You ain’t seen nothing yet

Mr Mah said in an interview with Straits Times (29 Jun 2007) that Singapore can comfortably accomodate a population of 6.5 million without any compromises. Over the years, as our population has grown, our flat sizes have correspondingly shrivelled while our neighbour’s flats have gotten nearer and nearer so much so that we now have front row seats for viewing our neighbours’ daily activities. Is this Mr Mah’s so called ‘not compromising on quality of life’? Is that comfortable? Is it really bearable? So what if it is not bearable? What choice do we have except to migrate?

I wonder if he is living in a world of his own when he said that housing prices are rising at a ‘steady’, ‘sustainable’, ‘comfortable’ rate? Doubling of HDB prices in a month is ‘steady’, ‘sustainable’ and comfortable?

Is he trying to hoodwink the general public by saying that HDB prices have risen only 3 to 4 percent recently when that 3 to 4 percent includes a large number of unwanted Jurong West flats that the govt had to split into smaller units to induce buyers? Why doesn’t he show us the 100% price increases in Tiong Bahru for example?

He urges Singaporeans to look forward to the unveiling of his so-called ‘master plan 2008’ with anticipation, not with trepidation. I can only view it with resignation …

Mr Mah is also planning two more regional centres in Jurong and Paya Lebar. While these may go some way to alleviating the crowdedness in the city centre, its effectiveness is rather limited. Take the current Tampines regional centre for example, how many Tampines residents actually work in Tampines? By virtue of the fact that Tampines is only a regional centre, it cannot possibly offer the wide array of job opportunities found on the rest of the island. A biomedical aspirant would probably end up travelling from Tampines to Tuas everyday. A petrochemical worker would have to make the daily trip from Tampines to Jurong island. A financial professional would still have to travel to the CDB for that’s where the best financial opportunities are. In other words, wherever you site your regional centre, as long as it is not centrally located, it would not have a significant impact towards reducing travelling and traffic congestion.

The problem which our scholarly planners fail to see is that any family would comprise members with different interests that requires them to commute to different parts of the island for their daily pursuance of those interests. Eldest son might be a doctor at SGH and has to travel south. Second son may be a pilot and needs to travel east while third son might be an engineer working in Jurong and so travels west. Given such a situation, which is not uncommon, the best planning would be to house the masses right in the centre of the island so that whichever direction they choose to travel to, commuting time and distance will not substantially eat into their waking hours.

But what have we with our current situation? Central locations like Holland and Bukit Timah are too lightly populated with bungalows while the masses are conveniently pushed away to the far flung corners of the island. So much for planning …

Vivocity has been earmarked as the new rest and relaxation hub but it is located in the south whereas most of our new housing estates are located in the north; Bukit Panjang – Northwest, Woodlands – North, Seng Kang and Punggol – Northeast … so much for planning …

By locating recreation amenities on one end of the island and homes on the other, Minister Mah is forcing us to make the daily crisscross all over the island, compounding travelling woes and traffic congestion.

The report ends with Mr Mah declaring job satisfaction with seeing his plans materialise. I wonder how Mr Mah can derive job satisfaction when his customers, the ordinary folks of Singapore are highly dissatisfied? How can a govt that doesn’t bother about our satisfaction lead us to improve our customer service standards?

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