Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Your house my home

Singapore winning the rights to host the inaugural Youth Olympics is not necessarily good news for everyone on this island. Its good news for all sports professionals and aspiring professionals as well as sports fans. Its good news for the construction people because new structures such as the stadiums and sports village needs to be built. Its good news for the economy and the government because they can further generate more jobs and cash for the country. Its good news for the tourism sector because more people will be coming to Singapore pre-Olympics, Olympics, and hopefully, post-Olympics, etc etc.

So it seems good news all around. But no, something has to give. Mr Mah Bow Tan alluded to the S$3billion worth of public construction projects that will have to be delayed though public housing upgrading projects will not be affected. That's a wise thing because, the prestige of the YOG notwithstanding, building and improving our own people's homes cannot be any less important just because we now need to build the Olympic village, the stadium, etc. for a one-off event. Yes, the tourist dollar is important, MICE is a key strategy in the service-based economy now and in the future, but we cannot neglect our own people.

I now wonder if the timetable for building the new subways is not one of those public construction projects that has been pushed back. If that happens, then our transport woes will continue for longer with motorists bearing the brunt of it. They cannot give up their cars, they say, because the transport network is not going to improve soon enough, even though costs continue to rise - ERP, petrol, etc. If this revamp of the transport infrastructure and services is delayed, I think people, especially motorists, will get used to these prices increases and continue to drive while government coffers will swell from the just introduce raft of transport related costs increases. I suppose motorists will just have to rationalise that working longer hours, spending less time with the family and taking more risks on investments should lick the problem, which will throw work-life balance out the window and defeat any effort to solve a critical social issue - the falling, or at least stagnating birth rate.

But what about the long-suffering public transport commuters? They will continue to suffer. Long wait times for buses will continue. After some time, people will get used to the new taxi fares and begin to take to them again. That will set off another round of more of the same transport issues that have been bugging us for ages.

Ultimately, whatever grand plans that were laid out by Minister Raymond Lim will become a White Elephant Paper - a model of transport policy and planning, but nothing more. If so, it would have been a waste of everybody's time and taxpayers' money.

We are basically back at Square One. Only Square One now costs more for the traveling public....

Image source: morgueFile.com. Author: somadjinn

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