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In the nation’s efforts to shield the construction industry from most of the negative impacts of the pandemic, Singapore adopted a more pre-emptive line of action in the form of COTMA. This refers to 2020’s temporary measures that provided relief for those in the industry. As of March this year, COTMA is no longer in effect.
What was COTMA?
The reliefs included a halt in starting or continuing legal proceedings and the calling of performance bonds, as well as shielding from damages like liquidations, and other issues caused by the pandemic. This is inclusive of all projects from February 2020 and February 2022.
There was also a universal time extension of up to 122 days allotted to every contract in the time between April 2020 and August 2020.
Employers and contractors were required to share qualifying costs in case contractors were unable to finish the project on time because of Covid-19; this did not include manpower costs.
Finally, “Assessors” had the authority to make the required corrections in contract sums to account for the surge in costs of foreign manpower during the pandemic.
COTMA has been invaluable in minimising collapses and friction within the construction industry that would have come about because of the pandemic. ACRA, Singapore’s Accounting and Corporate Authority, has reported a much lower number of businesses ceasing operations between 2020 and 2021, especially compared to 2019. More companies have also been said to have been formed over the last few years.
However, despite the government’s relief measures, there had been an unprecedented bout of uncertainty amid the pandemic. Many construction companies have elected to play it safe and put a pause on any major upheavals and critical decisions to be made, even with several time-sensitive projects in the wings.
Now with COTMA no longer being in effect, the responsibility rests squarely back on the relationships and contracts when attempting to get the projects back on course and manage the consequences on their own.
With the relief the government has provided, people have started to understand the advantages of negotiations and flexible business practices over pushing risky endeavours down the supply line and rigorous upholding of concrete contractual terms, beginning proceedings, and calling bonds. This increased autonomy and change in mindset is one positive impact the pandemic has brought forth, thanks to COTMA.
On the other hand, some parties have spent too much deliberating on an impossible situation instead of acting. Their inability to make choices in light of the complicated and unique circumstances might have heightened the distress on their respective projects.
In any case, opportunity abounds for positive change in the construction industry after such a tremendous shift in circumstances and attitudes in the face of the pandemic. Only time will tell how the sector will fare in the “New Normal”.
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