Published November 6, 2009

SM wants distinctive S'pore with affordable property

Even as it competes with the best, it must not price itself out of the market


(SINGAPORE) Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong yesterday painted his vision of Singapore as a vibrant, green and harmonious city for the next 25 years. He also underlined the importance of keeping property prices reasonable to achieve this dream.

Happy 50th anniversary: (from left) Mr Philip Ng of Far East Organization; Mr Simon Cheong, Redas president; SM Goh; Minister for National Development Mr Mah Bow Tan and Mr S Dhanabalan, Temasek chairman

Rents for businesses have to be competitive with those in other financial hubs such as Hong Kong and London, he said. And to offer companies more flexibility, Singapore must also have not just Grade A offices in the central business district but also cheaper space at the fringe of the city centre.

'My vision for Singapore is for it to be 'a distinctive city, a harmonious home',' Mr Goh said at a gala dinner commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore (Redas).

Singapore has progressed rapidly, transforming from a poor country with crumbling houses to a vibrant city with iconic buildings, he said.

But he emphasised that with globalisation, Singapore needs to benchmark itself against the best in the world and become one of the most liveable cities. Its competitive advantages in drawing talent and investments - such as its pro-business policies and clean environment - are quickly being eroded as other cities adopt similar strategies.

Mr Goh said Singapore can be distinctive by offering 'the liveability of a garden city and the conveniences of a compact city'.

At the same time, Singapore can be economically vibrant yet environmentally sustainable, he said. It can build a resource-efficient economy, rely more on public transport and have more Green Mark-certified buildings.

Locals and foreigners living and working here must also get along, Mr Goh said. Locals must accommodate the different habits and beliefs of foreigners, while foreigners must respect local ways and try to integrate. This way, Singapore will be 'an oasis of harmony with a rich diversity of people, culture and ideas'.

But the country must manage the inflow of talent and immigrants to ensure Singaporeans do not lose out and that they benefit from the presence of newcomers, he said.

'Even as we aspire to benchmark ourselves against the best, we must not price ourselves out. Therefore, we must ensure that we remain a competitive location for businesses, and that Singaporeans can own their own homes,' he added.

Mr Goh reassured Singaporeans that the government will keep public housing affordable for the vast majority.

'We will also continue to factor in increasing demand from permanent residents in the resale market,' he said.

'For those who are worried over recent price increases, MND (Ministry of National Development) tells me there is an adequate supply of homes in the pipeline both in the central region as well as outside it.'

Mr Goh said the authorities are committed to releasing more land through the Government Land Sales Programme, so that property prices stay in line with economic fundamentals.

At the dinner, Redas president Simon Cheong spoke about the importance of building 'design-led cities'. 'Individual buildings can economically uplift an entire city,' he said.

'Buildings are not just profit opportunities...Developers, as patrons of design, together with the Urban Redevelopment Authority and Building & Construction Authority, wield tremendous power in influencing how Singapore will strive on the world stage.'