Thrill without Tears

April 11, 2014

Thrill without Tears

There are about 80 amusement rides in Singapore. Adrenaline seekers have many exciting options from indoor skydiving to reverse bungee jumping. Last year, a new water ride called the Torpedo at Wild Wild Wet was unveiled to the public.

BCA officer doing maintenance checksPublic safety is however paramount. In Singapore, BCA regulates amusement ride safety, through the Amusement Rides Safety Act. The regulation covers installation, operation, modification, maintenance and repair of amusement rides. Prior to the opening of each ride, BCA engineers work with the operator to ensure that the ride complies with the safety standards imposed by us. BCA conducts surprise inspection audits, or “mystery shopper” inspections. Spot checks on operators’ daily maintenance routine are also conducted.

Safety regulations are not static. They have to evolve to meet new safety standards, respond to new incidents and keep pace with introduction of new rides. For example, water-walking ball operators can now operate in pools with water depths of up to 1.2 metres, but with additional safety measures, such as having a lifeguard on duty.

Rides need to comply with regulations in BCA's Amusement Rides Safety ActMost recently, BCA completed a review to further improve safety standards and the revised regulations came into operation on 1 April 2014.

With this latest round of amendments, amusement rides at private clubs and private residential estates are now included and regulated under the Amusement Rides Safety Act.

We will stay updated with best industry standards and latest safety technologies. Thrill seekers should also play their part by following safety guidelines.

Together, we can enjoy thrills and still stay safe.

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To the Farmers’ Market

April 5, 2014

to the farmers market

We now have hundreds of community gardens, where volunteers bond and take part in a meaningful hobby. I told AVA that we should help those community gardens which want to increase the yield or “professionalise” their hobby through injecting our expertise. They have proceeded to do so in Woodlands, helping the volunteers upgrade their community gardens into “model vegetable gardens”.

Photo 1

Much to the delight of the volunteers, these vegetable gardens have been showing astonishing results. Every 4 to 6 weeks, there is so much harvest that the residents have been able to share them with needy families.

Tomorrow, they will take it one step further. They will conduct a Community Farmers Market in Woodlands and will have some 250 kg of the harvest to sell, with proceeds going to Man Fut Tong Nursing Home.

Photo 2This market will bring together the community gardeners in my GRC, to market their produce for a charitable cause.

Our little ones do not want to be left out, in this urban farming movement. Tiny gardeners from my PCF at Woodlands have also been growing their own vegetables. They too will hawk their harvests tomorrow.

We have successfully extended community gardening to the young to nurture a new generation of “green thumbs”. Over the last two months, the children have been tending to their own “Kinder-Garden”.

With the help from AVA officers, our enthusiastic pre-schoolers learn how to sow seeds in plastic cups, watch them grow into seedlings, before putting them out for outdoor planting. This has allowed our teachers to conduct outdoor lessons on seedling transplant, fertilising, weeding and harvesting. Their proud harvests will include Xiao Bai Cai, Nai Bai, Kang Kong and Bayam.

Come join us at the Farmers’ Market tomorrow!

Photo 3

 

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Green Minds with Green Hearts

April 2, 2014

Green Minds with Green Hearts header

I have just co-chaired with my Chinese counterpart Jiang Weixin, Minister of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, the 6th Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city Joint Working Committee Meeting in Beijing. We had a fruitful discussion on the future plans for the Eco-city.

Our common goal is to build an eco-city that is replicable in other parts of China. During its recent National People’s Congress, China had vowed to fight pollution with the same determination as it battled poverty. We hope that the Eco-city can contribute towards China’s green ambition.

Much has been achieved in building the Eco-city’s “hardware”. In six years, its skyline has changed much, and we can expect more in the near future.

All buildings in the Eco-city are green buildings
The far more challenging task ahead is to develop the Eco-city’s “software”, and “heartware”.

For this next lap, the officials running the Eco-city must embrace the right mind-set to adopt the suitable policies. Equally important, the residents, too, need to be champions of green living, embracing recycling, environmental protection and other green habits.

Developing “software” and “heartware” will take longer than building “hardware”. They will now be our priorities in the next phase of the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city’s development.

To be truly an Eco-city, residents must believe in green living and actively protect the environment

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Helping Residents with S&CC

April 1, 2014

helping residents with s&cc

Town councils (TCs) are responsible for managing and maintaining the common property in HDB estates. They fund their operations through the Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC) they collect from residents.

They have to manage their finances prudently to sustain their services. Periodically, they would also have to revise their S&CC to meet residents’ expectation, improve service and keep pace with rising cost.

Last year, for example, the TCs’ operating expenses were estimated to be about $470 million. S&CC collections would have to cover these costs for the TCs to operate viably. To reduce the burden on the residents, the Government has been helping the TCs and the residents through (a) S&CC grants to TCs, and (b) S&CC rebates for residents.

The quantum of the Government assistance is substantial.

s&cc grants and rebatesLast year, the S&CC grants amounted to $90 million. In addition, the S&CC rebates amounted to $77 million.

Together, these two Government assistance schemes, at $167 million, translate to about 36% of TCs’ operating expenses. This is quite substantial and helps reduce the financial burden on residents.

