Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Addenda to President's Address 2016


Security agencies outline plans to tackle threats
The Straits Times, 19 Jan 2016

Singapore is boosting the capabilities of its security agencies to deal with a range of threats, from terrorism to cyber crime.

The Singapore Armed Forces is developing know-how such as unmanned systems and robotics, and the police are installing cameras at HDB estates and public areas to deter criminal and terror activity.

These broad plans to keep Singapore safe and secure were outlined by the Defence, Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs ministries yesterday, in addenda to President Tony Tan Keng Yam's address to Parliament.

Speaking at the opening of Parliament last Friday, Dr Tan said Singapore can remain sovereign only if its people are able to determine their own fate.

Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean, who oversees the National Security Coordination Secretariat, said yesterday that strengthening social resilience is also crucial.

"In the event of a crisis, it is not just the security agencies that will be called to respond. Our society as a whole will also be tested," he said. "We must ensure that we can bounce back from any incident, and emerge stronger and more united."

Several other ministries will release their plans this week. MPs will then debate these policies when Parliament sits for a week from next Monday.

Plans to boost security in Singapore, preparedness in crises
Govt agencies to make better use of technology to fight criminal, terror threats
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 19 Jan 2016

The Singapore Police Force will explore whether to install more surveillance cameras in HDB estates and other public areas to boost its ability to deter and detect criminal and terrorist threats, Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said.

The ongoing installation of such police cameras at all 10,000 Housing Board blocks and multi-storey carparks is on track for completion this year.

Measures like these, which make better use of technology, as well as strengthen people's preparedness and ability to respond to a crisis or terror attack, are at the core of the plans by three ministries and the government agency overseeing national security matters, outlined yesterday in addenda to the President's Address.

These moves to step up Singapore's security come at a time when terror is a growing threat to the region.

In his ministry's addendum, Mr Shanmugam identified terrorism and transnational and cybercrime as key challenges for his ministry, with traveller and cargo volumes rising even as Singapore's population continues to age.

"While our work will grow in load and complexity, there is a limit to how much we can grow the size of the Home Team, given Singapore's manpower constraints," he said.

"We will have to develop new operating models and concepts, and make better use of technology."

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said his ministry will also invest more in areas such as unmanned systems and robotics, while ensuring that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) develops capabilities against a wider range of threats to national security, such as attacks to Singapore's online space.

"The operating environment for MINDEF and the SAF is changing rapidly: Technologies that used to be the domain of professional militaries are becoming cheaper and easier to obtain and used by less advanced militaries and non-state actors," said Dr Ng.

"As our economy and society rely more on technology that allows us to function with ease and efficiency, cyber criminals and attackers have more avenues to disrupt and destabilise Singapore."

Beyond its investments in hardware and capabilities, the Government will also look at ways to strengthen society's resilience - a "key ingredient" in national security, said Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean.

Mr Teo said the National Security Coordination Secretariat (NSCS) will continue to work with government agencies and community groups to develop a stronger understanding of the factors that determine how quickly the island can bounce back from a crisis, such as attitudes towards emergencies, social trust and family resilience.

The NSCS will also look at ways in which social media can be better used in an emergency to quickly manage a situation and restore confidence and order, at a time when rumours and disinformation spread through social media may complicate matters.

"In the event of a crisis, it is not just the security agencies that will be called to respond," he said.

"Our society as a whole will also be tested."

The NSCS will also work with agencies such as the Ministry of Home Affairs, Defence Ministry, Infocomm Development Authority, Media Development Authority and the Economic Development Board to develop practical solutions to cyber-security challenges facing Singapore.

Both the SAF and Home Team will also look at ways to improve the national service experience, to strengthen a cornerstone of Singapore's defence and security.

The SAF will expand its Volunteer Corps initiative that gives women, first-generation permanent residents and new citizens a way to contribute to the island's defence, while the Home Team intends to give its NSmen more leadership and specialist roles.

