Thursday, 6 November 2008

Dialogue with Minister Mah Bow Tan : Sustainable Development

Minister for National Development, Mr Mah Bow Tan
(7 pm, URA Auditorium)
Enhancing our Physical Environment

This second forum on 6 November 2008, chaired by Minister Mah, had the following panelists:

  • Mr Tai Lee Siang, President, Singapore Institute of Architects and Director, DP Architects
  • A/Prof Lee Siew Eang, Director, Centre for Total Building Performance, School of Design and Environment, National University of Singapore
  • Dr Shawn Lum, President, Nature Society

This forum discussed how we can bring about a more resource efficient built environment and a higher quality living environment. Specific issues for discussion include improving energy efficiency in our built environment, the use of renewable energy, and how we can further enhance greenery and biodiversity within our living environment.

The whole function room was occupied by the public and professional groups who responded enthusiastically to the call for views and ideas. Some were too passionate when giving their views. One man was asked to leave the room.

Minister Mah has a sharp mind and spoke convincingly. Though several of those who asked questions were rude, long-winded and gave weird suggestions, the Minister took it in his stride. I'm beginning to like his style. :)

Present were several foreigners who are residents in Singapore and they spoke out on the environment they are living in. One lady felt disgusted that this forum was all about Singapore and not about the countries around us. Hey! I agree with Minister Mah, we have to start from our own backyard!

It was not an entirely solemn forum... there were moments when the audience were tickled by suggestions.

Working overtime should not be encouraged. It is not energy efficient as air-con and lights are left on for just a few employees. All employees should knock off at 6pm. :)

A teacher did research on the web and reveals that 80% of agricultural products grown in the world are fed to farm animals. So we should all be vegetarians. :)

Singaporeans should take a more active role at Feedback sessions too. Singapore is our country and we should not leave it to the Government to find solutions to our problems.


RED-man said...
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RED-man said...

Oh, I like this topic:

Another policy heading towards the destruction of our nation parmount. To make it easier to understand, we need to understand the importance of affordable "public housing" and most essentially the history on Formation of House development board. In the 50's and 60's, HDB contributed very much to the nation safety and peace which eventually lead to progress.

Having different races grouping themselves into several difference kampong, which do not promote mixing around. This was a serious problem. Even the law enforcer themselves would risk their life going into any of the kampong village. At that time, Chinese mainly with communist background also divided into clans and fight among each other often. Notwithstanding issues such as hygienes, public health etc.

But what most people do not realize is that HDB give every Singaporean a hope and a dream. it is to have the ability to buy a affordable house and form a family. It is like giving each and every Singaporean a sense of belonging and commitment to life and their country. To buy a HBD, people have to work for it and therefore no time to create trouble or any other else. It is like a key project, that kept every Singaporean mind sync towards a single direction.

Substainable development? I don't see how when basically the government is take away this dream from the people by making it higher and higher in the price tags? With current new housing price starting from $220k to $500k (4 to 5 rooms), what would the price be like when it reaches your children generation?! Mah says that why we have 2 and 3 rooms? Isn't that going against the national policy to promote forming family?

Last time I recall when this Mah was in the transportation ministry, he had effectively increase our transportation cost! Sorry Eastcoatlife, I don't really share your admiration for this person. As a matter of fact, I do believe he is one of the most hated figure among most Singaporean.

To put it in proper term, he is Singapore dream nightmare!

EastCoastLife said...

I moved from the Kampung to a 1-room rented flat in 1971. The monthly rental was so cheap.

My family was poor but those days in that tiny little space was my happy childhood.

I do worry about how my son is going to buy his HBD flat. I'm not helping him with his purchase. We'll see how it goes.

I really don't see the need for large flats for young couples. They usually don't stay with their parents too.

When I was first married, I applied for an Executive flat. It was huge for 5 of us. And most of the time, it's just my elderly parents-in-laws at home. My hubby and I worked long hours and my son was sent to childcare.

You should see the apartments of people in Hong Kong and China. They live in much smaller flats than our 3-room ones.

I'm not happy with price increases too but some of the increases are necessary. We cannot expect Government to be subsidising everything or else our taxes will be higher or the 'talents' will come out with new taxes.

I used to hate our politicians. But after seeing them personally and speaking to them, I find many of them easy to approach and pretty quick thinking.

Try to attend some public forums, see for yourself. Speak to them.

