Singapore

Govt to bring forward another $700m in construction projects to help SMEs

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 to this year and next.

This is on top of another $700 million in contracts it had announced in February.

They include upgrading works for community centres, sports halls and police stations.

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

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

It has suffered four consecutive quarters of contraction due to a drop in private-sector demand, and this while it grapples with pressure to move away from relying on cheap foreign labour and to invest in costly technology instead.

Said Mr Wong: "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 spend between $20 billion and $24 billion this year, up from last year's $15.9 billion.

But much of the funds have gone towards mega infrastructure projects such as the Cross Island Line and Changi Airport Terminal 5 - which SMEs have said tends to be beyond their reach.

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

The tender process for public projects such as new Housing Board flats will better emphasise quality over price.

Currently, price takes up about 70 per cent in evaluating a tender.

But Mr Wong said the non-price percentage will be raised to between 40 to 60 per cent come January next year, with the Government looking at a contractor's past performance, productivity and safety record to assess quality.

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Lawrence WongcommunityCHANGI AIRPORT