On the diplomatic front, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said Singapore will continue to work actively to enhance Asean integration, strengthen relationships with its immediate neighbours like Malaysia and Indonesia, and expand Singapore's international space through constructive participation in forums like the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) will expand Singapore's political relations and economic space in new emerging markets in Africa, Central Asia and Latin America, while also expanding its consular outreach as more Singaporeans travel and live abroad.

"With increasing occurrences of natural disasters and other emergencies, MFA will work closely with other government agencies and foreign governments to render consular assistance and ensure the safety of our Singaporeans abroad," said Dr Balakrishnan.

In the pipeline
The Straits Times, 19 Jan 2016

These are the plans key agencies have to strengthen Singapore's security, diplomacy and economy.


• The Singapore Armed Forces will develop new capabilities in areas such as unmanned systems and robotics, as well as capabilities to defend against cyber threats.

• National service will be strengthened through measures such as gifts for active NSmen who are newly married or have babies, basic life and accident insurance coverage, and vouchers for doing well during training. There will also be an NS Mark accreditation scheme for companies that support NSmen staff.

• There will be a series of NS50 activities to mark the 50th anniversary of NS in 2017.

• Efforts for the SAF Volunteer Corps will be expanded.

• Singapore will work to strengthen the regional security architecture through platforms like the Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting-Plus Maritime Security and Counter Terrorism Exercise, which it is co-hosting in May.


• Singapore will continue to deepen bilateral relations with Malaysia, Indonesia, other Asean member states and key partners, and expand Singapore's international space through diplomacy.

• Singapore will use its chairmanship of Asean in 2018 to strengthen the grouping's centrality in the evolving regional architecture.

• New economic opportunities for Singapore firms and Singaporeans will be created through the Asean Economic Community, Trans-Pacific Partnership and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

• Access to new emerging markets in Africa, Central Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, Russia and Turkey will be expanded through active diplomacy in collaboration with the Republic's economic agencies.

• MFA will expand its engagement of Singaporeans living and working overseas.

The 13th Parliament opened last Friday. MFA’s strategic priorities for the next five years include securing Singapore’s...
Posted by Vivian Balakrishnan on Monday, January 18, 2016


• The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority will strengthen border security capabilities.

• Police will complete installation of police cameras at all HDB blocks and multi-storey carparks, and consider having more cameras in housing estates and public areas to deter and detect threats.

• The Home Team will reviewoperations to cope with increasing demands and manpower constraints, using data and technology to deploy officers and equipment.

• Laws will be reviewed to keep them relevant and effective against emerging threats, and public education will be scaled up.

• Cooperation with international organisations will be deepened to counter terrorism, drugs and cybercrime, among other threats.

• Intelligence efforts, operationsand investigations will be better integrated across different Home Team departments.

In his delivery of the MHA Addendum to the President’s Address yesterday, Minister Shanmugam outlined the key aims that...
Posted by Home Team News (Singapore) on Monday, January 18, 2016


• The "Let's Stand Together"campaign to raise awareness of security issues and prepare people for potential risks will be improved.

• Efforts will be taken to strengthen community vigilance, social cohesion and resilience so that in the event of a crisis such as a terror attack, Singaporeans can bounce back stronger and more united.

These are the plans by several agencies to renew the economy and provide opportunities for all.
The Straits Times, 20 Jan 2016


• Reduce excessive focus on academic results.

• Primary schools to get boost for arts, music, sports programmes.

• Greater emphasis on non-academic scores for admission to post-secondary institutions.

• More support for workers to upgrade know-how through SkillsFuture.

★ MOE's Addendum to President's Address 2016 ★The key initiatives highlighted in MOE’s addendum are:• Reduce...
Posted by Ministry of Education, Singapore on Tuesday, January 19, 2016


• Help for companies to strengthen Singaporean core.

• More support for workers to match skills to jobs.

• Re-employment age to go up from 65 to 67 by next year.

• Improvements to Central Provident Fund to be put in place.

• Silver Support Scheme to be rolled out for the elderly poor.

