Citing a weak economy and market uncertainty, the Singapore government has delayed a major land sale that was to underpin plans for a new central business district. The Ministry of National Development said yesterday that the site in the so-called New Downtown area would not be sold in the first half of next year, as had been announced last August. The decision will translate into a delay for realising the government's hopes of creating a vast new financial centre to rival similar developments in Hong Kong and Shanghai. The announcement is the second hitch for the grand, multi-plot scheme, plans for which were first disrupted in the late 1990s by the regional financial crisis. Since then, only two minor plots in the New Downtown - a zone of reclaimed land south of the existing business district - have been sold. The ministry said yesterday that the decision was part of a wider suspension of state land sales that has been in force this year. Under the suspension, sites are not put up for sale unless developers request that they be released, and then follow through with a bid. The ministry said the suspension would be extended for six months to next June. Last month, Mah Bow Tan, minister for national development, hinted that the New Downtown sale process might be deferred as the economy remained weak. Yesterday's confirmation of the halt came after lobbying from development firms, which had argued market conditions were too soft for the sale to go ahead. A review of the New Downtown timetable and the island-wide land sales programme would be undertaken between April and June of next year, the ministry said.