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Are tightening foreign worker quotas causing construction delays?: MPs

Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee says there are measures in place for contractors facing a manpower shortage, and quality and safety have not been compromised. 

SINGAPORE: The Housing and Development Board (HDB) has granted 36 projects a time extension in the past two years, for reasons such as changes in design and inclement weather.

Of these, liquidated damages were levied on six contractors for delays in seven projects, due to factors like poor project planning, said Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee in Parliament on Thursday (May 29).

He was responding to a question by Mr Gan Thiam Poh, Member of Parliament for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC. Mr Gan also asked about the measures the National Development Ministry had in place to ensure safety and quality are not compromised during the construction of HDB flats, in light of tightening foreign worker quotas.

To this, Mr Lee said HDB sets the required quality standard before construction begins, based on the construction of sample units. It also carries out audits while work is being carried out.

The housing agency adopts the Construction Quality Assessment System (CONQUAS), which is an independent benchmark of construction quality. Over the years, HDB's CONQUAS scores have been rising, added Mr Lee.

MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC Zaqy Mohamad related experiences of delays in some Lift Upgrading Programmes in his estate, with contractors saying they are unable to get foreign workers.

Mr Lee said HDB has helped contractors defray costs in the mechanisation uptake, and raised workers' skill levels through the Construction, Productivity and Capability fund. Beyond that, contractors can apply for more workers through the Man-Year Entitlement Waiver Tier, he added, but this option would incur higher levies. 

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