Saturday 14 February 2015

Parliament Highlights - 12 Feb 2015

Public monies have been lost, minister charges
By Ng Jing Yng, TODAY, 13 Feb 2015

Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council’s (AHPETC) transactions with its managing agent and a vendor, which its senior staff have stakes in, are “unlawful” and the Workers’ Party (WP) Members of Parliament (MPs) have seriously breached their fiduciary duties in allowing the arrangement, charged Law and Foreign Minister K Shanmugam yesterday.

The minister made these points at the end of a nearly four-hour debate on the motion raised on the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) findings on the town council, which was kicked off with National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan flagging the implications that the WP’s less-than-stellar running of the AHPETC would have for residents.

The AGO’s findings, made public on Monday, highlighted five major lapses, but Mr Shanmugam dedicated his entire speech yesterday to only one of them: Related party transactions the town council was involved in.

How did it come to be that four senior staff at the AHPETC had ownership interests in the constituency’s managing agent and another vendor, leading to them essentially billing and approving payments to themselves, he asked, zeroing in on the WP town councillors’ intentions behind concealing details of and sanctioning these deals.

Despite the WP’s denials, public monies have been lost by their actions, said Mr Shanmugam, who made it a point to stress that the funds were the “hard-earned money” of residents in the opposition ward.

The rhetoric from the WP is always about helping the poor man. The reality is that the WP took money from the man in the street and gave it to FMSS,” the minister said, referring to FM Solutions and Services, which was started by a husband-and-wife team who are “hardcore WP supporters”.

In Financial Year 2012/13, which was the subject of audit by the AGO, 84 cheques totalling S$6.6 million were paid out by AHPETC to FMSS and FM Solutions and Integrated Services, another firm linked to AHPETC staff, he pointed out.

The sum would be much larger when measured across the span of time since the WP took over the management of the constituency in 2011, he added. “The payments they were verifying and approving on behalf of the town council were going into their own pockets. This is not a theoretical conflict of interest. It is real conflict,” said Mr Shanmugam.

“No town councillor who knew these facts should have approved this structure,” he added, as this is “unlawful” — a word he used no fewer than 10 times in a 45-minute speech.

“And it would have been a serious breach of fiduciary duties for any town councillor to have approved such a process.”

He went further to charge that such an arrangement was designed. “FMSS was a convenient vehicle to which millions of dollars went from the town council. And another obvious question: Money that went to FMSS — where did it actually go? What happened to it?”

More losses came in the form of overcharging, Mr Shanmugam added, flagging the higher managing agent fees FMSS charged compared with those in other town councils.

He cited a fee proposal from FMSS to provide essential services as an example, where the town councillors approved a bill that was S$120,000 higher than the previous service provider’s — a situation that arose out of mistakes, AHPETC explained.

But Mr Shanmugam attacked this, asking how the mistake could have arisen and on how many other instances mistakes had benefited FMSS. “Who knows? This particular case of overcharging was exposed quite by chance. If not exposed, the money would not have been repaid,” said Mr Shanmugam, who noted that the AGO had not been asked to do a forensic audit — suggesting that more could have been uncovered.

Questions on the extent to which each town councillor knew of FMSS’ ownership structure and AHPETC’s payment mode to it also needed to be asked, said Mr Shanmugam.

There was no record in the town council’s discussions about the conflict of interests, flawed payment process and safeguards needed, he said. When auditors, including its own, asked about it, AHPETC chose instead to evade them.

“Why doesn’t the town council give proper answers instead of playing hide-and-seek? What are you hiding?” he asked. “That is not negligence. It is an active decision to suppress. It raises the issue of integrity. The issue of integrity is raised right through.”

Disclosures of such related party transactions are also required in financial statements, in line with financial reporting standards, said the minister.

“The law takes an extremely strict view on related party transactions (and) on conflicts of interests. Where contracts have been entered into with related parties in breach of fiduciary duties, the law presumes loss,” he said.

“Given all of this, how can Ms Lim or anyone say, honestly, that no money has been lost? And the money was lost not through accident. The structure was approved by at least some of the town councillors.”

Other WP MPs — Mr Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap and Mr Chen Show Mao — were also among the eight MPs who spoke yesterday, as charts and figures were trotted out by several of them to support their arguments.

