Virtual hearings for more cost effective and faster resolution of construction disputes

Singapore, 27 September 2021 – Society of Construction Law’s Annual Construction Law Conference 2021, held on 23 September 2021, brought together lawyers and professionals in the construction industry to discuss a wide range of topics.

Indranee Rajah, Second Minister for Finance and Second Minister for National Development (MND), Singapore, in her keynote speech, assured that the government is aware of the challenges that are faced by the sector, and that the government is doing the best to help by implementing several measures to alleviate the situation, including in dispute resolution.

In a world where COVID is endemic, according to Minister Rajah, the government has worked hard over the years to develop Singapore as a top dispute resolution hub in Asia and the world, valued for its neutrality, stability and strong rule of law. The government will continue to work with dispute resolution institutions to strengthen the quality of Singapore’s dispute resolution services, build a strong pool of qualified practitioners and leverage technology for a resilient dispute resolution system.

With COVID-19 brought global travel to an abrupt halt, parties have had to adapt to virtual hearings instead of meeting in-person. Minister Rajah said, “Having demonstrated that virtual hearings are possible, there is no going back. While we have no doubt that physical hearings will resume in due course, we also believe that going forward virtual hearings will continue to have value and will be used to complement physical hearings, such as situations where witnesses are unable to travel for one reason or another.”

She also mentioned that the government has recently enacted permanent legislation that empowers the courts to conduct hearings remotely. This will apply to criminal and civil proceedings, including construction disputes.

Construction disputes tend to involve many parties, including witnesses, experts, counsel and tribunals. Some are also located in multiple jurisdictions. Virtual hearings make it more convenient for litigants to participate, paving the way for more cost effective and faster resolution of disputes. Given Singapore strong branding as a top legal hub, Minister Rajah believes that we are in a good position to capitalise on this shift.

She said, “Maxwell Chambers, Singapore’s Alternative Dispute Resolution hearing centre, has invested in large LED screens and technology equipment, which you may find useful for this purpose. And if you do think that there are other things that we can do in this direction, please give your suggestions either to MND or the Ministry of Law, to see how we can continually enhance Singapore as a dispute resolution centre for construction disputes.”

In addition to dispute resolution, the government also expects a shift towards dispute prevention. The Singapore Infrastructure Dispute-Management Protocol, for example, is designed to help parties involved in mega infrastructure projects manage disputes and minimise the risks of time and cost overruns. It was developed by a working group comprising eminent private sector infrastructure and dispute resolution specialists, the Singapore International Mediation Centre and the Singapore Mediation Centre.

– Construction+ Online

Source: MND