Extra $700m in projects to boost construction sector

Govt bringing forward more contracts over next two years, including upgrading works

Construction workers at work. PHOTO: ST FILE

More estates will get a makeover and new walkways will be built across Singapore, as the Government seeks to give a fillip to the beleaguered construction industry.

It is bringing forward $700 million worth of public amenities projects over the next two years.

This is on top of another $700 million in contracts it had announced in February. They included upgrading works for community centres, sports halls and police stations.

The contracts are generally worth $100 million or less each - jobs that will benefit small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said yesterday.

Speaking at the Singapore Contractors Association Limited's (Scal) 80th anniversary dinner, he said the Government is aware of the challenges the construction sector faces.

The sector has seen four consecutive quarters of contraction due to a drop in private-sector demand, even amid pressure to move away from relying on cheap foreign labour and instead invest in costly technology.

Mr Wong said: "We hope these projects will help the industry as a whole. We will continue to monitor the industry closely and adjust the pace of public-sector projects if necessary."

The Government - the industry's biggest client - has been spending more on infrastructure. It expects to award contracts worth a total of between $20 billion and $24 billion this year, up from last year's $15.9 billion.

In all, the public sector would contribute about 70 per cent of the total construction demand this year.

But much of the funds have gone to mega infrastructure projects like the Cross Island Line and Changi Airport Terminal 5, which SMEs say tend to be beyond their reach.

There are about 8,000 small and medium-sized contractors here, according to the Building and Construction Authority (BCA).

Scal president Kenneth Loo said that while the extra $700 million in projects may not be sufficient to give all firms a lift, it was a "good gesture to inject some positive sentiment into a depressed industry".

Yesterday, Mr Wong spelt out in greater detail other changes in the pipeline for the industry.

The tender process for public projects that cost more than $3 million will better emphasise quality over price. The process has, in recent years, come under the spotlight over cost-cutting and safety concerns.

The price component now makes up about 70 per cent of a tender evaluation. Mr Wong said the non-price percentage will be raised to 40 per cent to 60 per cent come January, with the Government looking at a contractor's past performance, productivity and safety records to assess quality. If successful, the revised criteria will also apply to civil engineering projects.

The Government will also allow the number of supervisors required at a site to be reduced in the early and late stages of building - a move Mr Wong said would not compromise safety.

To kick in later this year, it will benefit about 180 of the 300 large-scale projects and save the industry "several millions of dollars in compliance costs", the BCA said.

Finally, a committee has been set up to work towards implementing a collaborative contracting model, where all parties - from architects and engineers to contractors and facility managers - conceptualise a project from the start. This minimises errors, wastage and redesign issues.

The committee is expected to complete its work by end-2019.

"We hope that you will work with us to make this happen," said Mr Wong.

SEE TOP OF THE NEWS: Construction firms upbeat about new tender criteria

Note: This story has been edited for clarity.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2017, with the headline Extra $700m in projects to boost construction sector. Subscribe