Ladies and Gentlemen, a very Happy New Year to all of you.
I’m very glad to join you for your Grand Gala Dinner tonight, the first I think you had since 2019, and I think everybody is just really excited to be able to catch up with old friends and see each other in person.
Tonight is a celebration of your industry’s achievements in the industry, your hard work, and your resilience. The property market is doing well – some buyers may feel a bit too well! – and consequently property agents are doing well too.
The pandemic was a tough time for us, but Singapore and Singaporeans have weathered the storm and now we are almost back to normal. This was possible only due to the mutual trust between government and people and the fact we all pulled together and looked out for one another – very much in line with your “Doing Good” philosophy. As a people and a country, we have emerged stronger from COVID-19, and that is a clear testament to our strength and resilience.
Now, coming out of the pandemic we have to prepare for the future. We just heard your CEO’s plans for the future, that is for your industry, for your company.
From my perspective, and from the Government’s perspective, we have to do it for the country, and that involves all of you as well. The short-term outlook continues to be challenging with the Russia-Ukraine war continuing to affect oil and energy prices and contributing to an uncertain economic outlook, inflation, supply chain disruptions, and geopolitical tensions.
For the medium to long term, we also have to think about structural issues, transform the economy and refresh our social compact.
To do all this, we need to work together, as we’ve done before. We need to have sustained partnership and collaboration, not just within the real estate agency and property development industries, but also as a nation. It is up to each and every generation of Singaporeans to take our country forward.
So let me just give you a few thoughts, because I am conscious I am standing between you and your dinner.
First, Budget 2023, next month, Minister for Finance will be delivering the budget. . The Budget is our strategic plan where we deploy our national finances to meet immediate needs as well as to drive longer term changes. So I want to encourage all of you here today to provide feedback and suggestions for Budget 2023. You can do so through the Singapore Budget Website and REACH Budget 2023 Microsite, as well as through our ‘Ask Kopi Kakis’ public engagements.
Next, Forward Singapore. We are currently halfway through the Forward Singapore exercise which was launched last June by DPM Lawrence Wong. Forward SG. I think, as many of you know, is about refreshing our social compact. We want to determine anew our values and aspirations as a society, and to see what shifts we need to make in order to build the Singapore of the future. And it looks at what government can do, it looks at what Government can do with Singaporeans and it looks at what Singaporeans can do with each other.
There are six pillars to Forward SG. I sometimes ask people what the six pillars are, but I think it is just better if I tell you what they are. First, Empower, which deals with the economy. Second, Equip which has to do with education, not just in school but lifelong. Third, Build, that is the one most relevant to you, as we look at how we build our city of the future and residential housing as well. Care, which covers families, health and bridging inequality. Stewardship, which is about environmental as well as physical sustainability. And Unite, which is the strength of our unity as a nation.
Just touching on “Build: which is the most relevant to you, we’ve had numerous engagements and taken in insights from more than 10,000 Singaporeans, including many industry and sector professionals. The Build pillar will incorporate what we learnt from the Long-Term Plan Review led by URA last year, to create a more resilient, inclusive, and sustainable city.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for your contributions to the Forward Singapore exercise and Long-Term Plan Review. I would like to share with you what we’ve learnt, what we have done and what we are reviewing to address concerns in the near-term.
Housing and Property Market
From our conversations and engagements with you, the findings thus far have reaffirmed some of our key principles, but also pointed towards the need for the review of some policies, which is critical for us to keep up with evolving demographics, needs, and priorities.
First, Singaporeans have agreed that providing affordable and good quality homes for Singaporeans must remain a key priority for the Government. This is something we stand firmly behind. We are committed to ensuring that public housing will always be affordable and accessible for Singaporeans.
And that is why HDB provides generous subsidies and grants to help our first-timer homebuyers own their homes.
We also launched the prime location public housing model, so that homes in prime locations like the city centre remain diverse and inclusive without becoming places where only the well-to-do and the rich can live.
In the longer-term, we will need to plan the rejuvenation of our housing estates. This will require us to reimagine public housing for future generations, so that we can use our limited land in a sustainable way.
To this end, we also need to promote a steady and sustainable property market.
Last September, we implemented a set of property cooling measures aimed at moderating demand and ensuring prudent borrowing amid rising interest rates.
We are today still dealing with the economic impact from COVID-19, including in the property and construction sector, but rest assured that we will continue to monitor the trends closely, and do what is needed to keep the housing market stable and affordable for Singaporeans.
I also hope that all of you, as trusted advisors and professionals, can continue to support us in this process.
Your clients look to you to provide them with accurate information and balanced advice, so we trust that you will encourage them to make prudent decisions, guiding them to choose homes that suit their needs and long-term interests, and also please advise them so that they don’t run afoul of laws and agency regulations. Most of you have taken up this role seriously, diligently and responsibly, and I commend you for doing so.
As with any industry, however, there will always be a few ‘bad eggs.’ For this small minority, we will continue to work closely with CEA and other agencies to weed out irresponsible marketing tactics that seek to stir unwarranted anxiety, or lead customers to make unsustainable transactions.
Next, let me touch on Industry Transformation. Huttons’ Contributions to the Real Estate Industry Transformation Map (RE ITM) 2025. I am going to talk a little about this. The Government will continue to work with stakeholders in our policies and programmes. And that is going to include key industry players such as Huttons. To that extent, I am happy that property agencies like Huttons are working with CEA to contributing to the Real Estate Industry Transformation Map 2025, also known as RE ITM 2025, to uplift the professionalism of property agents.
I understand that Huttons is also involved in Project ADEPT, which stands for Advancing and Enhancing Professionalism and Training.
This joint initiative between CEA and the industry seeks to enhance the entire Continuing Professional Development (CPD) ecosystem.
Our goal is to strengthen property agents’ competencies and digital savviness so that you can deliver better property transaction experiences to your clients.
The study is in its final review stages, and recommendations of the workgroup will be shared soon in early 2023.
Another key RE ITM 2025 initiative that Huttons is a part of is the industry-led Alliance for Action, or AfA, on Accurate Property Listings.
This aims to tackle the longstanding problem of dummy, inaccurate, unauthorised and duplicate listings, therefore creating a more productive property search experience for both agents and consumers, as well as uplifting the professional standing of property agents.
Huttons’ Own Efforts in Industry Transformation
While we work on Government-level efforts, we appreciate Huttons and other industry players proactively taking efforts to strengthen consumer education and drive digital transformation on their own initiative.
One interesting example is Huttons’ weekly news flashes on Facebook Live, where the Senior Director of Research, Mr Lee Sze Teck, shares bite-sized information and meaningful insights to educate consumers and answer queries from members of the public.
To enhance the consumer-client relationship, Huttons will be launching a new website to guide consumers in their property search and help salespersons strengthen their personal branding and generate leads. The website will also deeply engage consumers through updates on latest news, project launches, and, thus support us in our push for consumer education.
Huttons has also tapped on technology to create a new transaction system automating and streamlining processes like anti-money laundering checks, report generation, and document submission. I am delighted to hear that this same system will better track team activity and offer comprehensive insights of business performance – services that will enhance the productivity of salespersons and team leaders.
It is good that Huttons remains committed in elevating the professionalism and productivity of your property agents, as this is win-win – the agency will benefit, and the agents will benefit as well. And, of course, the Government would be very happy to see good outcomes in the industry.
In conclusion, to everyone here tonight, please keep up the good work. Let’s continue to forge meaningful partnerships and collaborate closely. And let me wish everyone a very Happy New Year, 新年快乐，身体健康，生意兴隆.