BY UMA SHANKARI
THE Ministry of National Development (MND) has picked someone from within its ranks to head the new government agency that will be set up to regulate property agents in Singapore.
Sources said that the new agency, which is likely to be a statutory board, will be helmed by Chionh Chye Khye, currently executive director (designate) with MND.
Before joining MND in 2006, Mr Chionh was the chief executive of the Building and Construction Authority. During his four years there, he spearheaded initiatives to raise the quality and productivity of the construction industry, ensure building and infrastructure safety and also foster a regulatory framework.
MND is expected to announce his appointment and provide more details on the new government agency by early next year.
When contacted, MND said that views received from various channels and stakeholders are now being consolidated and studied, and will be considered in refining the new regulatory framework. Key elements are expected to be ready for announcement by early next year.
'In the meantime, it would not be appropriate for us to comment on speculation,' the Ministry said.
MND in October shared some details of the new regulatory framework that it is proposing for the real estate industry, which includes the creation of a new government agency to take on enhanced regulatory powers.
The move came as property agents here have come under increasing fire over the last few years for not having the right qualifications and for unethical practices. Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan commented in March this year that the status quo was 'not tenable' and that the whole system was 'not satisfactory'.
Legislative enactment is expected by the second half of next year once the key elements are unveiled.
With the planned changes, agents' activities will be monitored more closely and rules enforced more keenly. For example, real estate agents will no longer be allowed to be freelancers (agents who are not contracted with any accredited agencies). They will also be prevented from representing more than one agency.
Agents must also pass an industry examination and be accredited by a new accreditation body (to be set up next year) before they can practise.
The new government agency headed by Mr Chionh will be charged with enforcing the rules.
Right now, there are an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 real estate agents in the market with varying degrees of training and professional standards.
This article was first published in The Business Times.