Move some govt agencies to Jurong Lake District

It is disappointing that the Malaysian government has decided to scrap the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High Speed Rail (HSR) project (Scrapping of high-speed rail okayed by KL Cabinet; May 31).

Although a costly project, it was also projected to bring tremendous social and economic benefits for both countries in the long run.

The benefits were touted as countrywide and more strategic in nature, and included the development of new townships or second-tier cities, the promotion of tourism in relatively remote areas and the creation of massive job opportunities.

Accordingly, the HSR project had a key role to play in developing Jurong Lake District and making it a second Central Business District in Singapore.

In contrast, the benefits generated by the Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System Link project are more localised in nature and will benefit the Johor economy more, given that this project will serve mainly residents in Johor seeking employment here and Singaporeans going to Johor for shopping and recreation purposes.

With Kuala Lumpur's scrapping of the HSR project, the Ministry of National Development and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) will need to go back to the drawing board to work out contingency plans for Jurong Lake District.

Given that substantial works have begun for Jurong Lake District, it will be both a waste and a missed opportunity to let its development be stalled or derailed.

This will be a test of adaptability and creativity of our fourth generation leaders in handling sudden, unexpected changes.

Equally important, Jurong Lake District was first conjured by the URA to be a test bed for a future Singapore and to create a success story to showcase the infinite possibilities for our country.

One possibility is for the Government to actively pursue its decentralisation strategy by moving the more relevant agencies to Jurong Lake District.

It has been shown overseas that the relocation of government agencies can help with township development elsewhere, such as Putrajaya in Malaysia and Sejong City in South Korea, for example.

Given the proximity of Jurong Island, Tuas Megaport and the International Business Park to Jurong Lake District, government agencies overseeing maritime and port services as well as energy and water resources, can possibly be relocated there.

Besides bringing government agencies closer to industry players in Jurong Lake District, this move will also free up land and alleviate congestion woes in urban areas.

Luke Teo Kok Tai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2018, with the headline 'Move some govt agencies to Jurong Lake District'. Print Edition | Subscribe