Continue the Tradition; Build the Future

October 1, 2015

ContinueTheTradition_header

I’ve just started work at MND.

Boon Wan has done an excellent job in achieving a soft landing for the housing market. But the job is not done. I will continue the work, and I hope Singaporeans will give me suggestions and feedback so we can be even better.

Housing, in particular HDB homes, will always be close to the hearts of Singaporeans.  Even as we address immediate needs, we will be confronted with new demands and challenges.  Providing quality and affordable homes remain a key priority. Improving our HDB towns built in the 70s and 80s to meet changing needs will also be my focus, so that Singapore remains an endearing home for everyone, always.

MND is not just about housing. It also touches on many aspects of Singaporeans lives – be it food, animals, construction, conservation, green spaces or physical landscape.

One thing that MND has always done is to work closely with its stakeholders. That’s something I’ve done regularly in MCCY, and it’s certainly a practice I’d like to continue at MND.

JurongLakeGardensExhibitI had a first-hand experience of how much we can achieve together as a community in July this year, when the Singapore Botanic Gardens was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The successful inscription was the result of the collective efforts of experts and community groups who gave their suggestions and support.

Another exciting MND project is the Jurong Lake District. We have been gathering ideas and feedback extensively to shape the area into a vibrant live-work-play destination.

We will continue to talk to many more Singaporeans in this and other projects.

In the immediate term, my priority is to see through the successful implementation of the 2-Room Flexi scheme and recent policy changes (which will take effect for the November BTO exercise). Work has also started on the Fresh Start Housing Scheme. We will announce the details in due course so that families with young children in rental flats can become home owners again.

I will continue the tradition of listening, consulting and engaging all stakeholders. And I will also keep this blog alive as a way to reach out to everyone.

I invite you to join me on this journey – to make our city more liveable, to make our homes more endearing, and to make our future more vibrant and secure.

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Taste of Home

July 16, 2015

Food is central to Singapore’s culture, and indeed, the variety of local delicacies have come to represent the multicultural fabric of our way of life.

This month, the Restaurant Association of Singapore is organising its first-ever ‘Singapore Restaurant Month’. The campaign will run till Aug 10 during which 50 local restaurants will serve 50 new recipes. It is a good SG50 event and AVA lends its full support.

I particularly note that the 50 new recipes will incorporate the use of locally farmed produce such as leafy vegetables, eggs and fish. In doing so, we hope to raise the awareness and demand for locally farmed produce in restaurateurs and consumers.

Locally farmed produce is fresher and more nutritious. A thriving local agricultural sector also helps build Singapore’s food security.

 

‘Singapore Cityscape’ is one such creative dish. It is a fitting culinary tribute to our present cityscape with a vibrant food culture.

Do enjoy the campaign and visit the participating restaurants: www.singaporerestaurantmonth.com. Bon Appétit!

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A Timely Update

October 24, 2014

We have many MPs who care a lot about animal welfare. So when I broached the subject of updating our legislation to raise the standard of care for animals, a few of them spoke out passionately. I decided that we should work together on this.

First, I asked MP Yeo Guat Kwang to chair the Animal Welfare Legislation Review Committee (AWLRC) to review the subject comprehensively. He took an inclusive approach, inviting many representatives from animal welfare groups, vets, community, grassroots leaders and the pet industry to join his Committee.

Second, Mr Yeo’s Committee consulted widely. This was necessary as issues relating to the welfare of pet animals evoke strong reactions among our residents. They are not in agreement on how best to ensure the welfare of animals while balancing the interests of the various stakeholders.

Third, patiently, Mr Yeo sought out common ground and settled on what was do-able and acceptable to most, if not all. Their final report of recommendations was a good piece of work, to which MND readily accepted.

Under normal arrangement, the next step would be for MND to work with the AG’s Chambers to draft a Bill for the necessary legislative amendments. I decided that it would be wonderful if Mr Yeo could rope in a few more MPs, to do the follow up by presenting a Private Member’s Bill in Parliament to amend the Animals and Birds Act.

In our Parliament history, there have not been many Private Member’s Bills. On MND matters, there has been none.

So, MPs Yeo Guat Kwang, Alex Yam, Gan Thiam Poh, Edwin Tong and Vikram Nair, made history when they tabled their Bill for first reading early this month.  If passed, the Bill will give teeth to many of the recommendations put forth by the AWLRC. It will set new animal welfare standards for individuals and businesses in Singapore, and engender greater responsibility amongst pet owners.  It will also update the penalties for convicted acts of animal cruelty.

The Bill is the fruit of more than two years of hard work. Numerous consultations were organised to ensure that all views were considered. It reflects a diversity of perspectives from animal lovers and those who are less comfortable being around animals. We need the understanding and cooperation of all, as we try to balance these diverse views. The key objective is to achieve a harmonious living environment for everyone. In this journey towards higher animal welfare standards, Mr Yeo’s Bill marks a big step forward for us and our companion animals.

