For the Ministry of Finance
1. Kwek Hian Chuan Henry: SMEs and Government Procurement
Government demand is a very important part of total business demand. As such, government procurement policies impact our businesses, especially SMEs.
Is there more that our government can do to ensure that government procurement contracts (especially those related to construction, maintenance, and transportation that goes beyond hundreds of millions) are not unnecessarily big, which could have the unintended effect of crowding out SMEs from competing effectively in terms of government procurement?
For the Ministry of National Development
1. Er Dr Lee Bee Wah: Property Cooling Measures
I understand the need to prevent property bubbles, so homes remain affordable. But with the implementation of the TDSR (Total Debt Servicing Ratio), are the rest of the measures still relevant?
In particular, the ABSD (Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty) for Singaporeans. Many Singaporeans who have the income to spare would like to invest in private property. However, due to ABSD they have turned to the overseas market. Some ended up buying in ghost towns or buying from plans that never get built and they would never be able to recover their hard earned money. Besides that, Singapore is losing out on these funds. Was this considered when weighing the retention of ABSD?Can Government consider removing ABSD at least for Singaporeans?
2. Louis Ng: Helping single unwed parents find a home
A single unwed parent who is under 35 years old is currently unable to purchase a HDB flat or enjoy the housing grants under the families scheme. It is difficult enough being a single parent and we should help rather than penalise them. Can the Ministry consider allowing a single unwed parent and his or her child to form a family nucleus when applying for a HDB flat? If we cannot consider helping the parent than we should surely consider helping the child.
3. Louis Ng: Helping Divorcees with a new Home
It cannot be easy to go through a divorce especially when children are involved. I’m sure the biggest worry for any parent is whether they can provide their children with a roof over their heads. We do have the ASSIST programme but I hope we can allow them to start the housing application upon getting the interim judgment of divorce since it is uncommon for the proceedings to not continue. This will help to ensure that the children are not left homeless after the divorce is finalised, and ease the transition into the next chapter of their lives.
4. Kwek Hian Chuan Henry: Seniors co-sharing rental flats
In our rental flat schemes, single seniors are usually asked to share flats. That can be a good thing, as our single seniors can provide company and support for one another.
But sometimes things do not work out. There are many senior rental flats residents who experienced considerable difficulties in staying with their flat-mates, usually resulting in bitter disputes.
However, it is often not easy for our HDB officers to help them find accommodation, either by allowing them to staying alone, or by paring them up with other seniors, due to the shortage of rental flats.
Will HDB consider increasing the supply of HDB rental flats so that there is more room to accommodate seniors facing this issue?
5. Er Dr Lee Bee Wah: Home Improvement Programme
I would like to take this opportunity to highlight another issue. Recently, residents told me they have difficulty in buying two-room flats. A resident aged 50-plus said she has been trying 5 times, but is still unsuccessful. Last night, I saw a couple that want to right-size, but they’ve tried 6 times. I think there might be a shortage of two-room flats.
6. A/P Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim: Strengthening Service Delivery of MSO
The MSO plays an important role to improve the Government’s overall coordination and delivery of municipal services.
Since its inception, the MSO seems to have grown in its engagements with other agencies and types of issues it helps to address. For example, during last year’s COS Debate, Minister Grace Fu shared with the House that the MSO would work with the Town Councils to help coordinate their responses to Municipal issues in housing estates. Minister also shared that the MSO would look at improving coordination over few issues, such as highrise littering and pigeon-feeding.
I would like to ask the Minister on how MSO has strengthened its service delivery and inter-agency gmcoordination over the past two years.
7. Er Dr Lee Wah: Construction Productivity
Let me first declare my interest as a professional engineer and my involvement in the public listed companies in real estates and construction sector. Our construction sector is in dire need of stimulation. Many of them are fighting for survivals. Our local contractors are losing business to foreign contractors, some of whom can provide cheaper raw materials and labour from their home countries while some have more impressive track records and support from their parent companies. I know in some cases, government is breaking up large projects into parcels to enable local contractors to participate. But more can be done.
The S$700M additional public construction projects is much welcome and I hope all the projects will be awarded to our local contractors, creating opportunities for them to build on their construction capabilities.
Certainly, I agree that more innovative ideas are needed to boost productivity. Why our contractors are not so keen to embrace new technologies? Many said they may not be able to get sufficient projects to recover their investment. Perhaps Government can have some schemes for them that ensure them of the volume of projects should they invest in new technology.
There are many ways to achieve productivity. PPVC is one but not the only one. Steel construction could be equally productive if we know the know-how. In fact, giving more time in upfront planning and design can go a long way in saving resources and time. In Singapore, very often, the moment the developer get the land, he would want to rush the design submission so that he can launch his project for sale asap. Architect and engineers are building BIM models just good enough for submission and get approval.
Later, when contractor comes on board, he builds his own BIM model. Where is the benefit that BIM is supposed to bring to the team?
The HDB ECI (Early Contractor involvement), I was told that 4-5 teams of contractors are called in. Isn’t it a waste of time and resources? I hope Government being the largest developer in Singapore, can lead by example.
I would like to take this opportunity again to urge the Ministry to do more to support the growth in capabilities of our local contractors and professionals. The Ministry should help them to build up track records and get them on board G-G projects overseas. Singapore can benefit from a more resilient, reputable and capable construction industry with in-house local competency.