At the Opening of the 13th Parliament on 15 January 2016, President Tony Tan spoke about the Government’s efforts to...
Posted by Singapore Ministry of Manpower on Tuesday, January 19, 2016


• Build on strengths in these sectors to support better jobs for Singaporeans:

- advanced manufacturing

- logistics and aerospace

- applied health sciences

- smart and sustainable urban solutions

• Nurture start-ups.

• Help small and medium-sized enterprises restructure and venture abroad.

Today, we unveiled our long-term plans aimed at positioning our economy for the future and creating good jobs for...
Posted by Ministry of Trade & Industry on Tuesday, January 19, 2016


• Use technology to boost efficiency, lower costs.

• Develop swift, secure digital and mobile payments.

The following are plans of three agencies for strengthening social safety nets and giving people peace of mind about being able to pay for their basic needs and healthcare costs.
The Straits Times, 21 Jan 2016


• Help patients transition more smoothly as they move from acute hospitals to long-term care facilities and their homes during the recovery process.

• Ensure each Singaporean has a regular family doctor who knows his health needs best.

• Add more than 10,000 beds in acute hospitals, community hospitals and nursing homes.

• Add more than 7,000 places to community care and home-care services, such as senior daycare centres.

• Develop standardised private Integrated Shield health insurance plan, which will build on MediShield Life.

• Implement the Action Plan for Successful Ageing for seniors to live more fulfilling lives.

At the opening of the 13th Parliament last Friday, 15 Jan, President Tony Tan Keng Yam spoke about Government’s...
Posted by Ministry of Health on Wednesday, January 20, 2016


• Encourage marriage; provide early support to vulnerable marriages and families.

• Review laws and policies to better protect the elderly suffering abuse or neglect.

• Streamline standards in welfare homes for the destitute.

• Better coordination by Social Service Offices in planning and delivering help to needy residents.

• More childcare places that are affordable and of good quality.

• Support for children from low-income families in their early years. the opening of the 13th...
Posted by Tan Chuan-Jin on Wednesday, January 20, 2016


• Encourage family-friendly workplaces.

• Support fathers so that they can play a more active role in bringing up children.

• Balance economic vitality and the needs of the ageing citizen population and workforce.

Six ministries and agencies have unveiled plans to harness information technology and transform Singapore's landscape.

The Straits Times, 22 Jan 2016


• New Government Technology Organisation will focus on building talent and delivering digital services.

• New Info-communications Media Development Authority will better manage the sector.

• New National Cyber Security Strategy will strengthen IT security, with a Cyber Security Bill to be passed to give the authorities more power to do so.

• New Constitutional Gallery in the National Gallery will display key constitutional documents.

• National Reading Movement will be started to promote reading.

« MCI Addendum to the President’s Address »MCI released our addendum to the President’s Address today, outlining how...
Posted by Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) on Thursday, January 21, 2016


• Reduce air pollution with tighter emissions standards.

• Strengthen regulations on food hygiene.

• Tap innovative technology to cope with increased waste management needs.

• Help industries reduce their carbon footprint and become more water- and energy-efficient.

• Review the Water Master Plan to ensure a reliable, sustainable water supply.

• Expand the ABC Waters Programme which turns water bodies into recreational spaces.

• Strengthen the role of hawker centres in the community.


• Make sure young couples and the lower-income get the help they need to own their homes.

• The elderly to get help moving about more easily at home and in estates.

• Encourage inter-generational bonding by locating childcare and eldercare centres together.

• Bring more greenery to residents.

#MNDAddendum2016These key thrusts were shared in MND's Addendum to President's address by Minister Lawrence Wong today:
Posted by Ministry of National Development on Thursday, January 21, 2016


• Keep air and sea hubs competitive with major projects.

• Go car-light, with the planned North-South Expressway becoming part of a North-South Corridor with express bus lanes and a cycling trunk route to city.

• Encourage a shift to public transport by expanding capacity and improving rail reliability.

• Make it easier to walk and cycle, with more covered walkways and dedicated cycling paths.