Temperatures rose when Mr Shanmugam took four WP MPs to task individually over their culpability in allowing the related party transactions to happen under their noses, as an inaudible off-mike remark irked the minister.

“I beg your pardon, ‘Is that right?’ I am sure we will have your answers to all the questions we have raised. And I am sure that is the most parliamentary language you can find,” he said.

The debate continues today.

Town Councils Act to be amended to enforce tougher standards
By Laura Elizabeth Philomin, TODAY, 13 Feb 2015

Saying the Government can no longer take the light touch on town councils, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan yesterday announced that the Town Councils Act will be amended to enforce greater standards of accountability and governance, as well as to put in place a stronger penalty framework.

The amended laws will make clear that town councils are subordinate to the authority of public law. They will also give the Ministry of National Development (MND) more powers to collect information and conduct investigations

Mr Khaw, who tabled a motion on the Auditor-General’s Office report on Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) in Parliament yesterday, said the town council’s behaviour has shown that the Government can no longer assume that all Members of Parliament (MPs) running town councils will be responsible.

In 1989, Parliament had decided to give elected MPs more authority and responsibility over the HDB estates in their constituencies. Unlike the Companies Act or the Charities Act, which provides for full inquiries and penalties such as fines or jail terms when rules are broken, the Town Councils Act took a “light-touch approach” to regulation and enforcement.

“The strategic intent was to bring home to the MPs that how they manage and run their town council will affect their electoral fortunes at the next election, and to voters that the MPs they elect will be responsible for looking after their housing estates,” said Mr Khaw.

Town councils are given maximum autonomy in operations, but in turn, the act demands that they “account for their actions through proper accounting, governance and disclosure”.

“Unfortunately, throughout this AHPETC saga, we have found the MPs running the AHPETC to be evasive, unresponsive and misleading,” said Mr Khaw.

He added: “Regardless of which party is running the town council, there is a need to ensure proper systems, accountability and governance to safeguard residents’ interests.”

The MND will table the amendments after the Committee of Supply (COS) Debate next month, with a focus on three key areas.

First, it will make clear that town councils must answer to and comply with public law, as well as the government agencies charged with enforcing the law.

“While town councils are statutorily vested with the function and duty to manage and maintain common property, they do not own the common property and their powers are not unfettered. We have assumed that all town councils will follow this fundamental principle without the need to spell it out explicitly. Sadly, AHPETC has proven us wrong,” said Mr Khaw.

Second, the amended act aims to strengthen town councils’ corporate governance and financial accountability, taking reference from best practices from companies. It will spell out duties and responsibilities of town councillors and MPs, and the penalties if they fail to perform their duties.

Third, noting that the act currently limits MND’s investigative powers — for example, the ministry cannot request for information beyond annual financial reports — Mr Khaw said the ministry’s regulatory powers will be strengthened.

“So far MND has been relying on moral suasion and the town councils’ self-declarations. For effective governance and regulatory oversight, the MND requires powers to collect information and conduct investigations. This also has to be coupled with a stronger penalty framework, to enable the Government to take errant town councils to task for non-compliance,” said Mr Khaw.

Mr Khaw said that, beyond the running and maintenance of HDB estates, the Town Councils Act has a wider strategic objective of testing parties aspiring to form the national government, by running a town council to first prove their competency.

“That is why despite the problems that the AHPETC has run into, we do not propose taking back the town councils’ powers and having HDB run everything again, like before. Instead, we will strengthen the town council framework to remedy the weaknesses in it, so that elected MPs have to perform and be held more tightly to account in running their town councils and towns,” he said.

Code of conduct mooted for debt collectors
Govt advisory panel for moneylending to look into this issue in final report out soon
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 13 Feb 2015

A GOVERNMENT advisory committee for moneylending is looking at the conduct of debt collectors engaged by moneylenders.

The committee, initiated by the Law Ministry last June, is expected to address this issue in its final report, to be released by the end of next month, Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah said in Parliament yesterday.

The 15-member panel had in November last year issued draft recommendations such as capping interest rates and limiting how much a person can borrow.

Ms Indranee was responding to a question by Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC) on whether debt collectors should abide by a code of conduct.

Ms Foo had asked if the Government would consider instituting laws that govern fair debt collection practices such as those implemented in Malaysia, Thailand and the United States. She also asked if laws could prohibit debt collectors from using certain tactics such as faxing letters of demand to workplaces.

