Speech by 2M Indranee Rajah at Project Management Institute Singapore's 8th Project of the Year Awards 2021-22

Tuesday, 14 March 2023

Project of the Year Awards Chair, Mr Surianarayanan Raghavan,
Co-chair, Mr Harihara Subramanian,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1.    Good evening. It's such a pleasure to be here to see all of you face-to-face after two years of COVID. We had to observe safe distancing, even when you had events that were severely circumscribed. Now, I am here with all of you. I must say that I'm really delighted and thank you so much for inviting me.

2.    The Project of the Year Awards honours project teams for their successful completion of projects in Business and Information System, and Engineering and Construction, in Singapore.

3.    I understand it was launched in 2014, to create a platform to recognise projects executed from Singapore. These projects are distinguished through their project management processes and practices, innovation, value creation, complexity, and impact.

Recognising PMI’s Efforts

4.    So, first, I wish to recognise and commend PMI’s efforts.

5.    With more than 2,100 members, PMI Singapore has been key in supporting the development of project management professionals in Singapore – from reaching out to students through student competitions, to organising events and running a mentoring programme to provide valuable platforms for networking, learning, and professional development.

6.    After more than three years of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, economic activities have largely resumed, and life has returned to normal. All of you played a part in us achieving this – from mask wearing to observing safe management measures and protocols, getting vaccinated, cooperating with Government and looking out for each other. For this, we are profoundly grateful.

7.    The Government has recently released the White Paper on Singapore’s response to COVID-19. I encourage all of you to read it. It tells us what we did well and also, what we didn’t do so well. But most importantly it will take you back to that time when we were fighting a battle of which the outcome was unclear and how we came through it together.

The Post-pandemic Outlook

8.    Now that we are back to Dorscon Green let me talk about the future.

Near Term Challenges

9.    Even as we emerge from the pandemic, new challenges have emerged.

10.  The outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war compounded supply chain disruptions triggered by COVID-19.

a.    These drove up prices of energy, food, and almost everything else.

b.    Global inflation soared, which led many countries to tighten their monetary policies, causing the global economy to slow down.

c.     As a small and open economy, Singapore felt the effects of these global developments keenly.

11.  Growth in the major advanced economies will slow amidst tightening financial conditions, which will crimp consumption and investment.

a.    The possibility of recessions cannot be ruled out.

b.    On the upside, Asian economies are expected to continue growing, and China’s reopening is likely to lift global demand.

Longer-term Shifts

12.  Looking beyond the near term, changes in the world will create both challenges and opportunities.

a.    The multilateral open trading system is under pressure. Geopolitical tensions are increasingly shaping countries’ economic strategies.

b.    New technologies are disrupting industries and business models. For example, as AI technology advances, it could take over tasks in many areas, and change the way we work.

c.     Climate change is the defining challenge of our time. The transition to net zero emissions will transform almost every industry, from energy to manufacturing, the built environment to financial services.

13.  These shifts may seem daunting. However, each one of these factors also present opportunities:

a.    As a country, Singapore is moving forward from a strong position. We have robust fundamentals, such as our efficient infrastructure, physical and trade connectivity, highly-skilled workforce which we continuously invest in, and our policy environment. These fundamentals saw us through the pandemic, and stand us in good stead to turn challenges into opportunities.

b.    New technologies, properly used and leveraged, can help overcome manpower shortages, raise productivity and open access to new markets and clients

c.     Climate change has catalysed a whole new growth area of sustainability especially in the Built Environment sector. There is a global demand for those with skills in this area and many new work opportunities for those who have the relevant skillsets.

14.  We should therefore not be daunted by these challenges but rather look for ways to overcome them, seize the opportunities and chart our path forward.

15. As project management professionals, you play an important role in helping Singapore navigate our post-pandemic future.

16. We need your help in 3 areas:

a.    To keep our construction schedule on track

b.    To transform the Built Environment sector

c.     To make Singapore a place that is supportive of families and create an environment that is conducive to attracting and retaining talent

Keeping Construction on Track

17.  COVID severely disrupted our construction schedule. We are now in the process of getting it back on track.

18.  The good news is that as we emerge from the pandemic, we are seeing encouraging signs of recovery for the BE sector.

a.    Construction activity has returned close to pre-COVID levels, and the manpower situation has stabilised.  

b.    Construction demand is expected to remain stable.

c.     For this year, BCA estimates that the total construction demand will be between $27 billion and $32 billion. Over the next few years, the projected construction demand is expected to be between $25 billion and $32 billion, remaining steady and stable.