• Keep elderly and young pedestrians safe with more "silver zones" and "school zones".

Want to know more about how we will connect from our doorstep to our destination in future? To read about our...
Posted by Ministry of Transport, Singapore on Thursday, January 21, 2016


• Reduce Singapore's emissions intensity - greenhouse gas emissions per dollar of GDP - by 36 per cent from 2005 levels, by 2030.

• Stabilise greenhouse gas emissions, with the aim of getting them to peak around 2030 and then fall (the 2030 peak is a target rather than a prediction).

• Promote green economic growth. Government to take the lead, with public sector energy and water efficiency targets.

Achieving Singapore’s ambitious pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will require concerted efforts by all. Read more about Singapore’s plans here:
Posted by Climate Change SG on Friday, January 22, 2016


• Pilot to test smart home technology in Yuhua.

• Use mobile apps and data to help commuters.

• Make more government data available.

Three ministries and the Public Service Division yesterday unveiled plans to work with Singaporeans and maintain their trust through good governance.
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 23 Jan 2016


• Deepen engagement efforts with Singaporeans online and offline

• Continue to research, profile and preserve facets of Singapore's treasured heritage

• Continue to extend pathways to excel in the arts and sports

• Promote a culture of volunteerism in the young• Strengthen cooperation via Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles

• Improve sports infrastructure to boost access, including for persons with disabilities

At MCCY, our mission is to build social capital and inspire the Singapore Spirit. Our key initiatives are as follows:•...
Posted by Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth - MCCY on Friday, January 22, 2016


Maintain prudent spending amid slower growth

• Continue targeting subsidies at the neediest

• Build up government revenues to meet the higher spending needs of an ageing population

• Support businesses to restructure, innovate and internationalise

• Review regulations to reduce compliance burden and costs for small companies

During the President’s Address at the opening of Parliament last week, President Tony Tan highlighted the Government’s...
Posted by Heng Swee Keat on Friday, January 22, 2016


• Look into substantive reforms in civil and criminal law• Review copyright and design protection regimes

• Work with Singapore Land Authority to explore greater use of underground space• Introduce a more rehabilitative system to discharge bankrupts


• Work with citizens to innovate and develop or review policies

• Improve inter-agency coordination and collaboration• Communicate policies more simply and clearly

Working with you to build a better and brighter future for Singapore.Read PSD’s Addendum to the President’s Address at...
Posted by PSD Singapore on Friday, January 22, 2016

MOE: More time and space for students' interests
Schools to also emphasise outdoor activities; tertiary institutions to go beyond academic scores in assessment
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 20 Jan 2016

In the next five years, students can expect less emphasis on academic results, and more time and space to pursue their interests in schools as well as take part in outdoor activities.

As they move to tertiary level, the polytechnics, Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and universities will assess them on attributes beyond their academic scores.

These Ministry of Education (MOE) plans were outlined yesterday by Acting Education Ministers Ng Chee Meng (Schools) and Ong Ye Kung (Higher Education and Skills).

They set out the MOE's focus for the next five years in an Addendum to President Tony Tan Keng Yam's Address in Parliament last Friday, when he mapped out the Government's goals and policies for its new five-year term.

MOE's move to reduce the over-emphasis on academic results continues an effort that began about five years ago to make learning more enjoyable and examinations not be "overly perceived" as "high-stake endeavours".

It will give primary school pupils more opportunities to pursue their interest in the arts, music and sports, the ministers said.

The policy comes amid expectations from educators, parents and students of a revamp of the way Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) pupils are graded down to the last decimal point, a system called the T-score.

It will be replaced by grade bands similar to the A1 to F9 grades used for the O levels, a change Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said in 2013 was to take place in a few years' time.

Ms Denise Phua, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, said it will take time for mindsets to change.

"Not announcing the top PSLE scores or tweaking the PSLEsystem will not change the underlying perception about high-stakes exams. Tuition even for the stronger students will still be a feature and a security blanket," she said.

"A lot more attention has to be made to address this mindset."

