Friday 23 May 2014

Liveable City, Endearing Home - Addenda to President’s Address 2014

New tech, greenery to raise quality of life
Plan a part of Govt's vision of better public services, more engaged citizens
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 22 May 2014

A LACK of size has forced Singapore planners to get creative in the use of both space and technology, experts say, and that in turn has paved the way for the Smart Nation envisioned in the next phase of development.

Yesterday, seven ministries released their brief addenda on how to make Singapore a "liveable city and endearing home".

Their set of broad plans, the third of five to be released this week, added on to President Tony Tan Keng Yam's speech last Friday laying out the Government's priorities for the rest of its term.

A highlight is the plan to tap more new technology to raise the quality of life, and add parks and greenery wherever possible - whether within a 10-minute walk of one's home, or high up on Housing Board blocks. These are a large part of the Government's vision to make Singapore a Smart Nation with better public services and more engaged citizens.

"The problem is that Singapore is a very crowded city. Technology can help by moving people more efficiently from point A to point B," said Professor Bernard Tan of the National University of Singapore's (NUS) information systems department.

For example, traffic lights at junctions with sensors now change according to users' needs rather than at fixed intervals, which improves traffic flow.

This sort of efficiency is crucial as Singapore does not have much space to begin with, said experts.

"It is important for a small city state to adopt these technologies early and, ultimately, innovate," said NUS Institute of Systems Science's chief of research Virginia Cha. "A society with a growing population has more competition for finite resources, which leads to increased friction... When not properly moderated, individuals become more stressed and dissatisfied with living conditions."

But experts agreed that Singapore is off to a good start.

"We have made quite a few steps forward," said Professor Lim Ee Peng, director of the Singapore Management University's Living Analytics Research Centre.

The private sector, he added, already uses smartphone apps that match taxis with commuters.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority's latest draft masterplan released last year also promised that almost everyone in Singapore will live within 400m of a park.

Singapore Institute of Planners president William Lau acknowledged that Singapore already leads the global pack in terms of its parks and urban greenery.

"But from the viewpoint of citizens and urban planners, there's a lot more... that can be done," he said. He urged the Government to build more cycling tracks sooner.

Experts said the Government should keep an eye out for issues such as cyber security and privacy concerns. But NUS' Prof Tan said that citizens must also be aware of the trade-offs between the benefits of technology and privacy.

"If I want to enjoy location- based services, like being alerted about nice eateries everywhere I walk, I must disclose my location," he said. "The role of the Government is to ensure that information people give up is not subject to abuse."

5 things to know from Day 3 of the Addenda to President's address
The Straits Times, 21 May 2014

President Tony Tan Keng Yam opened the new session of Parliament last Friday, mapping out the Government's priorities and policies for the rest of the term. 

For a week starting from Monday, the ministries will unveil their respective plans in public statements, known as Addenda to the President's Address. After that, Parliament will sit, for a week, to debate these plans.

We summarise 5 keys things to know from Day 3 which focused on the theme "Liveable City, Endearing Home":

Better public infrastructure for a “liveable city”, Government promises
By Caryn Yeo, Channel NewsAsia, 21 May 2014

Quality of life will be key areas of focus for policymakers in the second half of the Government’s term, in ways such as increasing public transport capacity, upgrading HDB flats and building more parks, according to a statement issued on Wednesday (May 21).

We will build a liveable city and an endearing home for all Singaporeans,” the Government said in an addenda statement to President Tony Tan Keng Yam’s address at the reopening of Parliament last Friday.

One key priority for the Ministry of National Development is to step up the Home Improvement Programme to cover another one-third of flats in Singapore - about 100,000 in total - within the next three years.

The ministry will also implement initiatives such as encouraging couples to live near their parents, and making HDB homes and estates elder-friendly, the statement said.

Singaporeans can also expect more recreational facilities, with an expansion of the park connector network and the Round-Island Route, a 150km continuous recreational corridor connecting Singaporeans to parks and places of interest across the island.

The ultimate aim is for “nearly all Singaporeans to live within 400 metres of a park; to be within a 10-minute walk of a sports and recreational facility; and to have convenient access to an island-wide network of arts and culture nodes and heritage trails”, the statement said.

The Government also pledged in the statement to increase the capacity of the public transport system. The Ministry of Transport will undertake a restructuring of the public bus industry, with a new contracting model under which the Government will own all key assets such as bus depots and buses.

The ministry also said it will expand, upgrade and optimise the rail system to ease crowding. There will be major upgrades to tracks and trains, as well as to signalling systems for the oldest lines to run more trains at higher frequencies, and an additional 83 trains to reduce waiting time and crowding.

Incentives to encourage commuters to travel during off-peak periods will also be enhanced, according to the statement.

The ministry will also look into alleviating the taxi shortage by ensuring that more taxis are on the roads, and facilitate better matching of taxi demand and supply.

Amid the infrastructure build-up, the Government will take steps to ensure Singapore remains green. The transport ministry will undertake a trial use of electric vehicles on a larger scale, and study a possible adoption of diesel hybrid public buses.

“Protecting our environment is a collective responsibility,” the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources said. To that end, it plans to step up efforts to work with companies to improve their resource efficiency and adopt best-in-class practices.

The ministry said it will also progressively tighten vehicle and industrial emission and fuel quality standards to ensure that Singaporeans can enjoy clean, fresh air.

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