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Stronger public-private partnership needed for future development plans: Minister Wong

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MINISTER for National Development Lawrence Wong on Thursday called for a strengthening of partnership between the government and the private sector through new partnership models for Singapore's development plans even as the country seeks to optimise its space options and prepare for the digital economy.

MINISTER for National Development Lawrence Wong on Thursday called for a strengthening of partnership between the government and the private sector through new partnership models for Singapore's development plans even as the country seeks to optimise its space options and prepare for the digital economy.

Speaking at the 57th anniversary dinner of the Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore (Redas), he tossed up two partnership models that could be further deliberated on.

One is the "master developer" approach in the development of new districts. This is similar to the approach taken for developments at Marina Bay where the government sliced out large land parcels and allowed developers to optimise the different land uses and build in a more integrated manner; while the risk for such large-scale projects was mitigated by giving developers options to phase out the projects.

Such approach is also demonstrated in countries such as the UK, where private firms work with local authorities in London as master developers for the Canary Wharf and King's Cross Central.

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"We will study how we can work more closely with the private sector to jointly develop our future city," said Mr Wong, who is also the Second Minister for Finance.

Another partnership model that the government is studying is through the setting up of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), Mr Wong revealed.

These are business-led and business-funded bodies formed to improve a defined commercial area. Such BIDs already exist in many countries such as Germany, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and the UK.

Under a BID, property owners and retailers are represented and have a say in what they want for the BID area. They contribute funds which would be ring-fenced for use in the BID area and come up with their own solutions to make the BID area more attractive.

"It allows stakeholders to have direct ownership and responsibility in implementing plans for an area," Mr Wong said, adding that this helps bring in vibrancy and generates footfall for the district.

While conceding that the property market is facing a challenging time, Mr Wong shared that the government is training its eyes on longer-term strategies to keep Singapore in the premier league of global cities.

Since its formation earlier this year, the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) has been deliberating ideas with many stakeholders including Redas.

In his speech at the dinner, Redas president Augustine Tan also concurred that "it is timely" that Redas step up its cooperation with the public sector in view of the challenges ahead and to "collaboratively conceive ideas in various forms of real estate".

"The real estate industry needs to harness innovation and technology to build the infrastructure of the future that will be more sustainable, smart and responsive to the ever-rising expectations of Singaporeans and commercial realities," he added. "We must continue to work closely with all stakeholders, from researchers and academia, to the rising startup ecosystem."

Mr Tan also drew attention to continued challenges facing the property market, as the economy eases amid a confluence of global uncertainties, social and political insecurity, and tension in the international arena.

Also clouding the outlook now are the substantial new supply coming onstream and the prospect of a prolonged period of slow economic growth. "It is too early to conclude that recovery in primary sales take-up and current prices will be sustainable," he said.

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