I'm not trying to brainwash you but do give them a chance.

The greatest culprits of ordinary citizens' woes are the top civil servants and so-called scholars or 'talents'.

Many Ministers and MPs are not aware of the dark side and the powerful lords in some Ministries.

Many of the problems on the ground are not accurately relayed to the Ministers. Many feedback or complaints were hijacked by the officers in charge before they reach the leaders.

I'm changing my method of feedback now. Straight to the Minister in charge. :D

Ignore me? The story appears here.

Every Singapore should start a blog. :)

RED-man said...

Dear EastCoastLife

My father is a Hongkonger now Singapore citizen, and yes I know hongkong housing much better than anyone as I have stay there for some time. With due respect, I think comparing size of both countries housing is a bit shallow with looking at the country geography and social background.

Hong Kong has a land mass double the size of Singapore if not more. Hong kong has a population double the size of Singapore if not more. However, take note of this! Only half of their land mass can be utilized for dwelling and commerical purposes (because the other half is mountain which dangerous and costly to build, therefore render useless)! Which in the end, derived to have usable land mass size of Singapore! When is why their first prime, Dong jian Hwa proprosed to cut those mountains and fill up the sea for more reclaim land in the past.

Their house is expensive and small because their population is twice of ours but landmass is equal to ours! Logical? Economy deem it as demand and supply.

Back to our little red dot, we have more than enough landmass for our people, and not running out of land? Where is the demand? May I ask? The current call demand is because Good minister mah control the frequency of building HDB because the market had punished him for building excess in the past without studying the ground situation. In 1997, he anticipate that large number of HongKonger would move to Singapore. However, what he did not expect is that these hongkonger rather move to places like Canada, states or the kangroo state than to Singapore. Tell something you might be shocked to know it. They call Singapore the Lee family state, and most Hong Konger are not impressed with them and their government.

Another piece of information you need to know is that, Hong Kong housing are fully privatized and beyond control of the government. Singapore however is state own, and there is a good reason for that! The old generation PAP guards understand that it is important to keep the housing cheap for the people (I had mentioned in my previous posting). Look at 80's where a 5 rooms flat cost only 60k and in such short time, we have climb to $400k. Question is, where is the demand to justify the climb?

I have spent 5 years in construction and some of the project I incharged are HDB! I assure you that each unit only cost $50k to build in average. This is possible due to cheap labour from china unlike in the past where labour is Singapore and Malaysia. At the same time method of building which I believe most Singaporean know the HDB are now build in the form of Lego or block which allow faster build time and cheap build cost.

Even Mah himself admitted that he is currently pegging the New HDB price according to that area resale value. Finally, if what you mentioned that these ministers don't know what the hell his below people are doing and they are innocent! I say this prove that they have f@$k up leadership and not even fit to be a minister especially when they deem themselves Elites and give themselves that disgusting amount of pay!

NO my posting is not trying to convince you on anything. You could maintain your current standing and don't give a single thought of what I am telling you today. However, it bring me no comfort to see that at current rate this country is running, we are simply heading towards the wall! And people do suffers in the end, and we are talking about Singaporean who helped build this nation and in the end cast aside by the nation itself because they can't keep up with the pace!

You might say that government should not take care of it people! But I do want to remind all the Singaporean here that we are the resources of this country! If the government don't take care of it own resources. You expect the new generation resources to contribute to the country? Ever wonder why every years, 1000 of Singapore resources is returning their passport to their nation?

YES, I live in a kampong and atap house too with my mum alone taking care of me and my brother during the 70's! My Hong Konger father is my step father. I do hope more Singaporean are aware of where this nation is heading and open their eyes to see more clearly! Thanks and I wish you all well and happy. Cheers

RED-man said...
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RED-man said...

By the way, don't be mistaken. My family are very much well to do as compared to the past. I can easily say that without my wife working, I am still able to support her and my daughter.

It is because we were poor before, we cannot stand the way those poor Singaporean that were left behind in the race suffered a great deal! It brings me many thoughts when I see a old man or woman cleaning the tables and some picking cardboards to make a miserable living while I see some foreign tourists of the same age as our elderly sitting on at the table enjoying their expensive dinner and deciding where to go with their camera after that.

No, I don't hate these foreigners. They bring money into our country. What I can't understand is the immediate contrast! What these Forgotten Singaporean done to deserve that?! Did our government even did something for them to make their last few years of life better?! You mean, after collecting so much taxes, it still not enough to reach them?!

