Jan 29, 2013

Singapore - Infrastructure development to keep pace with population growth

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SINGAPORE: The government is planning to build 700,000 new homes by 2030.

That is one of the long-term plans to support the projected increase in population which is expected to hit 6.9 million in about 20 years.

Some Singaporeans have observed that population growth in Singapore has outpaced infrastructure development in the last five years.

The government is now planning and investing in advance to accommodate a larger population.

Beyond just relieving strains on public transport and housing today are long-terms plans to ramp up infrastructure developments to support a population of up to six million in 2020 and then a population of up to 6.9 million in 2030.

There are already plans to add 800 buses over five years, and by 2030, to double of the rail network to 360 kilometres.

This means the addition of three new MRT lines and an extension of two existing lines over the next nine years.

Come 2030, there will be another two new lines and three extensions, allowing eight in 10 homes to be within a 10-minute walk from a train station.

To further alleviate the strain on public transport, more jobs will be located near residential areas, reducing the need to commute.

The White Paper has named Woodlands, Serangoon and Punggol as possible growth areas to create more space for businesses. It also said the Jurong Lake District, Paya Lebar Central and One-North will be expected to mature by then.

More healthcare facilities are also in the pipeline with three general hospitals, five community hospitals and two medical centres set to open between 2014 and 2020.

On the way too are 200,000 new homes which will be ready by 2016.

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said even more land has been set aside to build another 500,000 homes until 2030.

Mr Khaw said: "I am very confident that we will be able to resolve this housing shortage very soon because once you say let's build a town, it takes more years. That's why I begin to publicise what are the number of housing units that will be coming on stream in 2014 and 2015. They are very big numbers and that is to assure Singaporeans that there are enough homes for you. Don't panic, don't need to worry.

"Practically for first timers or new family formations, the problem is actually largely resolved. There is some mismatch purely because of our balloting system. If you look at the figure, every year, (there is around 15,000) new family formations involving Singaporeans but I'm building 25,000 new units a year and we've been doing so. This is into the third year now. There are many more new units being formed than the number of new family formations.

"And effectively, what is happening is we are now meeting future demand because the fiance scheme is for couples who are not yet married. They are being rational. They are planning ahead so that hopefully when the key is received, they can also exchange rings, so that they time it properly, which is a good thing, which is something that we support."

Possible sites for these new homes include new towns in Bidadari, Tampines North and Tengah but some will also be built in mature estates, allowing children to stay close to their parents.

Mr Khaw said: "Wherever possible, where there are possible sites for development, we have to do so. And that is why sometimes, it is a bit painful for us to have to remove some trees, which I know many people are upset about. We are equally upset because I love trees. I'm a treehugger and we think many times before to chop down a tree or not to chop down a tree. But sometimes it can't be helped because of larger objectives, larger benefits."

Mr Khaw added that good urban planning to achieve a high quality of living is a top priority for the government.

He said: "Unlike other cities, they have hinterlands to go to. Thanks to former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, he was already ahead of his time. When we talk about the terms you hear today - green, garden city, sustainable living, etc., he was really ahead of his time because he knew that this was the only way for us to survive because this is the only place we have. This is the only city, this is our home, and if it is polluted, dirty, crowded, congested, then what kind of a life will we get?"

There will be more green spaces and parks, and by 2030, at least 85 per cent of Singapore's households will live within 400 metres of a park.

The National Development Ministry is expected to release more details on land use plans this week.

- CNA/fa

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