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Run free at Sembawang

September 12, 2014

Some of my residents living in the north have asked me for a dog run.  There are now 5 in Singapore. The nearest is at Bishan-AMK Park where my pets have had a great time occasionally.

They will be happy to note that this coming Sunday morning, I will be launching the sixth dog run at Sembawang Park!

It will have 2,700m² of space for the dogs to run free, and get the necessary exercise. I am sure it will be popular with our residents and their dogs.

While we have fun with our dogs, we must be considerate towards other park visitors.  Some may be fearful of animals.

Three simple steps will avoid accidents and unpleasantness:

– please clean up after our dogs;

– leash them when outside the dog run; and

– be extra mindful when children or babies get too close to our dogs.

This will go a long way to make our shared public spaces enjoyable for all.

There will be a pets carnival to accompany the launch, with many exciting activities: a hamster race, a dog obedience demonstration, and free pet health screening. More information can be found here: Sembawang Our Home.

My pet dogs will be joining in.  Do come and join us too 🙂

Please visit the MND Facebook to leave a comment.

 


Keeping Singapore Free of Animal Diseases

June 25, 2014

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has just certified Singapore as being free of two animal diseases – Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP) and Peste des petits ruminants (PPR). Both are highly contagious diseases which can affect animals such as cattle, sheep and goats.

This comes on top of Singapore already being recognised by OIE as free from other animal diseases, including Rabies, Foot and Mouth Disease and African Horse Sickness.

These are serious animal diseases as they can devastate the livestock industry. Although Singapore does not have a large livestock industry, we have a significant transhipment and re-export market and being free from such animal diseases is a big plus.

Moreover, some of these animal diseases are zoonotic, which means that they can jump species and pose an infection risk to humans.

This is why we maintain high veterinary standards, stay alert to disease outbreaks elsewhere and act on them, when necessary.

In February, Singapore suspended pork imports from Poland due to detections of African Swine Fever (ASF) there. ASF is a highly contagious haemorrhagic disease of pigs, with a high mortality rate. It is one of the most complex and devastating animal diseases, with no vaccine or treatment available. The virus is hardy and can persist for days in the environment and up to several months in pork products like salami sausages, making it hard to eradicate.

As Asia is free from ASF, pigs in the region do not have protective antibodies. If introduced, the disease could spread rapidly through pig populations with huge socio-economic impact. While ASF does not pose an infection risk to humans, it could significantly impact our food security. Our transhipment and re-export trade would also be impacted.

The Polish authorities have acted swiftly to contain the outbreak and have been keeping us informed through regular updates. AVA is working closely with them on a regionalisation approach, to allow for trade to resume from unaffected regions of the country. We are monitoring the situation closely and keeping abreast of international discussions to implement the best measures to safeguard Singapore’s food security and animal health status.

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Year of the Horse, Otters and Ducks at Marina Bay

February 28, 2014

Year of the Horse, Otters and Ducks at Marina Bay

A pair of otters have been sighted at the Gardens by the Bay!

They must have swum over from the northern coast of Singapore. We suspect they are looking for a spot to nest and breed. These smooth coated otters belong to the same species (Lutrogale perspicillata) as those that are now frequently seen at Pasir Ris. They were a native species but had disappeared for decades. We are thus thrilled to see them return to Singapore, presumably from Johor.

Picture3Another welcome visitor is the Lesser Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna javanica). A pair was spotted breeding at the Gardens. They are also uncommon in Singapore. And we are so happy to see them here again! At last count, there were 11 ducklings. As the name suggests, they whistle instead of quack.

You may be lucky to spot them the next time you are at the Gardens. But PLEASE do not disturb or scare them away. We want them to feel comfortable and welcome. At this stage, they are still pretty camera shy.

I find this marvellous: otters and whistling ducks right smack in the city! This is only possible because we keep our city clean and green. It is a collective effort that we must all sustain.

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Plight of Our Fish Farmers

February 12, 2014

Plight of our Fish FarmersI read with great concern that some of our fish farms, especially those in the North Eastern shores, off Changi and Pulau Ubin, have experienced mass deaths of fish over the last week. Apparently, this was likely caused by neap tide and hot weather.

This is every fish farmer’s fear and I feel sorry for their plight – not only is their livelihood impacted, it must be very painful to see their prized stocks wiped out suddenly.

AVA has been working closely with the farmers to try and salvage the situation since last weekend. AVA/CEO Ms Tan Poh Hong, who spent an afternoon at the farms yesterday, told me that the situation was serious.

Many farms are grappling with large numbers of dead fish. Those farms rearing more susceptible species like grouper, threadfin and golden trevally are more badly affected. Some had lost their entire stocks.

We will do our utmost to help our farmers.

We had immediately sent in more workers to deploy aeration systems to help normalise the water conditions and also to assist in the disposal of dead fish.

I have  asked MND and AVA to continue to help our farmers and look into their requests to see how best we can help them in the current situation.

While we cannot control the tide and what nature has in store for us, we will extend a helping hand, wherever possible, to help those affected ride out this rough patch.

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