Faced with limited manpower, material shortages and the circuit breaker measures, construction projects are set to be pushed back.  

Contractors expect construction projects to be delayed by months even as they try to speed up work after the lifting of the circuit breaker measures.

This comes as they would have to deal with limited manpower as well as little chance of adding foreign workers due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Ng Yek Meng, President of Singapore Contractors Association (SCAL), noted that projects have been delayed since the Covid-19 outbreak began in end-January as China locked down its cities, disrupting the flow of materials and labour to Singapore.

The situation worsened in March as Malaysia announced its own lockdown, halting the supply of pre-cast concrete components as well as other construction materials, reported CNA.

“To date, we expect the delays to be about three to six months,” he said. “However, it can be longer depending on how the COVID-19 situation evolves and the measures taken to contain the spread.”

Thousands of Singapore’s foreign workers – some of whom work within the construction industry – have contracted Covid-19, accounting for the majority of the country’s recent cases.

As part of the government’s circuit breaker measures, all construction work has been halted since 7 April to minimise the spread of the virus. On 21 April, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the extension of the measures to 1 June.

Construction of BTO projects have also been delayed, but HDB has said it will work with contractors to speed up construction of new flats after the circuit breaker is lifted.

“We will work closely with our contractors to track and monitor any impact on the progress of our projects,” HDB said on its website. “Should there be any delays in the completion, we will inform flat buyers accordingly.”

Read: East or West? HDB’s May 2020 BTO Launch at Bukit Batok, Choa Chu Kang, Tengah, Pasir Ris, and Tampines

PQ Builders Director Peh Ke-Pin anticipates projects to be delayed by another month following the lifting of the circuit breaker since construction material should be produced first.

“There’s a lead time for fabrication alone,” he explained. “You need to start the kilns to manufacture cement, so the timelines will be affected.”

Although delays may not pose a problem contractually since the government has passed a law that contractors unable to meet delivery deadlines due to the pandemic are eligible for relief, some contractors may still try to avoid them.

This is because delayed projects mean lost income, said Ginlee Construction Managing Director Tommy Lim, noting that contractors progressively earn by completing various stages of a project.

“As a contractor, you know that the more you drag, it’s not good for your overheads,” he explained. “If you can complete projects on time, you will cut down on overheads and make a profit.”

Overheads include workers’ salaries, building and equipment rentals as well as essential items such as masks and food.

“From the bottom line angle, it’s a pain that everybody is going through,” said Straits Construction Executive Director Kenneth Loo. “The government support eases it a bit, but it can never be eliminated.”

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Victor Kang, Digital Content Specialist at PropertyGuru, edited this story. To contact him about this or other stories, email victorkang@propertyguru.com.sg