Opening Remarks at PropNex Mid-Year Convention 2021
Dr Tan See Leng, Minister for Manpower
Mr Ismail Gafoor, CEO of PropNex,
Ladies and gentlemen,
1 Good afternoon! It is my pleasure to join you at the PropNex Annual Convention today.
2 It has been a tough period for many, including the real estate industry, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Construction and renovation had to be delayed due to the tightening of border restrictions for public health and safety. These measures were necessary, but there were knock-on effects for property sales and rental. Some homeowners and tenants are also facing financial difficulties.
3 I am heartened to hear that PropNex rolled out a $30 million support package to help you tide through cashflow problems at the height of COVID-19 last year. It is also commendable that PropNex continues to give back to the community towards meaningful causes, such as empowering children with special needs. Today, I would like to share some thoughts about the future of real estate in Singapore and what it means for real estate salespersons like yourselves. Indeed, with the rise in national vaccination rates, Singapore is taking calibrated steps to gradually open up our economy. We can all look forward to brighter days ahead.
Future of Real Estate
4 A silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic is that it has accelerated the pace of digital transformation across many industries. The real estate industry is not immune to this transformation. Before COVID, how many of you would have thought that property transactions could be done entirely online end-to-end?
5 I am encouraged to know that PropNex has been at the forefront in embracing digital technologies to ensure business continuity, supporting salespersons with innovative digital initiatives such as online consumer seminars and virtual property shows. As a result, many of you are now more comfortable with operating virtual platforms and using digital tools to engage with your customers
Thriving Amid Disruptions
6 In the midst of these disruptions, how can you face the challenges of tomorrow and thrive? Let me share two ways.
7 The first is to seize every window of opportunity to learn new skills or upgrade your skillsets. I understand this may not be easy for those who are used to the traditional sales methods. But if we do not want the wave of industry transformation to pass us by, we will need to continue to learn. Take Mr William Goh for example. Mr Goh, or Uncle William – as many of you call him – is 74 years old. Despite his age, he has adapted well to social media, using channels such as Facebook and Instagram to market his real estate listings. What’s Uncle William’s secret? There is a Chinese saying “活到老，学到老“, which roughly translates to “you’re never too old to learn”. Uncle William picked up digital marketing from his younger PropNex colleagues. He also regularly attends in-house training offered by PropNex to keep up with the latest industry trends. Uncle William is testament to the fact that age is nothing but a number, and it is never too late to learn new things! For those of you who want to be like Uncle William and pick up new skills, there is a wide variety of programmes, such as SkillsFuture, that is readily available for you.
8 The second is to ensure that you are able to build up healthy savings in order to cushion the impact of economic uncertainties. Understandably, with the current economic climate, this may not be the first thing on your minds. But if we want to be more resilient and emerge stronger from each crisis, having emergency savings is a must. COVID-19 is not the first disruption that the industry will face, neither will it be the last.
9 Beyond emergency savings for a rainy day, it is also important to plan for and save up for our long-term healthcare and retirement needs. Last year, the government introduced a new way for self-employed persons (SEPs) to make MediSave contributions, starting with those contracted to the Government. Through the Contribute-As-You-Earn (CAYE) pilot, the Government helps to set aside a portion of the SEP’s service payment as MediSave contributions before paying out the rest of the payment. This provides SEPs with a convenient way of making small and regular contributions when you are earning an income instead of worrying about whether you can afford to make bigger lump sum contributions when there is little or no income like what some are facing during this period. The take-up of CAYE in the public sector has been very encouraging so we are studying if this could be extended to SEPs working in the private sector, such as yourselves. We will continue to consult with all the key industry stakeholders, including industry and SEP associations, before doing so.
10 COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of being prepared for any disruption. The Government will continue to support all workers in the midst of these challenging circumstances, so that all of us can emerge stronger from this crisis.
11 Once again, I would like to thank Mr Ismail for inviting me to the Convention. I look forward to our dialogue. Thank you.