Last year, then Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, who is now the Finance Minister, said the PSLE changes may take place this year at the earliest.

Parents and children had been assured they will be given enough time to respond and adjust.

The ministry also said in its addendum that strong emphasis will be placed on outdoor education.

The two ministers are in favour of outdoor activities, saying they "build... ruggedness and resilience in our students".

At the tertiary level, the Singapore Institute of Technology and SIM University will offer more applied degree programmes with a strong nexus with industry.

The institutions of higher learning will also expand the way they select students, by assessing them on a range of attributes and not just their academic scores.

Various initiatives are also in place to let individuals build hands-on, industry-relevant skills while in school, and take charge of their personal upgrading after that.

These include the Earn and Learn Programme that lets ITE and polytechnic students study while working for a salary, and the $500 SkillsFuture Credit for all Singaporeans aged 25 and older to pay for courses to stay relevant in the workplace.

"The objective is not to chase more and higher qualifications, but to achieve mastery in everything we do," MOE said.

"As a society, economy and nation, we need to recognise and celebrate different forms of successes, and embrace a culture of lifelong learning."

Keeping Singaporeans healthy and boosting standards
Health Ministry's priorities in next five years also include keeping healthcare affordable
By Linette Lai, The Straits Times, 21 Jan 2016

The Health Ministry's priorities in the next five years are to intensify efforts to keep Singaporeans healthy and to further boost healthcare standards.

These initiatives include raising the capacity both in hospitals and at other healthcare facilities, stepping up efforts to reduce obesity and smoking rates, and working out the details of the standard private Integrated Shield Plan that will build on MediShield Life.

The six regional health systems - each anchored by a public hospital - will also work on making the transition smoother from acute hospitals to long-term care facilities and patients' homes.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong outlined these plans in an Addendum to the President's Address made in Parliament last week, mapping out the goals and policies of the Government's new five-year term.

"We will continue to improve capacity of healthcare services and keep them affordable for Singaporeans," Mr Gan said in a separate statement yesterday.

He became Health Minister in 2011 and, in his first term, oversaw the launch of MediShield Life, abasic lifelong health insurance scheme for all Singaporeans and permanent residents.

In that time, the Community Health Assist Scheme, which subsidises visits to participating general practitioners and dentists, was also expanded.

Around 1.4 million Singaporeans, including members of the pioneer generation, have benefited from the scheme.

Last year saw the opening of new hospitals, nursing homes and senior care centres - notably, the Yishun Community Hospital, Ng Teng Fong General Hospital and the neighbouring Jurong Community Hospital.

Still, the ministry plans to add more than 10,000 beds in acute and community hospitals as well as nursing homes. It will also add more than 7,000 places to community and home care services, like senior care centres.

Other initiatives include stepping up efforts to help Singaporeans live healthily - including plans to reduce obesity and smoking - and making sure each person has a regular family doctor familiar with his needs.

Also, the ministry will continue to recruit healthcare staff and find ways to improve productivity. It will also leverage the new SkillsFuture scheme to strengthen healthcare career paths.

In a separate addendum, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is the Minister-in-charge of the National Population and Talent Division, said the number of seniors in Singapore is estimated to double to 900,000 by 2030.

Hence, one of the division's tasks will be to balance population growth so that the needs of the ageing population and workforce can be met, he said.

Other efforts targeted at seniors include the new Action Plan for Successful Ageing. It will give seniors opportunities to learn, volunteer and live well even after retirement, and the Health Ministry will implement it.

In his statement, Mr Gan pledged to continue developing new ways to offer healthcare services and prepare for future healthcare needs.

"We will also step up efforts to promote healthy living among our people, and help our seniors enjoy a healthy and fulfilling life," he added.

More help for elderly poor, low-income families
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 21 Jan 2016

In the next five years, the destitute elderly will get more help to overcome their difficulties.

Policies and laws, such as the Mental Capacity Act, will be reviewed to better protect elderly folk who suffer abuse or neglect.

