Building Lives—— A Big Vision on the Little Red Dot

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China-owned construction company helped build a better living environment for Singapore

Education, healthcare, hospitality, housing and infrastructure - China Construction (South Pacific) Development Co has contributed extensively to Singapore’s construction sector over the past 30 years.

Established in 1992, the company is a subsidiary of China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), a leading global engineering and investment group. CSCEC is headquartered in Beijing, and has a presence in over 100 countries and regions.

Three decades in Singapore

Backed by the experience, expertise and credibility of its parent company, the Singapore subsidiary has accumulated 223 awards and accolades for its work in the city state over 30 years.

“Our daily operations are fully in line with our Beijing headquarters’ policies in the company’s governance and management regime. Another part is the cooperation between our counterparts in China, technology adoption and also project management,” explained Qian Liang Zhong, the Managing Director of China Construction (South Pacific) Development Co.

He further attributed the company’s success in the city state to what he refers to as its “localised strategy.”

“Development and upskilling of employeehas always been our top priority. Since establishing in 1992, we have brought in local staff, cultivated them, and adapted to the local environment, the culture and customer demand,” added Qian Liang Zhong.

A strong foundation in public housing

During its three decades in the republic, China Construction (South Pacific) Development Co or CSCEC Singapore has built over 40,000 public housing units, or HDB flats - the name they are locally known by.

Tang Xun is a Project Manager with MKPL Architects. The company serves as a consultant for Singapore’s Housing Development Board's (HDB) Bidadari estate - one of the country’s newest public housing projects located near the heart of Singapore.

It is important to note that over 80% of Singapore’s population lives in public housing. It is subsidised, built and managed by the Government of Singapore and therefore it is mandatory that each HDB development meets tight guidelines.

“There is a very high standard. The building itself may be not so complicated but the requirement, the audit that the project team has to follow is of a very high standard,” explained Tang Xun.

When asked about his experience of working with CSCEC Singapore, Tang Xun said that “China Construction is an international company. (They have) very good support from top management, also the staff is very competent,” Tang Xun added.

While working on the Bidadari project, Tang Xun said that any and all issues that came up during construction, whether they were related to manpower or raw materials, were resolved swiftly and “within the time frame” by the CSCEC team.

CGTN was invited to visit CSCEC’s projects, Alkaff CourtView and Alkaff LakeView in the Bidadari estate. The two built-to-order (BTO) developments comprise a total of 1789 units, and each unit is designed to allow residents greater flexibility in configuring their home layouts.

At first glance, CSCEC’s Alkaff projects don’t look like regular public housing estates. The projects boast of picturesque greenery and landscaped rooftop gardens.

Alkaff CourtView faces the future Bidadari Park, which is currently under construction. Once completed, the 10 hectare park will feature a lake, open lawns, a heritage walk and six kilometres of wooded trails.

It is this sense of “living in a garden” that attracted the nature-loving Ong family to Alkaff CourtView as the ideal location for their first home. The other factors that drew them to Alkaff was its unique design, its central location and the great connectivity it offers.

The building “looked unique. It is just like a trademark for this area."

"It is near a lot of expressways, near town, and it is also being developed to have a lot of amenities, like schools, childcare centres, supermarkets, and shopping centres,” said Ong Jing Yong.

“I think we made a great choice. It is really like a dream come true to own a house here,” added Juwita Sia.

Before moving into Alkaff CourtView, the Ong family used to stay with Jing Yong’s parents and two sisters. In 2015, the couple decided to move out and applied to buy the highly sought-after property.

“We are so lucky that we got this unit. Even though our queue number was very, very far away, we managed to secure one,” said Juwita Sia.

The family got their key in January 2020, the same month in which Singapore detected its first Covid-19 case.

“That (the pandemic) actually delayed our sourcing of a reliable interior designer company, because a lot of interior designers were having shortage of manpower and they were not able to take the job,” said Juwita Sia.

Juwita says it took them a while to find an interior designer, and even once they found one, the manpower shortage caused by the pandemic led to further delays. Under normal circumstances, the renovation should have been completed in two to three months, but it ended up taking six whole months for their home to be ready for them to move in.

Throughout this process, Juwita says, she received constant support and help from the CSCEC Singapore’s customer relations team stationed at the properties.

One member of that team is Delsen Toh. Delsen informed us that CSCEC Singapore’s work does not conclude with just constructing the properties. They often station a team of customer relation officers on site to help families navigate any issues that may arise in the first few months after they move in.

Delsen and his team were stationed at Alkaff Court ViewCourtView for nearly two years from 2019 till 2021. During this time they helped 60-80% of the residents resolve their issues, and settle into their new home.

Tackling Covid and the resultant manpower shortage

The manpower shortage that Juwita mentioned, was felt across the construction industry in Singapore.

“It was very tough for the whole industry. After the ‘Circuit Breaker’ (Singapore’s partial lockdown), many workers left Singapore to head back to their hometown. So, we were facing huge labour loss and also labour shortage,” explained Qian Liang Zhong.

In order to tackle the crisis, CSCEC Singapore employed a two-pronged approach.

First, they partnered with local entities and labour subcontractors to help maintain a labour force for ongoing projects. Second, they requested their parent company to help recruit workers in China and urged the Singapore authorities for an exemption policy to bring these workers into the city state.

CSCEC also constructed Quick Build Dormitories, providing dormitory workers with more spacious accommodation so that they can keep a safe distance from one another.

In addition, the company also built living quarters for workers at its Bulim Square project, where work is still ongoing. 

Future Plans

Having established itself as a reliable entity within Singapore, CSCEC is now looking to expand into the rest of the ASEAN region. 

“Singapore is known very well by the world as a trade, financial and transportation hub with its strong relations within the ASEAN region. It plays a very important role in promoting the development of countries in the region,” explained Qian Liang Zhong.

He believes CSCEC Singapore can play a significant role in China’s Belt & Road Initiative, through assisting in the expansion of the regional markets, and by providing the knowledge and experience that it has gathered over the years.

“The confidence and the trust earned through our projects in Singapore over the last 30 years; together with our strength in construction supply chain and global operations capacities, I think, it places CSCEC in a good position to expand our business outside Singapore and be deeply involved in the Belt and Road initiative.”

Beyond geographical expansion, the company is also moving upwards in the value chain. CSCEC has entered the real estate development market in Singapore and has already received encouraging feedback on its maiden project Twin VEW as a developer. 

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