19.  However, we are not completely out of the woods yet. To ensure that we keep on schedule and meet this this demand in a timely fashion, the construction projects need to be well managed. As Project Managers, you are the professionals best placed to help us do this, as your role is to ensure that projects are managed on time and on target and within budget. Well-managed projects will help avoid mismatches between demand and supply and maintain a stable property sector. This in turn helps other parts of the economy. I therefore seek your help with this important national effort.

Transforming the Built Environment Sector

20.  Next, we are pressing on with the transformation of the BE sector. Just last September, BCA launched the refreshed Built Environment Industry Transformation Map or ITM.

a.    This articulated our ambition for a transformed BE sector, and reiterated the importance of a value chain approach to transformation.

21.  Here project managers, also have an important role to play.

a.    Transforming an industry sector is not just about using technology or improving work processes.

b.    Importantly, it is also about changing mindsets and culture, which is often harder to do.

22.  One area where you can play a key role is in collaborative contracting.

a.    This refers to the alignment of goals amongst various project parties, as well as proactive and pre-emptive dispute resolution. 

b.    This approach can minimise costly re-works which project managers are typically tasked to rectify.

23.  The Government is taking the lead to adopt collaborative contracting, but we also need the private sector on board.

a.    I am glad to see some companies showing interest in this approach.

24.  As the main intermediary between project parties, project managers are key to facilitating the mindset shift needed. 

a.    For those of you who want to learn more or find out more about collaborative contracting, you can get in touch with the BCA Academy.

Supportive Work Environments and Attracting and Retaining Talent

25.  Across the economy, attracting and retaining talent is a perennial challenge.

26. Not only is getting current local talent a challenge but our future pipeline is also at risk. At this year’s Committee of Supply, I disclosed that we are at our lowest Total Fertility Rate (TFR) ever at 1.05.

27. There are many factors which affect why couples may choose to have children. However, one that keeps coming up in our conversations with young couples and parents is stress – including work stress and the challenge of balancing caregiving for both young children and ageing parents or grandparents.

28.  In Budget 2023, we have doubled the Government-Paid Paternity Leave and unpaid infant care leave. However, beyond addressing these specific needs, the broader and more sustainable approach is for businesses to have Flexible Work Arrangements (FWAs).

29.  Well-thought-out FWA policies and good implementation would not only benefit young couples but all employees. We should aim to get the right balance between reducing stress and maintaining businesses’ profitability and productivity.  

30. Businesses will benefit too. Given that talent is more mobile than ever, firms and managers that put the development and well-being of their employees at the heart of their businesses and teams will have a competitive advantage.

31.  To encourage good FWA practices we have:

a.    The Tripartite Standard on Flexible Work Arrangements which serves as a useful reference for firms which are implementing FWAs.

b.    The Human Capital Diagnostic Tool by the Institute for Human Resource Professionals. This is a useful assessment framework firms that want to identify areas for improvement in HR. It assesses various HR areas such as training and development, talent management, and employee engagement, and recommends specific areas to focus on. This enables firms to then take the necessary actions to enhance their HR practices.

32.  Enlightened and progressive HR practices are a key factor in attracting and retaining talent.


33.  Upskilling is an important part of our transformation efforts.

34.  As professionals, I urge you to take ownership over your career journeys.

a.    There are many existing courses and training programmes available online – be it in collaborative contracting, or in incorporating the use of new digital tools in your work processes.

b.    Some even benefit from Government support, under TechSkills Accelerator or Skillsfuture funding.

35.  I also encourage you to make full use of available support to upskill and reskill so that you can seize any new emerging opportunities that come your way.


36.  In closing, let me once again congratulate PMI Singapore, and all the companies and project teams who have submitted your projects for tonight’s awards event.

37.  I wish the best of luck to all the project finalists, and hope that everyone has an enjoyable evening ahead. Thank you all very much.

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