Ms Foo's questions come amid a spate of recent cases in which debt collection agencies employed undesirable tactics to reclaim debts.

In a case last month, debt collectors allegedly caused a scene at a Funan Mall foodcourt for two days in a row while trying to collect a sum of $21,000 owed by a stall owner.

They pushed the stall's cash register, rice cooker and bowls onto the floor, and the police had to be called in.

Ms Indranee said that even before possible recommendations are released, individuals already do have a means of recourse if they feel intimidated or threatened by debt collectors.

"For example, the Penal Code makes it an offence if hurt or threatening behaviour is involved.

"In addition, the new Protection from Harassment Act provides civil and criminal remedies against unreasonable harassing behaviour," she said.

She also said the Registry of Moneylenders conducts checks to ensure that individuals who have previously engaged in criminal conduct are not allowed to assist in any aspect of the moneylending business, including the collection of debts.

"Moneylenders found to have committed offences may have their licences suspended, not renewed or revoked by the registry," she said.

Ms Indranee added that the ministry would wait for the advisory committee's report before considering taking any steps about this issue.

Three-quarters of new two-room flats go to singles
By Yeo Sam Jo, The Straits Times, 13 Feb 2015

ABOUT 77 per cent of new two-room flats were allocated to singles between 2013 and last year, even though only a third of these flats were set aside for them, said Minister of State for National Development Maliki Osman.

The Government might consider increasing the quota, he added yesterday. "If the demand from first-timers as well as families is coming down, we will consider the possibility of increasing the quota. But we'll continue to monitor the situation," he said.

Since July 2013, first-timer singles aged 35 and above and earning up to $5,000 a month have been allowed to buy two-room Build-To-Order (BTO) flats in non-mature estates.

A third of the flats are set aside for them, and the rest for first- and second-timer families.

"So even if the quota today stays at 30 per cent, the actual numbers that were taken up or allocated to singles are much higher," Dr Maliki added, responding in Parliament to a question from Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC).

She had asked if his ministry could consider allocating a higher flat quota for singles.

The HDB ramped up the supply of such flats from 2,600 units in 2013 to about 5,000 units last year.

Of the 16,900 BTO flats that will be launched this year, about 5,000 will be two-room flats.

But application rates for singles have fallen, said Dr Maliki. While there was a high of 58 applicants to one flat in July 2013, this dipped to 13 to one flat last November.

87,900 HDB flats being sublet
By Yeo Sam Jo, The Straits Times, 13 Feb 2015

AS OF the end of last month, 87,900 Housing Board households are renting out their flat or at least one room, said Minister of State for National Development Maliki Osman yesterday.

Singaporean households make up 92 per cent of the lessors, while the remaining 8 per cent are Singapore permanent resident households, most of which are subletting their rooms.

Since January 2013, HDB has disallowed permanent resident households from subletting entire flats.

Dr Maliki added that HDB will continue to do spot checks and rely on feedback to ensure that flats are rented out within legal limits.

"I think it's a two-pronged approach. HDB will continue to do its spot checks from time to time... At the same time, we require local ground-up feedback so that we can continue to enforce where necessary," said Dr Maliki, responding to a question from Mr Png Eng Huat (Hougang).

Around 17,000 childcare places added in 2 years
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 13 Feb 2015

ABOUT 17,000 childcare places have been added over the past two years and the Government is on track to meet its target of adding 20,000 places by 2017.

This means about 85 per cent of the additional childcare places in 200 childcare centres to be set up over five years have been added within the first two years.

A number of initiatives have also started to recruit teachers to support these new centres.

Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing gave this update in Parliament yesterday in response to Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar (Ang Mo Kio GRC), who asked about the progress of increasing childcare places.

Demand for childcare services has almost doubled in the past 10 years, as more working parents enrol their children in pre-schools. Last year, close to 84,000 children were enrolled in childcare.

"ECDA (Early Childhood Development Agency) closely monitors childcare demand and will continue to expand capacity in estates with many young families to meet their needs," Mr Chan said.

The minister also gave an update on the take-up rate of schemes aimed to attract and retain pre-school teachers, after Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) asked for these numbers.

The Government hopes to add 2,000 pre-school professionals from 2013 to 2017 to support the expansion of childcare centres.

