Tuan Baru Bian also reveals another exciting prospect, the Building Information Model (BIM). “Next year, the ministry aims to use at least the Tier 2 BIM for government projects worth RM100 million and above, in line with transformation initiatives to enhance the effective delivery of government projects. Extensive BIM application in building projects will help develop Artificial Intelligence, Smart Total Asset Management and Smart City, gearing us towards a Malaysian Industrial Revolution 4.0.”

YB Tuan Baru Bian’s heartfelt ambitions for his nation is motivated by experience of fighting for the people of rural lands that he has grown up with and the vision to know that we, as a country, deserve more. We can listen to and read about a number of brilliant policies, but feel like that’s all they will ever be: words and numbers. The chance to sit down and hear Tuan Baru Bian’s sincerity brings this faith to life.