Putting a professional engineer (PE) in charge, not just in construction but in manufacturing, chemicals, petroleum, textiles and metallurgy, will ensure higher professional standards and could lead to fewer industrial accidents, said U Maung Linn, vice president of the Myanmar Engineering Society (MES).

“If the mining industry was run by professional engineers, you wouldn’t have more than 100 workers dying in a landslide, like they did in Kachin State last year,” he said.

U Kyaw Linn, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Construction, recently wrote on his Facebook page that more than 90 percent of the 800 jade-mining companies now operating in Kachin State’s Hpakant township employed no engineers at all.

Engineers would be able to raise standards in food production and help resolve questions of sustainable development and environmental protection, said U Maung Linn.

No professional engineers (PE) are engaged in mining and related industries or in industrial chemicals, he said, adding that most supervisors learned skills on the job that academically trained engineers might lack.

“But requiring the industry to employ engineers in certain functions could provide more job opportunities for them,” he said.

“Having a PE is important in other engineering-related sectors. Engineering requires teamwork, so not all the team members need a PE certificate. But the PE would need to take responsibility, for example in the event of a building collapse.”

To operate in Yangon, engineers also need a qualification issued by Yangon City Development Committee. “The construction ministry is now working on a Construction Industry Development Board Law that would require all building projects to have a permit from the ministry. That would not be just for Yangon, but the whole country,” said U Maung Linn.

MES vice president U Aung Myint said construction companies would classified on the basis of the number of professional engineers they employed as well as the level of their equipment and investment, and would be permitted to undertake projects based on their classification.

“A Class A firm would be able to contract for all kinds of buildings,” and lower-class companies would be more restricted, he said. The ratings would be performed by MES and recognised throughout ASEAN.

Accreditation for engineers and companies would be the responsibility of the Myanmar Engineering Council (MEC), and would be recognised not just in ASEAN, but also by the Federation of Engineering Institutions of Asia and the Pacific (FEIAP) that covers more than 25 countries, including the United States, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Australia, said MEC.

The move toward greater regulation has not gone down well with all working engineers.

Ma Poe Phyu Sin, who holds a Master of Engineering degree, said, “If you can’t work as a chief engineer after six years of study, what was it for? We don’t need to spend more time sitting in seminars to get a Registered Engineer [RE)], Registered Senior Engineer [RSE] or Professional Engineer [PE] qualification. We already have to get a separate licence from YCDC to work in Yangon.”

MEC president U Win Myint said people with medical or legal degrees could not practise until they had acquired professional qualifications.

“Engineering will be the same,” he said.