I hope god really have mercy to Singaporean with what to come.

RED-man said...

Dear Eastcoastlife:

I sincerely urge that you would look beyond the can of "worms" that you have uncovered in your blog as mentioned. Question to ask next, is this the only can of "worms"? And we know worms need certain condition to multiply! Who is providing this conditions?!

Personally, NKF incident simply tell me one fact. When a person is in the power to dictate a country or organisation. He is in the power to do anything he wishes. What make you think that we are not living in a much bigger NKF right now? Since the condition is the same, with only one party or rather on person to decide where we are heading!

Look at China long history, you would come to know a simple logic. One person rule will never last long. If PAP is so confident of their mandate, why they put up so many unfair rules to prevent the growth of alternate party? To ensure they stay in power? Don't forget that in the history, PAP was once a opposition party too! There is not enough talents to put into 2 baskets?

Well, there are many Singaporean made their name in the world map! They are not talents, I don't know who else is?! To say they choose a better life overseas, why don't ask why Singapore can't be better in the first place?!

RED-man said...

We Singaporean pay them big sum of money to do that don't we?! You mean, that is their best shot to only ensure Singaporean is surviving?

If they peg their pay to current market CEOs. I believe such results would have shown them to the door! They did better provide a golden era results llike MM lee said! Don't forget, with current market, CEOs don't have pension after they retired. Our country CEOs will still get paid until they go six feet under.

Isn't that not enough? In the first place civil service had never been focus on money. That is why they are public "servant". Do you see any employer pay disgusting amount of salary to their maid?! There was once a wise business man said, you pay peanuts you get monkeys. But when you pay gold bars, you get wolf! Hum.... Look very much familiar to me, looking at all those execuses that they had given for their mistakes.

oceanskies79 said...

It's interesting to be reminded that it is more energy-efficient to eat vegetables than meat. Alright I have more reasons to eat more vegetables than meat.

Pleae pardon me, how do you get to know about such forums whereby the Ministers would be present?

EastCoastLife said...

Reading your long comments, I believe many Singaporeans who truly care for this country have exactly your same thoughts.

Change is due.

Citizens are questioning and demanding answers from the rulers.

They cannot brush us aside so easily now. We need to persevere and press for transparency and answers.

I will not stop until I get my answers. I will not stop until those civil servants who have broken the rules are punished.

We must not stop asking questions and seeking answers.

EastCoastLife said...

Go to
Sign up to feedback or simply to have your voice heard.
They will inform you of public forums.

oceanskies79 said...


Back2Nature said...

Hi, I am also interested to know more about MP Mah (I just read that he has an Hon Doctorate). I am not familiar with a lot of these stuffs, but I know many people dislike him. My bro commented that he was quick in fixing loop holes, and he was the very rare one who supported the MRT plan back then.

My understanding is that he wasn't the one who built excess in the past without studying the ground situation. Rather, he looks like the one who was tasked to clean up the mess.

Technically, I find him efficient and effective. The question is do people want him to serve HDB/gov [too] well? I think people, i.e. civilians, want civil servants to serve them well.

RED-man said...

Well, if you consider implementation such ERP and jacking up of new housing price is efficient and effective. What can I say? To PAP maybe.

Traffic in Singapore can't be solved with ERP and as a matter of UK use ERP system to control damages to the roads caused by heavy vehicles for road repairs and big luxury cars to discourage heavy usage of petrol. Not penalty people a cross the board. If you observe properly, traffic conjestion is not caused by the volume of cars. Rather, they are:

1. Construction of MRT, road digging and road work during peak hours.

2. Uncontrolled movement of heavy vehicles that travel along side with the rest of the flop. You only need 3 big lorries or buses to travel slowly in lane 2,3 and 4, you got a traffic jam.

3. Singaporean driving attitude especially when there is a accident, they like to slow down and look at the accident.

If solution is so obvious as implement of ERP, why bother to pay him such high salary where almost every tom, dick and harry can think of?!

There is no such thing as quick fix solution, the PAP always say it themselves to the opposition. Now, let see... I think most of their so call solutions are quick fix and usually involve the pockets of Singaporean. GST, public housing, medical etc, you name it, they do it. While most deem it as efficient, I say the easy way out on the expense of the people. Thanks but no thanks..