Budget 2014 is once again giving S&CC grants and S&CC rebates of $170 million. As S&CC rebates offer more help for those living in smaller flats, residents pay 8% to 25% less in S&CC as a result. HDB households which qualify will receive a letter this week with details of the rebates they will receive.

This is a good practical way to help Singaporeans with cost of living.

Save on S&CC for Singapore HDB Households

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A Granite Surprise

March 13, 2014

A Granite Surprise

Six weeks ago, there was a sudden disruption of granite supply from Indonesia. Fortunately, we are prepared for such surprises.

First, we have a national granite stockpile to help the industry tide over any temporary disruption. Second, we have always required all importers to have a small supply from distant regional sources, even during normal times. This is an important diversification strategy. Third, we have a drawer plan to respond to such temporary disruptions.

The Government put the drawer plan into action. We activated the release of granite from the national stockpile. We encouraged the importers to ramp up supply from their distant sources.

articles

Five weeks after the activation of the plan, I am glad that the situation is returning to normal. Since early March, we have seen a steady resumption of granite supply from Indonesia. Supplies from other sources are coming in readily. And there has been no request to draw down from the national stockpile for the last 13 days.

Accordingly, the Government will suspend the application for granite stockpile release from 14 March 2014

This episode is a useful reminder for us not to take things for granted. We have limited resources. At any time our dependency for any natural resource is at stake. A source diversification strategy has helped the construction industry tide over this brief period of granite supply disruption. And together with our national stockpile, it has buffered us well.

But we must not be complacent. We will replenish the stockpile. More importantly, BCA will continue to promote the use of steel, drywalls and recycled concrete aggregates, so as to reduce our reliance on imports of natural aggregates.


Government is profiteering? Of course, not!

March 4, 2014

Government is profiteering?  Of course, not!

Just now in Parliament, MP Er Lee Bee Wah commented on coffee shops profiteering by raising beer prices well above the increased excise duty. This is a fair point.

However, she wandered off by asking if Government was also profiteering when it raised the granite stockpile price from $30 to $50 per tonne. Of course, not!

articlesThe Government did not set up the granite stockpile as a business. The issue of profit is not a relevant consideration because the motive in setting up such a stockpile is to help the industry cope with sudden shortages in granite. Release of the stock-pile is a contingency measure to help the industry cope while they contract and import from alternative sources of supply. The stockpile cannot be a convenient permanent alternative source of supply for the industry.

We import granite mainly from our immediate neighbours, as well as from other regional sources. Recently, there was a sudden, hopefully temporary, disruption in supply from Indonesia. We decided to release the stockpile at $30 per tonne to help industry tide over the disruption.

As it is not clear if the disruption was temporary or permanent, we urged the industry to ramp up supply from sources further afield. As these sources would be more costly, we served notice to the industry in early February by indicating that the stockpile price would be raised after one month. In this way, we ensured continuous operation for the industry for one month with pricing stability at $30 per tonne, while they start to make arrangements to ramp up supply from other sources.

In setting the stock-pile price, the consideration is not about profit margins but about ensuring the industry is incentivised to actively source for alternative supply sources. If the stockpile price is set too low, there will be no reason for importers to go for other (more costly) sources. And if they do not do so, we will rapidly deplete our stockpile and there will be no buffer to help the industry should a similar disruption of another supply source occur.

The new stockpile price is not to profiteer but to incentivise importers to procure and buy from distant sources, to ensure that our construction industry can continue seamlessly, despite the Indonesian disruption. The industry should fully understand this as we have made it clear from the outset when the granite stockpile was released to assist them in the transition to ramping up supply from distant sources.

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At the frontier of the Skyrise Greenery Movement

March 1, 2014

At the frontier of the Skyrise Greenery Movement

Visual rendering of green residential towers in MilanCities around the world are greening upwards.

In Milan, an audacious project is sprouting, which aims to create a vertical forest within a residential concrete tower. It is history in the making, due for completion next year.

We, too, are pioneers in the skyrise greenery movement. Our super trees in Gardens by the Bay beautifully adorn our city skyline. There was initial scepticism but Singaporeans have grown to be fond and proud of our super trees. They broke new ground and created something endearing.

Today, we have 61 ha of rooftop gardens in Singapore. This is no mean feat considering that we only actively embarked on greening our roofs in the last 5 years. In comparison, Chicago, which has a longer history of rooftop gardens, has 50 ha.

Our achievements in this field have been beautifully documented in a book by NUS Prof Dr Tan Puay Yok titled “Vertical Garden City, Singapore”.

Moving forward, we will continue to contribute to this emerging global effort.

Parkroyal and CapitaGreenSingapore is getting more buildings with bolder skyrise greenery designs. In addition to the recently completed Park Royal @ Pickering by WOHA, there is the upcoming CapitaGreen building by Toyo Ito.

Our greening initiatives go beyond the commercial sector. The modern Kampong – Integrated Development – next to the Admiralty MRT Station, also by WOHA will soon ground-break and show what can be achieved within HDB estates.

However, while we celebrate our accomplishments, I am sure there is still a lot to learn in this new frontier from outstanding projects from around the world, just like the Milan project. I look forward to seeing more skyrise greenery in our City in a Garden.

Perspectives of the new integrated development in Woodlands

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