8. Louis Ng: Introducing a tiered quota system for short term rentals
Disruptive innovation is here to stay and as PM mentioned, “Old models are not working, new models are coming thick and fast, and we’re having to adjust and to keep up, because of technology and globalisation. And the disruption will happen over and over again, relentlessly”. Rather than ban short-term home rentals, we should regulate it. Will the Ministry consider regulating it by introducing a license and a tiered quota system? For example, a person is allowed to rent out the property for 50 nights in a year for a start. If there are legitimate complaints received with regard to the rental, the license can be revoked or the number of nights reduced. A review can be made each year and if URA is satisfied with the rentals made for the year, the number of nights can be increased. The property owner is thus incentivized to ensure no disamenities are caused. Can the URA also implement a compulsory deposit for the guest, which I understand is not currently the industry norm? This deposit should be forfeited if legitimate complaints are received. In this case, the ball is in the court of the guest to ensure no disamenities were caused to avoid forfeiting the deposit. I urge the Ministry to consider this proposal and ensure that we embrace and regulate rather than ban this disruptive innovation.
9. Er Dr Lee Bee Wah: Heavy Vehicle Parking
I would like to share with this house a problem faced by my residents. On 19/12 last year, a resident came to my meet the session. He told me that he had season parking lot along Yishun Ave 1. However, some parking lots had been removed recently and by the time he came back late at night, there were no parking lots available. Hence, when he continues to park along Yishun Ave 1, he received summons from LTA. I sent an email to URA asking them to quickly look into this issue. I told URA that for those who have valid season parking, URA should arrange alternative parking before the lots are removed. They told me they will do a quick check. About a month later, on 16/1, another resident came to see me, telling me the same problem. Again, I emailed to URA asking them what is the status of my previous email.
This time, they replied quite fast, 2 days later, explaining the reason why the parking lots were removed and they said that they had earlier informed LTA to adopt a light touch on enforcement. Poor LTA officer! Is he expected to remember which area to light touch and which area not to light touch? Some of my poor residents had paid up the fines. They came to see only when they “Buey tahan liao”.
In January, last year, SMS said that MND is looking into ways to help heavy vehicle owners and workers to find more convenient parking lots. Can Minister update us the progress and how many applicants are on the wait list in general and Nee Soon South in particular. How long is the wait?
10. Louis Ng:Labelling of ‘palm oil’ as an ingredient in products
Consumers can play their part in anti-haze efforts if they consciously buy from companies which only source for sustainable, haze-free palm oil in their products. However, palm oil is often labelled as ‘vegetable oil’ in Singapore, which means that consumers are kept in the dark about whether the products they buy contain palm oil. To inform consumers on what they are consuming, the European Union had in 2014 changed their food labelling regulations to ensure that types of vegetable oil used in food products were explicitly stated on labels. Would the AVA consider taking similar steps to improve transparency in our food labels?
11. Louis Ng: Expansion of the Love Cats Programme
The LOVE CATS pilot programme, managed by the Cat Welfare Society and conducted in Chong Pang between 2012 and 2016, achieved far-reaching effects to help the Town Council, AVA and relevant agencies better tackle cat-related disputes in the community. In support of this pilot, MND provided a two-year grant. However, funding has stopped since, though the pilot continued with a robust mediation and resident engagement model, with much success in resolving neighbourly issues related to cats. Will the Ministry consider supporting and extending the funding of this Pilot to more estates in Singapore?Introducing a sniffer dog programme to counter our illegal wildlife trade
12. Louis Ng: Introducing a Sniffer Dog programme
Singapore is frequently under the spotlight as a hub for illegal wildlife trade. Singapore detected only 10 cases of illegal wildlife trade in the last 3 years at our border checkpoints, which suggests that wildlife trade continues to pass through our borders without our knowledge. To strengthen enforcement at our checkpoints, several NGOs have suggested the establishment of a sniffer dog programme, used effectively by many countries. Sniffer dogs are highly efficient at detecting contraband, and also serve a deterrent function. In South Korea, a dog named Simba detected major finds almost every month, totaling 142 separate animal parts and some live animals. In Hong Kong, sniffer dogs can detect ivory concealed in packages in just 5 seconds. From 2008 – 2015, the dog team assisted in over 40 cases of smuggled animals or products and can identify 15 endangered species. In Thailand, the training and maintenance of the entire dog unit functions on merely S$58,000 annually. AVA stated that the sniffer dog programme was “ less cost-effective than other measures”. Can AVA clarify what the other measures are, and whether they are already in place? Would AVA re-consider its decision to implement a sniffer dog programme?
13. Louis Ng: Increasing the number of Wildlife Section inspectors at AVA
There are currently only 3 inspectors at the wildlife section at the AVA. While other AVA, ICA and custom officers assist in detecting wildlife crime, it is clearly insufficient to have only 3 inspectors solely dedicated towards tackling wildlife crime, considering as well that this is a 24/7 job. Can the Ministry increase resources and manpower for the Section, considering that Singapore continues to remain in the spotlight with regard to wildlife crime?
14. Louis Ng: Engaging AWGs to help with enforcement efforts against animal cruelty
From 2011 to 2015, the number of feedback AVA received on animal cruelty and welfare rose from 410 to 840. However, AVA continues to face substantial challenges in investigations, including the lack of eyewitnesses and direct evidence, as well as the increase in online crimes. As such, would AVA consider engaging the animal welfare groups to complement its efforts, just as NEA engages and empowers citizens for anti-littering efforts?