HDB brings forward some projects to help smaller contractors

Two public housing upgrading programmes will be brought forward with other government projects in efforts to increase spending and stimulate the Singapore economy.

Singapore previously deferred S$4.7 billion worth of public sector projects due to high construction costs.

The Ministry of National Development said now is a good time to do so with material costs looking to fall further.

Residents in older public housing can also expect refurbishments sooner.

At the launch of two urban design events on Friday, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said the Housing and Development Board (HDB) is bringing forward plans for its Home Improvement Programme.

This is one of several ways the government is stimulating the economy.

Under the plan, residents will get items like new doors, gates and toilet-fittings installed for free.

Another HDB project to be brought forward is the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme. This will spruce up the environment around older housing estates like upgrading lift landings and letter boxes.

Mr Mah said: “The primary consideration is to bring back those projects where we’re able to help some of the smaller contractors. In other words, some of the smaller projects. In addition to that, we’re also looking to see whether the different ministries are able to bring some of their projects, to take advantage of the potentially lower costs of construction, going forward.”

The move has been welcomed by the Singapore Contractors’ Association.

As to which government projects will be brought forward, Mr Mah said the details are expected by January when the government announces the 2009 Budget.

Mr Mah added: “Not all of these projects can be brought forward totally because some of the projects are very lumpy projects and some their costs may not have come down sufficiently. But where the costs have come down and where the projects are of a reasonable size, the important thing is to give priority to the smaller projects.

Vishnu Varathan, an economist at Forecast said the latest move will prevent smaller contractors from closing down, give jobs to construction workers and ensure consumption.

Even though it can counter the slowdown in the property market, he said the plan will just minimise the recession in Singapore and not stop it completely.

However, Mr Varathan cautioned against the assumption that construction costs will fall further. He said while it’s not likely to increase to rates during the construction boom, regional demand for big projects from countries like China and India may cause prices to rebound again.

Recession aside, Punggol residents can look forward to having a waterfront town of the 21st century.

This winning design was picked from 11 entries in a waterway landscape competition.

Mr Mah said Punggol’s development is on track despite the poor economy with 17,000 flats completed and 3,000 new ones expected annually till 2011.

The National Development Minister said the target is to have 23,000 flats by 2011, a critical mass for a Town Centre to be built and commercial developers to set up shopping malls.

He added that flats there will be affordable for all income groups with smaller and rental flats for the lower-income.

Of the 5,000 Build-to-Order flats launched, about 550 are two-room and three-room units and about 500 rental units are already under construction.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 12 Dec 2008

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