Destitute adults in welfare homes will also receive greater support, as the authorities streamline care standards in these homes.

Low-income and disadvantaged families will be given help to improve their home environment for their children's learning and development, so that the children's needs are met earlier.

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin yesterday outlined these plans of his ministry for the next five years, in an addendum to the President's address.

These efforts come amid a rising number of senior citizens who live alone, and shrinking family sizes.

Said Mr Tan: "The social needs of our citizens and families are becoming more complex as the demographics, economics and family structures in Singapore change.

"Our social policies and services must evolve so that we can continue to nurture resilient individuals and strong families."

For parents with children in pre-school, the Early Childhood Development Agency will continue to offer more childcare options that are affordable and of good quality, and increase the number of places.

The network of 24 social service offices was completed last month. Mr Tan said these offices will improve the coordination in planning and delivery of their services to needy residents in each town.

Mr Tan said everyone plays a part in caring for one another. "Through what we do and how we do it, the ministry hopes to nurture a culture and spirit of giving in Singapore."

Transport projects and goals

By Maria Almenoar, Assistant News Editor, The Straits Times, 22 Jan 2016


• A new MRT line will open almost every year between now and 2021. This will double Singapore's rail network to 360km in the next 15 years.

• Eight in 10 households will be within a 10-minute walk of a station by 2030.

• Three out of four will take public transport as their main mode of travel by 2030. By the 2050s, it should increase to eight out of 10.


• Changi Airport's Terminal 4 will be completed in 2017 while Jewel, a $1.7 billion retail-cum- airport structure in front of Terminal 1, will be ready in 2019.

• Three runways to serve all of Changi Airport's terminals should be operational by the early 2020s.

• Changi Airport's Terminal 5 will be completed in the second half of the 2020s.


• Pasir Panjang Terminal Phase 3 and 4 will raise Singapore's maritime capacity by more than 40 per cent by end-2017.

• The first set of berths at the new Tuas Terminal will be operational by 2021.

No analogue broadcasting by end-2017

Consumers will need digital-compliant TVs or set-top boxes to watch free-to-air channels
By Irene Tham, Tech Editor, The Straits Times, 22 Jan 2016

The authorities have pinned down when Singapore will pull the plug on analogue broadcasting: by end-2017.

The move to digital broadcasting started in December 2013 when national broadcaster Mediacorp converted all seven of its free-to-air TV channels to the digital format.

It has continued to broadcast in the analogue format, but this will end by next year.

"The freed-up spectrum will provide more capacity for mobile broadband and better support our Smart Nation development," said Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim in his ministry's addendum to the President's address yesterday.

His ministry had said previously that analogue broadcasting could be turned off any time before 2020.

To continue watching free-to-air television channels after end-2017, viewers of older TV sets will need to buy and connect a digital set-top box and an indoor antenna. The equipment retails in shops for about $130.

Most of the TV sets on sale today already come with a built-in digital tuner and some vendors throw in a free antenna to sweeten the offer.

To be sure, consumers should look out for a label issued by the Media Development Authority (MDA) that indicates whether the TV set, or set-top box, is compliant with Singapore's digital format.

To ensure no one is left behind, MDA rolled out a help scheme in 2014 for low-income families.

Close to half of the 77,000 households that automatically qualified for help have installed their free digital set-top box, it said. These are people living in one- or two-room rental flats, or those on ComCare or self-help groups' help schemes.

The target is to have all 160,000 low-income households - those with monthly income of $1,900 and below, or an annual property value of $13,000 or lower - receive their free set-top box.

MDA also urged low-income households that have yet to receive their free set-top box to apply with the authority.

Singtel and StarHub pay-TV subscribers, whose platforms are already digital, need not do anything to prepare for the switch to digital broadcasting.

Pay-TV subscribers form about 60 per cent of households here.

Digital transmissions allow broadcasters to send more signals more efficiently, enabling viewers to receive higher quality images and sound.

Other benefits include the ability to toggle the display of subtitles and multiple language options included with programmes.

