Speech by 2M Indranee Rajah at the REDAS Spring Festival 2021 Celebration

Feb 23, 2021


First, a very happy new year. I am delighted to join REDAS for the Spring Festival Celebration this afternoon. While we may not be able to gather everyone in reunion together physically this year, I am glad that we are still able continue to connect via different means. 

Overcoming COVID-19 Challenges

Last year as you all know was a long and challenging one. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted all of us, and many sectors of the economy negatively, including of course, the built environment sector. Construction progress was affected when work came to a halt during Circuit Breaker, and necessary safe management measures were introduced in order for work to resume safely. This impacted stakeholders throughout the entire value chain, and Government provided significant relief and intervened in an unprecedented way. But I am heartened that the sector has remained resilient, you have battled through this challenging period, and have continued to push on. I appreciate how our firms have adapted quickly to keep everyone safe as work has resumed. Yet it is important that we also seize this window of opportunity and double down on our efforts to transform. That is the reason why DPM has put in a $24 billion transformation package in the Budget, it is really to help everyone on this journey. And we hope to be able to work closely with all of you in the sector, whilst at the same time remaining vigilant.

Shaping the Future of Singapore’s Built Environment Together

Even as we work hard to tackle the current uncertainty, we must also learn from it, and continue to prepare for the longer-term. 

The pandemic has shown the importance of building resilience. I think we can expect COVID-19 to be with us for some time, even as we face challenges from other fronts, such as climate change. So it is critical that we prepare ourselves and be well-placed to tackle these challenges. 

Accelerating the transformation of our entire built environment sector to improve productivity is a key part of this. For example, to enhance coordination, we can use more digital tools to bring together the entire building lifecycle and its various parties, covering design, construction and facilities management from end-to-end. This will allow us to build and maintain our city more effectively and sustainably. At the Budget last week, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat shared about the launch of the new Growth and Transformation Scheme for the Built Environment sector. This will require developers to work closely with their consultants, contractors and suppliers to level up as an eco-system or value-chain, given the interconnected nature of construction. Developers, of course, play an important role in the overall transformation process. We encourage you to continue your research and innovation efforts, promote the adoption of new processes, technology and designs, and collaborate with the other members in the sector. 

The pandemic is also pushing us to relook at how Singapore is planned and built. We need to make sure our city is safer and more resilient against crises, even as we take into account changes in the way that we live, work, and play. For example, many companies have adopted flexible work arrangements. With more people working from home, we can expect changes to their commuting, retail consumption and lifestyle patterns. Sometimes people ask us, when we can go back to before, there is no going back – I don’t think we will ever go back to quite the way it was before. What is very likely to happen going forward, is that there will be a hybrid, or a new form of working.  Some of these changes are short-term, while others are going to be permanent structural shifts, and we will have to be responsive. We cannot do this alone, and will need the support of the industry and community. REDAS and its members have worked with us on initiatives to raise the quality of our urban environment, such as via the URA-REDAS SPARK Challenge. We will continue to do so in 2021. URA will engage Singaporeans later this year to discuss our aspirations for our future Singapore, and gather ideas and inputs to formulate our long-term plans for a liveable and sustainable future. We welcome developers to join in these conversations as well, and to share your feedback on how we can shape our urban landscape together.

Maintaining a Stable and Sustainable Property Market

I would also like to talk about the property market, which has a direct impact on the lives and aspirations of Singaporeans. The recovery in global economic activity is expected to be uneven, uncertain and drawn out. The pandemic continues to evolve with many countries battling recurrent waves of infection, as well as new, and more infectious variants of the virus. How the global economic and pandemic situations pan out and the ongoing uncertainties may affect Singapore’s economy, including our labour and property market. So we do have to remain vigilant. Developers should remain prudent in their land bidding and not overextend themselves financially. Prospective property buyers should be mindful of their ability to service mortgage obligations given the uncertain economic outlook and the protracted recovery in the domestic labour market, before making the long-term financial commitment. We all have a part to play by continuing to be professional, responsible and prudent, and not stoke exuberant sentiments in the property market. In the long run, a stable property market will benefit all stakeholders. 

Closing Remarks

Throughout this journey of nation building, we have faced many challenges, and we have pulled through by working together. REDAS has been a key partner with us in building Singapore. I look forward to a continued partnership with REDAS to help realise our shared vision of building a better city for our current and future generations to enjoy. Let us stay alert as we build on our efforts and continue on the road to recovery. I wish you all a good Year of the Ox. Thank you very much.