More than 200 positions were filled through the Early Childhood Career and Education Fair last year, and 50 people have completed a traineeship programme that was launched last year.

The programme gives mid-career workers first-hand experience of working in a pre-school, with 40 to 80 hours of on-the-job training and an hourly allowance.

Participants get extra money if they attend at least 75 per cent of the programme, and if they go on to take up a job in the pre-school sector.

"ECDA will continue to work with the sector to put in place structured career pathways and develop early childhood professionals," said mr Chan.

He said the Government has also worked to ensure the required space for childcare centres is taken into consideration in the design of new Housing Board blocks.

More details on ways to address the lack of childcare places in estates which do not have enough void deck space to site the centres will be given at the upcoming Budget debate next month, he said.

Current COE bidding system is 'most flexible way'
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 13 Feb 2015

THE current Certificate of Entitlement (COE) system, which allows both dealers and buyers to bid, remains the most flexible way to carry out the process.

In 2013, the Land Transport Authority had already considered banning dealers from bidding for COEs and adopting a pay-as-you-bid model, but felt that it was better to stick with the current model for various reasons.

Some buyers, Mrs Teo explained, find it more convenient for dealers to do the bidding for them.

"Some also pointed out that such a ban could be easily circumvented, for instance, by the buyer providing personal details to the dealer to bid on his behalf," she said.

Mrs Teo added that a ban would not lower the COE prices as this was ultimately a reflection of the underlying demand.

As for an open pay-as-you-bid system, bidders would end up spending a lot of time, she said, monitoring bidding and adjusting incrementally.

It was one of two questions on COEs posed in Parliament yesterday.

Mr Zainal Sapari (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) asked if COEs for motorcycles could be segregated according to the different classes of motorcycles, and if motorcycle owners could opt for an unlimited five-year COE renewal, to help lower-income families better manage the cost of owning these vehicles.

To this, Parliamentary Secretary for Transport Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said that segregating motorcycle COEs could lead to more volatility in quota and prices.

"Allowing unlimited five-year COE renewals for motorcycle owners may lead to fewer deregistrations and, therefore, fewer COEs available for bidding," he said.

Stalling of govt building projects uncommon
By Yeo Sam Jo, The Straits Times, 13 Feb 2015

ABOUT three quarters of the 590 government infrastructure projects worth above $10 million between 2012 and last year went to the lowest bidders.

But the number of projects which became unviable because of financial difficulties or other reasons remains low, said Senior Minister of State for National Development Lee Yi Shyan yesterday.

"For instance, LTA (Land Transport Authority) awarded in the last 10 years more than a thousand projects, but there were only three that stalled," he said, responding to Non-Constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong in Parliament.

One such project was the $29 million contract to widen the stretch of Braddell Road between Toa Payoh Lorong 1 and the Braddell flyover, which was awarded to home-grown contractor Hexagroup in late 2012.

While this was scheduled to be completed by the end of this year, work has come to a halt and the project would likely be finished next year instead.

In all, the Government awarded about $43.5 billion worth of construction projects between 2012 and last year, said Mr Lee.

When Mr Yee asked if building productivity methods were taken into account when awarding a tender, Mr Lee said: "All government projects which exceed the value of $10 million each are evaluated under the Price-Quality Method, where the productivity of building method would be taken into consideration for the award."

The weighting of productivity depends on how complicated a project is, he added.

In simple projects, the weighting for quality and productivity is about 20 per cent, he said.

"In a design-and-build project, there's a lot more complication. Then, the quality weighting is higher at 40 per cent."

Asked about incentives for contractors to adopt more productive methods for public projects, Mr Lee said that this is the emphasis of a committee to raise productivity in the construction sector.

Mr Lee, who chairs this committee, which is called the Construction Productivity Steering Committee, said: "Obviously we're very interested in the subject and we want to achieve bigger improvements in the years to come."

Up to 30% of drone permit applications rejected last month
By Lester Hio, The Straits Times, 13 Feb 2015

SOME 20 per cent to 30 per cent of the 70 applications for a permit to fly a drone last month were rejected due to safety concerns.

These 14 to 20 applications were mainly turned down because of the risk of manned aircraft flying nearby, Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo told Parliament yesterday.

