JTC quietly works its magic to help Singapore stay ahead

JTC quietly works its magic to help Singapore stay ahead

 

It has changed landscape to meet investors’ needs and also helped country bag lucrative deals: PM

 

By Fiona Chan

 

SHIFTING land boundaries, realigning highways and diverting live pipelines – these dramatic moves are all in a day’s work for JTC Corporation.

 

Quite ambitious for what many see as just a staid government agency.

 

But as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong pointed out last night, Singapore’s largest industrial landlord has plenty of strings to its bow that go far beyond creating business clusters such as one-north at Buona Vista and Jurong Island.

 

Mr Lee said at JTC’s 40th anniversary dinner that the agency had also worked its behind-the-scenes magic to change the landscape to suit investors’ demands.

 

Its proactive work has, in turn, enabled Singapore to bag multibillion- dollar deals such as the world’s biggest solar plant, said the Prime Minister, who was the guest of honour at the Shangri-La Hotel function.

 

He went on to praise JTC for being ‘dynamic and vigorous’ in constantly upgrading itself to meet the changing needs of investors.

 

Mr Lee also lauded the agency’s recent move to sell its flatted factories and business parks, saying this would allow it to focus on its core functions of planning industrial estates and allocating industrial land.

 

But he warned that new challenges lay ahead for JTC and for Singapore.

 

‘Countries are vying more aggressively for investment projects than ever before,’ he said in a speech to more than 500 JTC clients and partners.

 

This has made it difficult for developed economies like Singapore to sustain manufacturing sectors, he added.

 

Singapore is trying to attract firms into taking part in new businesses such as research and development, product design and marketing, and JTC must support this effort by making it easy for investors to operate here.

 

Another task is to create more usable space in land-scarce Singapore. JTC has already begun work on innovative ideas such as the Jurong Rock Cavern, an underground oil storage facility, as well as very large floating structures to use ocean space.

 

Above all, JTC must stay nimble to take on new and unexpected challenges as they emerge, Mr Lee concluded.

 

One way JTC is dealing with this is through an internal review exercise, said chairman Cedric Foo last night. This will focus on maximising land resources, energising the industrial property market and undertaking projects that are too large-scale or specialised for the private sector.

 

So far, the agency’s record has been one of success.

 

JTC began life in 1968 as Jurong Town Corporation, founded to develop Jurong Industrial Estate – a risky project to turn the marshy jungle of Jurong into a modern industrial hub.

 

The estate had a slow start and was dubbed ‘Goh’s folly’ after Dr Goh Keng Swee, who initiated the project. Few entrepreneurs were willing to invest in Jurong at first, but it eventually attracted huge foreign investment.

 

This triumph stems partly from JTC’s ‘pioneering spirit and courage’, said Mr Ong Geok Soo, who has been with the agency for 38 years and is now its assistant chief executive.

 

But he admitted that the challenges JTC now faces ‘have become more intense because of increased competition’ .

 

One such challenge is rising costs, according to Mr Eng Poh Tzan, the senior vice-president of NatSteel Asia, one of JTC’s longstanding customers.

 

He applauded JTC’s customer service, but said he wanted the agency to keep rentals affordable. NatSteel Asia leases about 38ha from JTC.

 

Mr Ong replied that JTC had to ‘look at the market rates’, but emphasised that ‘we are still below market costs as a whole’.

 

Source : Straits Times

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