EastCoastLife said...

Minister Mah Bow Tan was conferred the Honorary Doctor of Science degree by the University of New South Wales in 2001. He was a President’s and Colombo Plan Scholar. He has brains and is still quick thinking at his age. I saw him in action. :)

Singaporeans don't like him because they don't understand him. That's the case with several ministers.

To be fair, some of our Ministers are approachable, friendly and humble... if you don't talk nonsense or make ridiculous demands. :P

These Ministers will listen and take note of your feedback.

The ways their subordinates build walls around them and keep them from the public, make them unapproachable and unpopular.

If all the Ministers are popular and likeable, Singapore will be in big trouble. To please Singaporeans, they might be very obliging and then we will have another set of problems.

I'm not happy with HDB too. The problems are not created by Minister Mah. Have you met HDB top officers? Can vomit blood trying to reason with them.

Which Minister do Singaporeans think should be appointed Minister of National Development?

Whoever is the Minister, he is going to be just as unpopular. Policies cannot be changed for votes.

We need change and new blood (don't just change the soup and keep the medicine 换汤不换药) in our civil servants.

Let's work together towards solutions, not blaming the Minister.

EastCoastLife said...

I agree the implementation of ERP is not efficient.

Recently I travelled on taxis to meetings and experienced the most inefficient and costly solution to our traffic problems.

I have no confidence in Transport Minister Raymond Lim after hearing what he replied to feedback about the traffic jams and ineffective ERP system.

"I can raise it to S$8."

His solution is to keep raising ERP prices.

LTA, sigh. No talents in there. Don't expect solutions any time soon. (头痛医头, 脚痛医脚!)

Do we do away with ERP? Can we reduce the issuing of Certificates Of Entitlement (COE)? We will have other problems. Singaporeans will just be as unhappy.

I have a different theory to the traffic congestions.

Aunty EastCoastLife solution : The city area is too congested. Try moving some large organisations to East or West side of Singapore.

Can move the Supreme Court and the Subordinate courts to Changi. Offenders once sentenced could be moved quickly to Changi prison. Save on transport and travelling.

Lawyers will follow by moving their offices to Changi. :)

Create mini cities all over Singapore, instead of one huge city area where traffic would tend to flock to.

Ministries like Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Trade and Industry, EDB, CPF, Ministry of Manpower, Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts should move out of the city to Kranji or Bukit Batok.

I don't know why civil services need to be in the prime city area. The civil servants plan that for their convenience.

So imagine how many civil servants contribute to the traffic jams during peak hours. :P

ERP is boh rasa (no impact) to the civil servants,. Because every year they will get pay increments to offset the ERP charges.

Imagine how much traffic we could have diverted from the city. We must relocate in a way that traffic is flowing both ways.

For example :
Now we have 1000 vehicles going one direction into the city in the morning.

If the planner can plan in such a way that instead of the 1000 vehicles moving into the city at the same time, he could divert half (500) of those vehicles to move away, thus reducing the congestion.

Increasing prices and creating new taxes are not solutions. Paying high salaries to civil servants and leaders are not solutions.

Back2Nature said...

That's my point, efficient and effective to the PAP.

I am not too sure the exact roles of Minister Mah on ERP, but I found this in the article, Commentary: Road pricing and optimal transport networks ( ) - "The principles of road pricing were set out in 1954 by Walters and of electronic road pricing by Vickery in 1959. The first specific paper on congestion pricing was written in 1961. Singapore was the first to apply some of the concepts in 1975 and even this pricing did not optimise the use of scarce road space." while he was with SBS from 1974 till 1983.

Again, I only read up through adhoc searches on HDB prices and found some info here and there:
- Resale price index was quite constant since 1990 or earlier until 1992 and rose steeply until 1996 (136.9), dropped between 1997 and 1998, and was quite constant until 2007 and shoot up. Now at 137.5 higher than the peak in 1996.
- Differential Pricing Policy introduced in 1987
- Revised Mortgage Loan Financing Scheme for Resale Flats in 1993
- Minister Mah has been with MND since Jun 1999.

I think he does well within his means, and stay focus on his circle of concern. However, may be just go an extra mile, or expanding the circle of concern a little will be much better, but that would be [politically] risky for him.

I too feel the concept of "prime city area" is the main culprit. With the advancement in transportation machines and Internet, why still centralize offices so near each other.