Unmanned aircraft weighing 7kg or less require a permit from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) if they are flown within 5km of an aerodrome, said Mrs Teo, who is also Senior Minister of State for Finance.

A permit is also required for drone flights flying at an altitude higher than 200ft (61m) above mean sea level when they are 5km or more outside of an aerodrome. The increasing use of drones has also prompted the Transport Ministry to review regulations for drone safety and security.

The CAAS saw 70 applications for drone usage permits last month, up from the average of 12 a month last year.

Led by the Ministry of Transport and the CAAS, along with other government ministries and agencies, the review will assess if different levels of oversight are needed for different uses of drones.

It will also look at whether there is a need to register unmanned aircraft, as well as locations where such systems can or cannot operate.

Asked by Dr Lim when the review will be concluded, Mrs Teo said the extensive regulations have to be looked at before the Government can give a firm timeline.

"Consultations with the relevant stakeholders are taking place over the next few months," she said.

"As we are doing the review, we are also taking a closer look at countries such as the United States and Australia, which are similarly looking into their regulatory framework because there are lessons to be learnt and experiences to be shared."

Innovation funding has boosted SME initiatives
By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 13 Feb 2015

FUNDING schemes from government agencies have supported companies' innovation and research projects, with encouraging results, said Second Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran in Parliament yesterday.

A survey conducted last year found that three-quarters of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) were planning to implement innovation, he added.

Separate findings showed that local SMEs spent nearly $550 million on research and development (R&D) in 2012, 70 per cent more than they did 10 years before.

"The results from these efforts have been encouraging," Mr Iswaran said in response to Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC), who asked about the results of productivity schemes in promoting innovation.

He highlighted various programmes and the help given out.

The Innovation and Capability Voucher scheme under Spring Singapore, for example, has awarded around $65 million to SMEs since 2012. They received 13,000 vouchers to help them engage consultancy services and raise productivity.

Spring's Capability Development Grant provided over $100 million to more than 1,000 companies last year.

Moreover, the agency's seven Centres of Innovation offer facilities and advice for companies prototyping new products.

More than 1,200 companies have made use of the Technology Adoption Programme by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research since July 2013. Under the Productivity and Innovation Credit Scheme, 54,000 firms made claims for the 2014 year of assessment.

Mr Iswaran said the Government's commitment of around $16 billion for R&D spending from 2011 to this year represents about 1 per cent per year of the gross domestic product.

The aim is to try to attract matching funds from the private sector, he noted.

27% of $170m WorkPro funds committed so far
By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 13 Feb 2015

JUST over a quarter, or 27 per cent, of the $170 million meant to help firms keep groups such as older workers and mothers in employment has been committed so far.

Of this, only $7 million had been disbursed by the end of last year, more than halfway through the three-year timeframe for the WorkPro scheme.

"Many companies are still in the midst of implementing their projects," Senior Minister of State for Manpower Amy Khor said in Parliament yesterday.

She was responding to a question from Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam who wanted more details on how widely the fund is being used.

The WorkPro scheme, launched in April 2013, consolidated three earlier programmes: Work-Life Works! Fund, Flexi-Works! and Advantage!

As of December, more than 1,500 companies had tapped the funds, nearly nine in 10 of which are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This will benefit 58,000 workers, said Dr Khor.

A total of $28 million, which makes up the bulk of the $43.2 million committed to companies so far, has been put into the Age Management Grant to support programmes such as re-employment and making jobs more suitable for older workers.

Another $13.2 million has been committed for flexible work arrangements and around $2 million for job and process redesign projects.

The scheme was enhanced last July to make it easier for companies to apply for funding for implementing flexi-work arrangements.

But the proportion of funds that has been used is still low, Mr Giam noted.

He asked: "Given that there are over 180,000 businesses in Singapore... is the Government satisfied with the take-up rate of WorkPro so far?"

Dr Khor singled out the take-up rate of the Age Management Grant as "very encouraging". The take-up rate of the Job Redesign Grant is still lagging because many companies, particularly SMEs, do not have the know-how to improve their jobs and processes, she explained.

Since reducing the requirements for documents to be submitted under the Work-Life Grant, however, the number of employers which applied went up significantly in the last two quarters of last year.

While trying to make WorkPro more accessible to companies, "we also need to be mindful that we need to balance this outcome with good governance for the funds", said Dr Khor.

