His Excellency Jun Yamazaki, Ambassador of Japan to Singapore,
Mr Keisuke Koshijima, Executive Vice President of Kajima Corporation,
Mr Norio Kita, Senior Executive Officer and General Manager, Architectural Design Division of Kajima Corporation,
Mr Shuichi Oishi, Chief Executive Officer of Kajima Development Pte Ltd,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Good morning. Thank you for inviting me to the Topping Out Ceremony for Kajima’s Lab for Global Engineering, Architecture, and Real Estate, or ‘The GEAR’. I am delighted to be back here again since the ground-breaking ceremony in 2020. I have been looking forward to the development of this project.
2. Congratulations to Kajima on crossing this momentous milestone today. Despite the many challenges posed by the global pandemic, the GEAR is well on track for completion by 1Q next year. This is no mean feat.
3. With its resilient and innovative spirit, Kajima has set an excellent example for our construction industry. During the pandemic, the construction sector was among our hardest-hit industries. The Government’s immediate focus was to assist construction companies in restarting their projects safely after the Circuit Breaker. We implemented a suite of support measures to help companies tide over the crisis. Besides the $1.36 billion Construction Support Package, we also rolled out the Jobs Support Scheme, provided rebates and waivers on the foreign worker levy, as well as worked out legislative measures to cushion the impact of the pandemic on the industry.
Need for Transformation to Propel the Industry
4. Today, the construction industry is on a steady path to recovery. Current construction output is close to pre-COVID-19 levels. The Building and Construction Authority, or BCA, estimates that we will see total contracts worth between $27 and $32 billion being awarded this year.
5. While this is an encouraging sign, we are not out of the woods yet. Downside risks in the global economy still persist. As a price-taker, Singapore is unavoidably exposed to greater supply chain risks, inflationary pressures and border restrictions. There is therefore an urgent need for us to step up our transformation efforts to develop a more resilient and future-ready built environment sector.
Enhancing our Construction Capabilities to Unlock Opportunities
6. In 2017, the Government launched the Construction Industry Transformation Map, or ITM, which provided a roadmap for Singapore to achieve a more advanced and integrated built environment sector. Its key strategies include increasing technological adoption, building progressive and collaborative firms, and supporting human capital.
7. Over the past two years of the pandemic, disruptions to manpower inflows for the construction sector highlighted the urgency for the sector to press on with productivity improvements and to become more manpower-efficient.
8. During Budget this year, the Minister for National Development Desmond Lee emphasised that our foreign workforce policies must work hand in glove with other initiatives to transform the sector and improve productivity. Hence, come year 2024, the Government will remove the existing Man-Year Entitlement (MYE) framework and reduce the Dependency Ratio Ceiling (DRC) to support this transformation.
9. We understand that teething problems may arise as companies gradually adjust to the revised framework. We seek the industry’s support and understanding in this transformation journey as we adapt and seize the chance to create more sustainable development for the future.
10. Since Kajima’s first project in Singapore 60 years ago in 1962, the company has not stopped investing in research and development. This constant drive to innovate has given Kajima a lead in technology adoption and innovation. At the ground-breaking ceremony in 2020, I saw how technology was used to improve productivity and reduce manpower. I was impressed by the Integrated Digital Delivery, or IDD, which improves pre-construction planning and efficiency. Through robots, Kajima is reducing the need for manual labour. Its process control system which integrates data onto a single platform also raises efficiency.
11. Besides innovation and R&D, we see Kajima contributing to sustainability in our built environment sector. The Kajima Technical Research Institute Singapore was involved in the conceptualisation and construction of the first new-build net-zero building in the National University of Singapore. Such projects and initiatives incorporating sustainability will certainly grow in significance as Singapore transforms and develop its green economy.
Attracting, Developing, and Retaining our Talent Pipeline
12. In any transformation, people are the critical factor of success. To boost our workforce in the built environment sector, the Government has invested in programmes and ways to equip Singaporeans with up-to-date skills and capabilities for new job roles and career opportunities.
i. For instance, BCA and industry players as well as the TACs (trade associations and chambers) work closely with our Institutes of Higher Learning, or IHLs, to equip students with relevant and emerging skillsets for the Built Environment(BE) sector. Modules on Design for Manufacturing and Assembly production, IDD, and sustainable building design and construction are part of their curriculum.
ii. We have also made it possible for firms to partner the IHLs to offer job placements through structured work-study programmes and internships, and also tap on the Career Conversion Programmes (CCP) to train and hire mid-career candidates.
iii. In addition, we have a systematic Skills Framework for workers in the sector to help them upskill and keep pace with transformation. Developed by the BCA, industry stakeholders, SkillsFuture Singapore and Workforce Singapore, the framework identifies the required competencies and available training programmes, as well as the career progression pathways for the sector. Accreditation schemes which are aligned with the Skills Framework offer professional recognition for built environment experts. All these efforts form the foundation to ensure the future-readiness of our construction sector.
Collaboration Remain Key for Transformation
13. Last but not least, collaboration across the construction ecosystem remains the cornerstone to building a resilient and strong built environment sector. Through cooperation and knowledge exchange, higher capabilities and widespread adoption of new technologies can be achieved.
14. In this regard, I commend Kajima’s continued efforts in partnering public-private stakeholders such as its collaboration with the JTC, local enterprises and research institutes to co-create innovative solutions.
15. In April 2019, Kajima and JTC signed an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) to cooperate on R&D (research and development) in areas such as robotics and automation, IDD, environmental sustainability and resilience and facilities management. Today, we are seeing good progress on this partnership which also draws in players from the IHLs and private sector. For example, their Concrete Finishing Robot project, a joint effort with Nanyang Technological University, Nanyang Polytechnic and a local robot manufacturer, Mega Plus Technology, has yielded good results. Besides enhancing construction quality and safety at the GEAR, the Concrete Finishing Robot can reduce construction manpower and labour cost by up to 30 percent.
16. As Kajima and JTC continue to innovate together, they are setting new standards for our built-environment industry. We’re excited at how some notable collaborative projects are shaping up. For example, the Building Information Model system will digitalise building operations in facility management and the use of robots at rebar tying and transporting materials will save considerable time and manpower.
17. I am glad to hear that Kajima and JTC have since expressed their intent to jointly testbed and deploy these technologies in selected developments. They will develop applications for the transmission of construction and project management data into real-time cloud and site construction systems using 5G high-speed networks. This can potentially result in faster detection of issues on-site and facilitate timely intervention and decision making for greater project efficiency and safety.
18. I wish to thank Kajima for your continued confidence in Singapore and your R&D efforts with our local enterprises and learning institutions. You have shown excellent leadership in advocating the development and adoption of advanced technologies to forge a more resilient and sustainable built environment sector in Singapore.
19. Once again, I wish you great success in this project and look forward to many other innovative and collaborative projects to come. Thank you.