Spending on security to be 'very major' Budget item

Heng Swee Keat explains need to take action to keep S'pore safe, given the terror threat level

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat being briefed by officers from the Singapore Police Force and Singapore Civil Defence Force during a visit to the Home Team Tactical Centre yesterday.
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat being briefed by officers from the Singapore Police Force and Singapore Civil Defence Force during a visit to the Home Team Tactical Centre yesterday.ST PHOTO: AW CHENG WEI

Singapore will boost its security spending to tackle the terror threat, which is at one of its highest levels in recent years.

Already, there are plans to introduce a facial recognition system to quickly identify suspects, and install 11,000 more cameras in public areas such as hawker centres and linkways to bus interchanges.

Explaining the need to "take action" given the threat level, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said security spending will be a "very major item" in the upcoming Budget.

"I do expect our security expenditure to go up because we want to be able to support our security agencies in this very important mission to keep Singapore safe and secure," he said.

He also expects spending to continue to rise for the next 10 years.

In 2016, the Home Affairs, Defence and Foreign Affairs ministries spent $19.5 billion - slightly more than a quarter of the national Budget - on security. This was a 32 per cent rise from the $14.8 billion spent in 2011.

On how the Government will fund the higher spending, Mr Heng said "we need to do our long-term expenditure projection as well as our long-term revenue needs".

 

He declined to disclose how much more security spending will go up by, saying details will be provided on Budget Day, which falls on Feb 19.

  • Building a stronger Home Team

  • Investing in technology

    • The police will develop a Video Trawling and Analytics System that will detect, track and recognise faces.

    • By 2020, 11,000 new cameras will be installed in 2,500 places such as linkways to bus interchanges and MRT stations, and hawker centres. These new gadgets are a mix of 360-degree, pan-tilt-zoom and fixed cameras and some can send alerts to the police when suspicious activity is detected. They will complement the existing 65,000 cameras installed in 10,000 Housing Board blocks and multi-storey carparks.

  • Better trained and equipped officers

    • They will carry pistols that can hold more bullets.

    • They will be able to train and prepare for different security threats using simulators.

    • The Home Team Tactical Centre in Mandai allows officers to conduct joint trainings across different security agencies.

  • Consolidating operations

    • Currently, officers from the police, Central Narcotics Bureau, Singapore Civil Defence Force and Immigration and Checkpoints Authority sit side by side at the Police Operations Command Centre. Its location has not been disclosed.

    • By the end of 2023, all departments' operations centres are expected to be housed at the new Home Team Operations Complex so that they can coordinate their response to crises.

Mr Heng, who was an Assistant Commissioner of Police in his early working life, was speaking to reporters after watching a demonstration by Home Team officers, who used explosives to break into a room where terrorists were hiding.

In the past two years, the police have trained quick response teams, including the Emergency Response Teams (ERTs) and In-situ Reaction Teams (IRTs), as a way to ramp up anti-terror capabilities.

The IRTs are sent to areas with high human traffic such as Orchard Road and Marina Bay, and they are likely to be the first responders in the event of an attack.

The ERTs are trained to react to armed attacks and, as a deterrent measure, they now patrol selected public areas, like shopping centres.

The police have also installed 65,000 cameras in 10,000 Housing Board estates. By 2020, 11,000 more police cameras will be added to supplement the existing ones. These new gadgets are a mix of 360-degree, pan-tilt-zoom and fixed cameras and some can analyse videos and send alerts to the police when crowds are detected, for example.  

The police will also develop a Video Trawling and Analytics System that will be able to detect, track and recognise faces, according to the National Cybercrime Action Plan launched two years ago.

Mr Heng said Singaporeans are taking national security issues "very seriously".

"Since we rolled out SGSecure, many more people are taking action to raise their knowledge level... to prepare for contingencies," he added, referring to the national movement to mobilise Singaporeans to prevent and be prepared to deal with a terrorist attack.

For more Budget 2018 stories, go to str.sg/budget2018


Correction note: This story has been edited with police clarifications.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 03, 2018, with the headline 'Spending on security to be 'very major' Budget item'. Subscribe