Tuesday 17 January 2012

Better schools, transport, housing on the way: PM

Slowdown looms, but Singapore is ready for what is to come, he says
By Cai Haoxiang, The Straits Times, 16 Jan 2012

GLOBAL uncertainties and an economic slowdown in Singapore loom in the coming Year of the Dragon.

But the Government is ready for what is to come and will continue improving the lives of Singaporeans in areas like education, transport and housing, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

'Within Singapore we should continue to build, to develop, to prepare ourselves and our next generation for the future,' he said.

'Whether it's improving our schools so that our children can be well educated, whether it's improving our MRT so we can carry more passengers... whether it's building more HDB flats so that young couples getting married can get their flats without too long a wait, at an affordable price, and be able to move in, settle down and I hope have some babies...

'These are things which we can do, which we are doing, and I hope we will be able to work together to make them happen in the Year of the Dragon and for many years ahead.'

Mr Lee was speaking at an event at Teck Ghee Community Club yesterday morning where he distributed hongbao of $100 each to 350 needy residents. He is MP for Teck Ghee ward in Ang Mo Kio GRC.

He also gave each recipient $50 worth of FairPrice vouchers, bottles of chicken essence, and mandarin oranges.

Mr Lee said the Year of the Rabbit had been 'eventful' and the coming Year of the Dragon will be 'interesting too'.

The economy is projected to grow just 1 to 3 per cent this year. In fact, the slowdown has already hit the electronics sector, he said.

'But in Singapore we are prepared and we are ready for what is going to come,' he said.

Mr Lee added that the hongbao giveaway is a small gesture to show concern, care and solidarity, especially with the elderly and the needy.

Among them was Ms Tan Soh, 73. When she first started working as a cleaner in 1998, her salary was $700 a month.

In 2010, her salary was $650 a month, improving slightly to $700 a month last year.

'I'm happy to get the hongbao, I did not get any in my younger days,' said Ms Tan, who is unmarried and lives in a three-room flat with her 69-year-old younger brother.

'I'm old, so I don't have much expectations for the coming year,' she added.

After the hongbao presentation, Mr Lee officially re-opened the Block 409 Ang Mo Kio Market and Food Centre before visiting the stalls and shops nearby.

The Block 409 wet market and hawker centre was closed in phases from March to December last year for upgrading by the National Environment Agency.

Mr Lee, who has been MP for the area since 1984, said in Mandarin that the market has been around for almost 30 years and the latest renovation was its biggest.

He said wet markets and hawker centres are still welcomed by Singaporeans although their standard of living has increased.

The Government will continue to preserve them, he said, noting that it was recently announced that 10 new hawker centres will be built in the next decade.

At the revamped market where seating capacity has been increased by one-sixth, stallholders and customers interviewed praised the improved lighting, ventilation, and cleanliness.

'There's more space for people to walk,' said retired civil servant K.S. Tan, 73.

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