ON THE AGENDA
Parliament on Wednesday debated and passed the budgets of three ministries: National Development (MND), Transport (MOT), and the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR).
More hawker centres
MEWR's Second Minister Grace Fu said the Government will build another 10 hawker centres by 2027 - bringing the total to 20 hawker centres with 800 food stalls on the way.
Locations for five new centres have been identified: Bidadari, Sengkang, Choa Chu Kang, Bukit Panjang and Bukit Batok, she told delighted MPs, many of whom have been lobbying for hawker centres in their wards. The other locations will be announced later this year.
A third desalination plant will be built in Tuas, MEWR Minister Vivian Balakrishnan announced. But Singaporeans must build up resilience in their own water usage, he said, and the Government is considering amending the law to restrict the water supply when there is a severe drought. There was a dry spell last year, but Singaporeans managed to use more water than ever.
Take "car" out of 5Cs
Singapore's vehicle population growth is likely to be managed down to zero from the current 0.25 per cent growth per year, said Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo. Private car ownership will never be a low-cost transport option as long as incomes continue to grow, she said, and urged Singaporeans to embrace a "car-lite" future.
Owners to tenants
Of those applying for public rental flats, 59 per cent used to own their own flats, up from 52 per cent five years ago. MND Minister of State Maliki Osman called this a "worrisome" trend of some cashing in for a quick buck and losing their nest egg in the process. In response to a plea from Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC) to rent flats to single, unwed mothers, Dr Maliki said HDB already does so on a case-by-case basis. "We are driven by needs, not rules," he said.
MND vs AHPETC
Mr Singh also said MND has not given grassroots groups funds for the upgrading of community facilities since his Workers' Party won Aljunied GRC in 2011, while Dr Maliki countered that the WP was giving residents the false impression that the Government was withholding funds from opposition wards.
Meanwhile, WP chairman Sylvia Lim asked for a neutral tribunal to be set up for residents, HDB and the town council to resolve disputes.
Mind the (gender) gap
WP chief Low Thia Khiang (Aljunied GRC) and Dr Lily Neo (Tanjong Pagar GRC) called for the creation of women-only cabins on MRT trains like in Japan. Mr Low said there has been a rise in cases of molestation on public transport, and women deserve to be able to commute in peace.
But Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said that this would be inefficient while Singapore still struggles with overcrowding on trains. Women-only cabins in other countries are usually not full, thus taking up space that other commuters need, he added.