SINGAPORE: The People's Action Party's candidate for the Bukit Batok by-election on Thursday (Apr 28) fielded questions on a five-year masterplan announced by former Bukit Batok MP David Ong as well as on plans under the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme (NRP) he had unveiled that were estimated to cost S$1.9 million.
Mr Murali Pillai spoke to reporters on the sidelines of an evening walkabout, and touched on Mr Ong's S$24 million masterplan, after the Singapore Democratic Party's candidate, Dr Chee Soon Juan, raised questions over it in a news conference on Nomination Day.
“If the PAP was better prepared, why didn't they raise the S$24 million in projects that Mr David Ong promised?," Dr Chee had asked.
The full transcript of the Q&A with Mr Murali on infrastructure spending is reproduced below:
Q: Would you be able to respond to Dr Chee's question about what happened to the S$24 million, five-year masterplan that Mr David Ong announced?
A: The S$24 million masterplan that Mr Ong mentioned in his speech, to be precise, it's S$23.6 million, I believe, over a five-year period. So if you do the maths, it works out to about S$4.5 million or so per year over a five-year period. So I would invite SDP to walk around the estate, and to look at the improvements that have been made since. There are a number of projects that have been fully executed, a number of projects which are still on-going, and a number of projects in the pipeline. So I invite them to do their homework, go around, and then they can see with their own eyes, what's happened.
Q: So to clarify, the S$1.9 million is actually part of the S$24 million, correct?
A: The S$1.9 million project which I referred to, is the Neighbourhood Renewal Project, which I mentioned time and time again, it is a funding-neutral project. It really doesn't matter, it's a town council run-project, it's not really dependant on whether the PAP wins or loses. That is part and parcel of what was estimated by Mr Ong.
Q: But the remainder of the S$24 million, are the funds already in the Bukit Batok Town Council, Jurong committee coffers already or ...
A: As I mentioned just now, there are a number of projects which have been already executed, number of projects under construction, and number of projects in the pipeline. We're talking about an outlay of about S$4.5 million or so per year. That's really the proposal that Mr Ong was talking about, and this NRP was part of it, which we have outlined just quite recently.
Q: Can you elaborate on the URA masterplan, and whether there are any overlaps between David Ong's S$24 million masterplan and the URA masterplan?
A: The reference to URA was made by Dr Chee and I think that lends to just confusion. The NRP has nothing to do with the URA. It's the town council that conceptualises the plans, and it's the town council that implements with funds that's provided by the Government, doesn't matter who's in charge but the funds will be coming in from the Government. And here, the Jurong-Clementi Town Council's approach is to have deep consultation with our residents. They have done it since late last year, they've now come up with a proposal, it's been presented to our residents for further feedback to be obtained. I am very confident that Jurong-Clementi Town Council do a good job, because they have had already implemented 15 NRPs, and the bulk of the NRPs, five of them, comparative to other divisions, are in Bukit Batok itself. So that's why I'm very confident that Jurong-Clementi Town Council will do an excellent job. That was the main point that I was making.
Q: Just so that we can explain this economies of scale argument - the project is funding-neutral, MPs are free to approach HDB. Why is it such a big deal? Five NRPs to begin with? Why is there a need to join the Jurong-Clementi Town Council to enjoy more NRPs for economies of scale?
A: It is the town council that has the responsibility to conceptualise and implement the plan. It's one thing to have the funds, but it's another thing to come up with the idea that resonates with our Bukit Batok residents, shouldn't be white elephants, it shouldn't be things that we build, which will not be used because it's the wrong place. It shouldn't be things which do not adequately answer the requirements of our residents. For example wheelchair-bound residents. We want to make sure the gradient we get is correct. So these are the nitty-gritty details that would have to be looked at. Not only that,it has to be properly implemented. So this is why I emphasised that Jurong-Clementi Town Council is in a very, very good position to do this, because it has an exceptional track record. There's a competence. There's no need to experiment. The town council has the ability to implement these plans to the satisfaction for Bukit Batok residents.