No free parking at sports facilities
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 13 Feb 2015

Free parking at sports facilities will not be given, as there is a risk that the parking lots will be used by people not playing sports at the facilities.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong said this in Parliament on Thursday, in response to Members of Parliament (MPs) who asked him to consider allowing free parking at sports facilities, to promote the use of such facilities.

Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan asked for free parking for the first two hours while Nominated MP Benedict Tan asked for free parking during non-peak hours.

Mr Wong said there was a need to ensure that the limited resources are put to good use.

He added: "There is no compelling reason why we should skew our support in favour of those who drive to our sports facilities, compared to the many who get there using public transport."

Deep Seabed Mining Bill passed
By Cheryl Ong, The Straits Times, 13 Feb 2015

FIRMS that mine for minerals on the ocean floor will now need a licence.

A Bill that proposed a licensing regime to regulate exploration and resource extraction will bring Singapore in line with obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the International Seabed Authority.

The Deep Seabed Mining Bill passed in Parliament yesterday will cover parts of the seabed and subsoil that lie outside Singapore's territorial waters.

Firms will have to meet technological and financial standards before carrying out their activities, said Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang. Offenders may be slapped with fines amounting to $300,000, or jailed for up to three months.

Two Bills pave way for city beneath city
Changes to offer clarity on ownership rights to underground space
By Cheryl Ong, The Straits Times, 13 Feb 2015

AS LAND-SCARCE Singapore looks to develop more underground space, legal amendments were tabled yesterday to pave the way for this city beneath a city.

Two Bills were introduced in Parliament to clarify ownership rights to underground and above-ground space and to allow for the acquisition of this space.

The main focus for now is below ground. Landholders will be deemed to own the space down to 30m below a level known as the Singapore height datum (SHD) - a flat islandwide plane not varying according to land contours and pegged to the mean historical sea level - unless stated otherwise in the land title.

Land more than 30m below the SHD will belong to the State and developments at such depths are "unlikely" to affect the owner's property use, said the Ministry of Law. Most basements here, for instance, go no deeper than about 15m below the SHD.

The changes will bring clarity to an existing law that stipulates only that ownership applies to a depth that is "reasonably necessary for the use and enjoyment of the property". Piling works are unaffected by the changes.

The move follows a proposal by National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan last September to lay out an underground master plan. This includes possible underground pedestrian links, cycling lanes, shopping areas and public spaces. The Jurong Rock Caverns is the deepest underground project here, at 150m below the SHD. So far, Fusionopolis in one-north is the deepest commercial project, at 15.8m below the SHD.

A second Bill means the Government would be able to acquire strata space below or above ground to develop public projects, without owning the surface land.

An example of above-ground use of space might be a flyover.

For underground space, land owners will be compensated for the acquired stratum at "market value", or for any subsequent damage to the surface development.

Though it is unclear how underground space will be valued, a ministry spokesman said compensation will be "site specific".

"The boundaries of all surface land are precisely marked out," said the spokesman. "What we are trying to do is clarify the boundaries for the vertical plane of this space as well."

The Bills will not change laws that allow for compulsory acquisition of land by the Government.

The Rochor Centre housing and commercial complex in Ophir Road, for instance, was acquired to make way for a segment of the new North-South Expressway.

Mr Robson Lee, a corporate lawyer, said of the move: "The Government is planning for the future, and will need to have

legislative backing to give legal basis to do what it needs to do."

Alcohol consumption at coastal parks
By Amir Hussain, The Straits Times, 14 Feb 2015

THERE have been nine cases of rioting and serious hurt at East Coast Park, West Coast Park and Changi Beach in the past two years.

Four of them were linked to alcohol consumption.

Of the cases linked to alcohol consumption, one involved a rioting incident at Changi Beach in 2013; the others, incidents of serious hurt at East Coast Park.

DPM Teo noted that, following the passage of the Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Bill, public consumption of alcohol would be restricted islandwide from 10.30pm to 7am.

Exempting coastal parks could result in people congregating at public areas in these parks to consume alcohol, and this could in turn "lead to greater disamenities to other park users", said DPM Teo.

He added: "There is already a range of licensed outlets in and around some of these parks, where alcohol consumption will continue to be permitted on the premises within licensed hours."

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