Six of Mediacorp's free-to-air TV channels - Channel 5, Channel 8, Suria,Vasantham, Channel NewsAsia and okto - are in high-definition (HD) format, which is possible only with digital TV. Channel U will go HD this year.

To date, 21 housing estates, or 65 per cent of all households in Singapore, can receive digital transmissions.

The rest of the island is on track for the digital transmission upgrade by the end of this year, according to Mediacorp's website.

Correction note: An earlier version of this story stated that most of the TV sets on sale today already come with a built-in digital tuner and antenna. This is incorrect. The antenna comes with the TV but it is not built in.

HDB focus on couples, needy and elderly folk

By Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 22 Jan 2016

Having met demand for HDB flats, the Housing Board will now make sure young couples and the lower-income get the help they need to own their homes.

The elderly, too, will get help moving to smaller homes as well as moving about more easily at home and in their estates.

The Ministry of National Development (MND), which oversees the Housing Board, outlined these plans yesterday in its addenda to last Friday's President's address.

Most importantly, public housing will continue to be inclusive.

Said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong: "We will ensure that our housing policies continue to help young couples start a family, uplift the lower-income and vulnerable to a better future, and enable our elderly to age gracefully."

He added: "We remain committed to helping Singaporeans own their homes and keeping housing affordable for future generations."

For instance, home owners who sold and then rented HDB flats can get government help to own a home again, under the Fresh Start Housing Scheme. More public rental flats will be built.

MND will also look at how to support other vulnerable groups such as divorcees and low-income singles.

There will be more shared spaces for people such as town plazas. And to encourage different generations to bond, the ministry will look into siting childcare and eldercare centres together.

Also on the agenda: more parks, boosting construction productivity, rejuvenating older estates and helping local farms.

Announcing plans, too, to transform the urban landscape yesterday was the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR).

To improve the living environment, MEWR will tighten standards for vehicular and industrial emissions to reduce air pollution.

Food hygiene regulations will be made stricter too.

Also up for review are Singapore's Water Master Plan, to secure Singapore's water supply for the future, and the role of hawker centres.

MEWR will help industries go green and be more energy-efficient.

The push for energy efficiency is to meet Singapore's international climate change commitments, following its adoption last month of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The National Climate Change Secretariat, which is under the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), will encourage the use of more efficient power-generating methods, and energy-efficient buildings, transport and appliances.

The Smart Nation Programme Office, which is also under the PMO, will focus on how technology can help in daily life, like tracking the use of energy in a smart home.

Law reforms, school among key goals

By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 23 Jan 2016

Wide-ranging reforms to civil and criminal law. A new law school to train family and criminal lawyers. And moves to position Singapore as an international legal hub.

Law Minister K. Shanmugam outlined some of his ministry's key goals in his Addendum to the President's Address yesterday.

The Law Ministry would be looking into "substantive reforms in civil and criminal law". "Our aim is to improve the civil justice system, improve enforcement of civil judgments and, where possible, remove unnecessary complexities in the civil justice system," he said.

There will also be reforms to the Guardianship of Infants Act, Intestate Succession Act and the Inheritance (Family Provision) Act.

Singapore's third law school - which will focus on criminal and family law - will also be set up at SIM University.

At the same time, bankruptcy laws will also be reviewed, with individual and corporate insolvency legislation unified under a single Act.

At present, the Bankruptcy Act deals with individual debtors, while the Companies Act handles corporate insolvency. "We will be introducing a more rehabilitative system that allows bankrupts to be discharged within clear timeframes," said Mr Shanmugam.

Finally, the ministry will also seek to solidify Singapore as an international hub for legal services.

In the past two years, the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC) and Singapore International Mediation Centre were set up. The SICC heard its first case last year, a $1.1 billion dispute between the Singapore subsidiary of an Australian firm and an Indonesian firm.

Plans for more dialogues, activities to engage youth

Govt pledges to consult Singaporeans on their ideas and partner them to forge better future
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 23 Jan 2016

More dialogues and activities to engage the young are on the cards as the Government pledged yesterday to partner Singaporeans to forge a better future for everyone.

