ECAM 21.4 Contents and editorial

ECAM 21.4




Employee Job Satisfaction in Engineering Firms

Vivian W. Y. Tam and S. X. Zeng


Determining the relationship between conflict factors and performance of international construction projects

Eyad Zouher Al-Sibaie1, Ali Mohammed Alashwal1*, Hamzah Abdul-Rahman2, and Umi Kalsum Zolkafli1

Identifying Macro-Environmental Critical Success Factors and Key Areas for Improvement to Promote PublicPrivate Partnerships in Infrastructure: Indonesia’s Perspective

Andreas Wibowo and Hans Wilhelm Alfen


Construction workplace discrimination: experiences of ethnic minority operatives in Hong Kong construction sites

Johnny Kwok Wai WONG and Autumn H.Q. LIN


Critical Failure Factors of Public-Private Partnership Low-Cost Housing Program in Thailand

Surangkana Trangkanont and Chotchai Charoenngam

Transaction Costs Incurred by Construction Owners

Huimin Li, David Arditi and Zhuofu Wang





ECAM 21.4 has fifteen authors with one from Australia, three from China, two from Germany, two from Hong Kong, four from Malaysia, two from Thailand and one from the USA representing a widespread international mix. Four papers have two authors with the other two papers having three and four authors. One paper has two nationalities and the same paper is represented by two different academic institutions and industry. I yearn for more joint industry/academic papers as a clear indication of relevance of the research being published.

The topics in this issue have a wide range and include: employee job satisfaction; conflict in international projects; critical success factors in Public-Private Partnerships; workplace discrimination with respect to ethnic minorities; and transaction costs for construction owners.

Given two papers relating to Public-Private Partnerships this could almost be the theme of this issue. These two papers are quite different one relating to the macro-economics of PPP and the other focussed on PPP efficiency in delivering low cost housing. I’m looking for a paper that will detail whether PPP is a growing or declining method of procurement. I’ve seen evidence that in the countries where PPP was established early and therefore experience has been gained that PPP no longer has the popularity that it started with

The paper that I enjoyed most was on transaction costs, this is mainly because I’ve always had a heightened interest on the flow of money round projects, it’s the life-blood of projects. The conclusions in this paper are quite firm but the authors need to consider what they will do to use this data to promote change in practice.

With regard to the research methodologies employed in the papers in this issue there seems an over reliance on questionnaires, I prefer questionnaire data to be supported by data from other sources such as interviews or focus groups. Questionnaires leave the researchers too remote from their data sources to ensure that the data is sound and well understood. Questionnaires are the most cost effective means of data collection but they have their limitations.

The research community hasn’t yet fully embraced that the means of measuring the quality of research has moved beyond simple publication to measuring impact on the wider community. For our research impact on the wider community largely means changing industry practice, change in Governments’ policies or social impact. This means that there is a responsibility on the researchers to take their work further in its implementation. This aspect is challenging but also exciting and that is why researchers will respond to the challenge. The future CVs of academic researhers will include the changes brought to the industry rather than simply a long list of publications.


The papers in this issue are:


Tam and Zeng attempt to examine cultural values and employee satisfaction in engineering firms in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. The dimension of cultural values is Power Distance. A questionnaire was used that was developed by Hofstede in 1980.The results show that the Power Distance Index varied at country level and at the level of the firm. The consultitative management approach is preferred. Comments are made on work, co-workers, operating procedures, age, pay, promotion and benefits. The authors explore recommendations for improving existing job satisfaction. However this last aspect is too weak. These studies to be of great value need to have strong implementable recommendations that move the industry forward.


Al-Sibaie, Alashwal, Abdul-Rahman and Zolkafli examine conflict in international projects. Their data source was 161 completed questionnaires from professionals in Malaysian companies undertaking international projects. So the study of conflict in this case is confined to Malaysian companies. The data was sorted into the following categories: External; Internal; Control-Related; Knowledge-Related; Mismanagement; and Social Conflicts. The analysis showed that the conflicts that affected project performance were ‘internal’ and ‘social’ contributing some 27% to variation in project performance. Frustratingly the authors don’t offer a way forward as to how these conflicts can be avoided or better managed. Having equipped themselves with this insight they should use the information to develop better project management.


Wibowo and Alfen using Indonesia as a case study identified the macro-economic critical success factors for Public-Private Partnerships in infrastructure development. The authors’ methodology identified 40 possible success factors with 16 identified as critical in the context of Indonesia. The factors requiring immediate improvements are all associated with commitments: to policy continuity, financial transparency and corruption eradication. The authors believe that their approach is adaptable to other countries. This is a contribution to the body of knowledge relating to Public-Private Partnerships with particular value for policy makers, ie governments, involved in this activity. This is an interesting analysis on PPP. The emerging data suggests that in the countries where PPP was first established the enthusiasm for it is waning as the costs resulting seem much greater than those envisaged at the outset.



Wong and Lin have explored construction workplace discrimination in the ethnically diverse construction workplace of Hong Kong. The data sources were a survey and focus group discussions. The survey gathered data from ethnic minorities and the focus groups explored discriminatory practice and discrimination coping strategies. The ethnic minorities reported inequality of treatment and difficulties caused by language barriers. The authors recommend language support and translations of safety procedures notices and policies should be established to bring staff together and promote a more inclusive and harmonious workplace.

Perhaps the University could organise awareness training and development courses to change the existing culture.


Trangkanont and Charoenngam examine the factors that cause failure in Public-Private Partnerships for low cost housing in Thailand. The authors claim that PPP procurement has failed to deliver low-cost housing to low-income groups. This research is intended to identify the critical failure factors. Data was gathered and analysed and ten critical failure factors identified. Some failures were caused by ineffective policy and strategy, some were beyond the control of the project management team. There was considerable interplay between the identified factors. The authors hope that the lessons learned can help both the public and the private decision makers reduce the probability of failure I would have hoped that the researchers would take a stronger line and provide the means for the lessons to be learned.



Li , Arditi and Wang argue that transaction costs arising from economic exchange are not well defined or even accepted as a concept by all stakeholders in a project. Using questionnaire data from construction owners the authors conducted an analysis to determine the owner`s and contractor`s positions, project management efficiency, and the transaction environment relative to transaction costs incurred in pre- and post-contract phases. The conclusions are quite precise indicate that (1) post-contract transaction costs are much higher than pre-contract transaction costs expressed as percent of project value; (2) public projects` transaction costs are higher than private projects` transaction costs at the pre-contract phase; (3) awarding a contract by negotiation generates less transaction costs compared to competitive bidding; (4) the project delivery system appears to have no impact on transaction costs; and that (5) unit price contracts generate higher transaction costs than lump sum or cost-plus contracts.

The authors stop short of explaining how they will deploy this information to influence the industry’s practices and reduce these transaction costs which do not benefit our industry only the financiers. I think they should give thought to building on this platform of knowledge that they have created.


Ronald McCaffer