Master developers need to be responsible and focused on the long term: Lawrence Wong

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said larger-scale projects will likely result in cost savings through economies of scale.
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said larger-scale projects will likely result in cost savings through economies of scale.PHOTO: CALVIN WONG

SINGAPORE - Master developers will have more responsibility to uphold and should focus on the long term because of the larger plots of land that they work on, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong on Wednesday (June 7).

He pointed to how master developers in other parts of the world did not just look at maximising land use but also considered social needs.

Mr Wong was replying to questions on the Government's future urban plans at the Urban Land Institute Asia Pacific summit at Fullerton Hotel, where urban planners and developers from around the world gathered to discuss trends in real estate.

Currently, the Singapore Government acts as the master planner and sells land to developers on a plot-by-plot basis.

Instead of this tradition of individually selling small parcels, the country's Committee on the Future Economy earlier this year recommended a master developer approach for certain sites, such as Kampong Bugis in Kallang. This is to allow developers to purchase larger plots of land.

Mr Wong on Wednesday called for master developers to be responsible and focused on the long term.

Citing the example of King's Cross station in London, Mr Wong praised its master developer for creating an urban design which incorporated green and public spaces, and did not solely maximise the use of each square metre of land.

In Canary Wharf station, an integrated mixed-use development in London, he said the developer even contributed money to building the train station when the government ran out of funds, recovering the cost later through leasing out retail spaces.

Said Mr Wong: "They are committed to provide good infrastructure. Because they take a longer-term perspective, they are not looking to quickly sell the land that they have bidded for. You end up with a high quality project."

Mr Wong was also asked on the potential for a master developer to pass high land purchase costs to future consumers, but the minister said such larger-scale projects will likely result in cost savings through economies of scale instead.

"If anything, the developer will well be able to achieve efficiencies in the bigger site because what we are hoping to do is to get the master developer to put in place more efficient district-wide infrastructure, such as district cooling and pneumatic waste systems," said Mr Wong.

"If there are concerns about a master developer, through their economic power, and exercising that power to raise prices to tenants and buyers down the road, then that is a different matter."

He added that Singapore still needs such "responsible and long-term" master developers to help the Government gain experience in this approach to land sales.

"With this model, the developers have a scope to experiment with larger models, but with great power comes with great responsibility."