It vowed to ensure good governance to uphold the trust of citizens, spend within its means as the economy slows, and continue to give subsidies to those who need them most. It will also invest in lifelong education.

These plans of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) and Ministry of Finance (MOF) were made public yesterday in their Addenda to the President's Address, which will be debated in Parliament next week.

Ms Grace Fu, who heads MCCY, said it will be "all hands on deck" in finding ways to be a more resilient society. Her ministry will deepen engagement efforts online and off- line, she added. These include the ongoing SGfuture dialogues at which Singaporeans discuss their hopes for the country and how they can bring them to fruition.

The MOF and Public Service Division also said they will consult Singaporeans on their ideas.

The future of Singapore lies in its youth and the MCCY said it will actively engage them on issues that matter to them and encourage them to contribute to the community, to inspire a culture of volunteerism and philanthropy.

More will also be done to strengthen national identity and pride.

MCCY will continue to preserve facets of Singapore's heritage, while investing in the arts and sports to boost citizens' pride in the achievements of local artists and athletes. To strengthen community ties, the Government will improve sports infrastructure to promote an active lifestyle for all.

It will also strengthen mutual understanding through the Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles, formed after the 2001 arrests of Jemaah Islamiah terrorists here.

Meanwhile, the Government recognises the need for prudent spending amid economic uncertainties.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said in his ministry's Addendum that the Government needs to stress getting value for money as costs in transport infrastructure, healthcare and housing increase.

It needs to build revenues to meet the higher spending needs of an ageing population. "We must do so in a way that keeps the economy vibrant and the tax system progressive."

MOF will support businesses to restructure, innovate and internationalise, Mr Heng said, and it will review regulations to reduce taxes and costs for small companies.

As Ms Fu said: "Our future depends on what we make of it together... We have had a good start. We can make it even better together."

Time for citizens to start ground-up national conversations

By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 23 Jan 2016

The Our Singapore Conversation (OSC) dialogue series in 2013, which involved nearly 50,000 people, was perhaps the Government's biggest and most coordinated drive to engage Singaporeans on the issues that matter to them.

It paid off in a big way.

The Government shed its perceived image of not listening to its people, a view arising from some policy missteps that saw a drop in support for the People's Action Party in the 2011 General Election.

But with its strong mandate at last year's general election, it is heartening to see the Government pledge to work even more closely with Singaporeans - and youth in particular - for a better future.

It is building on the success of the OSC with two more ongoing engagement drives this year.

First, there are the SGfuture dialogues, in which Singaporeans are urged to share ideas and turn them into action. More than 2,000 people have taken part so far.

More than 400 people have also joined in dialogues to gather ideas for a Founders' Memorial that aims to honour the values and ideals of Singapore's founding leaders.

As Culture, Community and Youth Minister Grace Fu said: "Through these engagements, we hope Singaporeans will have a stake in our nation's future and partner with us in shaping that future."

Engaging Singaporeans is a must to show that the Government is actively listening to the people.

But such sessions can be administratively demanding and potentially bureaucratic. During the sessions, participants are divided into smaller groups, each led by a neutral facilitator.

These facilitators, who guide each discussion and prod for deeper thinking, go into each session with a set of objectives to be met. Reams and reams of notes are taken at each session and then consolidated into reports. Such sessions allow participants to bounce constructive ideas off one another. But continuing in the same vein could risk some form of homogeneity in the backgrounds of participants, or worse, dialogue fatigue.

The Government has a huge presence online, including on its feedback portal REACH, and such dialogues could end up attracting only habitual participants.

The bigger challenge lies in finding ways to attract the attention, if not the heart, of apathetic or disinterested Singaporeans. Perhaps it is time for the wider community to take charge as well and spark organic conversations on national issues.

It will be a mark of a truly mature society if it becomes part of the Singaporean DNA to proactively give suggestions and feedback - and to step up and put into action their ideas from the ground up.

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