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Speech by MOS Low Yen Ling for Kajima's Ground-breaking Ceremony

Speech by MOS Low Yen Ling for Kajima's Ground-breaking Ceremony

His Excellency Jun Yamazaki, Ambassador of Japan to Singapore,
 
Mr Shuichi Oishi, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Kajima Development Pte Ltd,
 
Mr Koji Sugimoto, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Kajima Overseas Asia Pte Ltd,
 
Distinguished guests,
 
Ladies and gentlemen,
 
1. Good morning. Thank you for inviting me to the groundbreaking ceremony for the Kajima Global Hub.
 
Kajima’s Global Hub reinforces Singapore’s reputation as a trusted and well-connected global R&D hub
 
2. Kajima has a long and rich history in Singapore dating back to the 1950s. It has played an integral role in the construction and development of Singapore’s most notable landmarks such as Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Financial Centre. Kajima has also built the National Centre for Infectious Diseases, which plays a critical role in Singapore’s fight against COVID-19.
 
3. Today marks another key milestone of our longstanding partnership. Kajima Global Hub will be established as Kajima’s Asia Pacific headquarters. This regional head office in Singapore will be Kajima’s first and only overseas innovation centre.
 
a. This landmark building will consolidate Kajima’s existing business functions in Singapore such as construction, engineering, development and research all under one roof.
 
4. We thank Kajima for its continued confidence in Singapore amidst the global pandemic.
 
a. As Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam pointed out in a forum on Tuesday, trust and reliability are attributes fundamental to companies’ decisions on where to place their global or regional HQ. Businesses seek out “high trust locations” based on considerations such as the degree of trust and reliability in a city, country and systems of governance. 
 
b. The establishment of the Kajima Global Hub in Singapore is testament of the company’s confidence in our commitment to drive innovation, sustainability and resilience in the Built Environment sector.
 
c. This latest development reinforces Singapore’s value and strength as a trusted and well-connected global R&D hub.
 
Building digital capabilities is crucial for the Built Environment sector to succeed in the long term
 
5. We understand that the past few months have been extremely difficult for the construction industry. We want to thank you all for your patience, cooperation and support during this tough period.
 
a. In April and May, almost all projects had to be halted due to the COVID-19 outbreak and Circuit Breaker.
 
b. While construction activities have resumed since June, we know firms face higher costs from having to institute safe management measures to ensure that their workforce, worksites and workers’ accommodation are COVID-safe.
 
c. The delays in projects may have also resulted in cashflow problems for some.
 
6. We understand that the measures and disruptions brought about by COVID-19 have put the industry through tremendous stress. The Government has intervened to provide additional support for the Construction sector. 
 
a. Since April this year, the Government has been providing foreign worker levy waivers and rebates for the sector. Earlier this month, we extended the foreign worker levy waiver and existing $375 rebate to December and September 2020 respectively as we received industry feedback that some firms could only restart operations later as their workers were still being cleared to resume work. Some firms needed more time to bring their operations up to speed while implementing measures to comply with the COVID-Safe rules.
 
b. Last week, DPM Heng also announced the extension of the Jobs Support Scheme which will continue its support for different sectors at various levels. Firms in the Built Environment sector will receive 50% of wage support up to October 2020, and 30% from November 2020 to March 2021.
 
c. These support measures are in addition to the $1.36 billion Construction Support Package which was rolled out in June to help firms cope with the additional compliance costs needed to ensure the safe restart of the construction sector.
 
d. The Building and Construction Authority has also been actively reaching out to companies,  as well as working with trade associations and chambers (TACs) to develop and refine the COVID-Safe restart criteria that will allow the industry to restart quickly but safely.
 
7. In the long run, we cannot continue with the old model of over reliance on labour for construction.
 
a. The COVID-19 pandemic has given the sector a strong impetus to accelerate the adoption of digital technology and automation, improve productivity, and reduce its manpower requirements for lower-skilled levels.
 
b. Emerging technology trends such as robotics and artificial intelligence will play an instrumental role in re-shaping the Built Environment sector in a post COVID-19 world.
 
c. Construction firms that seize these opportunities to automate and digitalise their processes, while upskilling their workers to adapt to new technologies and improve productivity, will emerge stronger.
 
d. When such changes are embraced, the construction industry in Singapore will become more productive and be able to offer good employment opportunities. Construction companies will also be better positioned to compete globally and expand their footprints overseas.
 
8. I’m happy to note that Kajima is making great strides in this direction by establishing in Singapore its first overseas innovation centre. This centre will focus on R&D in digital technologies for the Built Environment sector and testbeds on building design to promote sustainability and occupant wellness.
 
Partnerships are vital for the industry to emerge stronger
 
9. I’m heartened to hear that Kajima is also forging partnerships and collaborations with our local SMEs and research institutes to co-create innovative and practical solutions to improve productivity, quality and safety.
 
a. For example, the Kajima Technical Research Institute Singapore (KaTRIS) is in discussion with NUS to conduct R&D and develop prototypes to improve occupant wellness and energy efficiency in offices. This can be done by optimising the indoor environment, building design and operations;
 
b. Kajima will also jointly develop a concrete finishing robot with JTC, NTU and Mega Plus Technology, a local SME. Concrete finishing is usually a labour- and time- intensive process during the construction phase. This robot is expected to halve the time and labour costs involved in the concrete finishing process while also improving the quality of the finished product at the same time.
 
10. We know that transformation is not easy, especially as many construction firms struggle to tide over the challenges due to COVID-19.
 
11. But transformation is necessary if the industry is to thrive in the long term. The Government is committed to collaborating actively with companies to build stronger capabilities and to transform the Built Environment sector.
 
a. In 2019, JTC signed an MoU with Kajima to co-create new and scalable solutions for the sector. The intent is to build capabilities and drive R&D efforts across the building value chain, from design and construction to operations and maintenance. This includes researching and testbedding solutions in robotics, integrated digital delivery, energy optimisation, enhancing sustainability, as well as harnessing building design to improve occupant wellness and facility management.
 
b. In addition, JTC has introduced Kajima to several partners to testbed innovative construction solutions as part of the agency's Industry Connect initiative. The aim is to connect companies to identify and solve common challenges together.  
 
i. One of Kajima’s partners is an NTU start-up, Transforma Robotics, which jointly developed painting and inspection robots with JTC. The company will be deploying these robots alongside Kajima’s construction robots in the construction of the Kajima Global Hub.
 
ii. This will be the first known application of a comprehensive suite of robotics solutions by Kajima outside of Japan.
 
iii. The technologies used in the Kajima Global Hub can be deployed and scaled up at JTC’s industrial estates and buildings.
 
12. Through partnerships and collaboration among different players in the construction industry,  companies, research institutes and government agencies can exchange ideas, learn more from each other and collectively build capabilities. By supporting each other during these trying times, I am confident that Singapore’s Built Environment ecosystem of tomorrow will be leading edge and technologically advanced, providing highly-skilled and fulfilling jobs for Singaporeans.
 
Conclusion
 
13. On that note, let me thank Kajima for your continued confidence in Singapore and strengthening our partnership. Together with the construction sector, not only do we break new ground here, we will break new ground for the Built Environment in Singapore. I look forward to the successful completion of your new Global Hub.
 
 
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