Archive for the 'urbanscape and environment' Category



Public trashport

A typical day, with me straphanging in a bus, about one quarter the way in. We pull up at a bus stop, a few people get off and a few people board. The last group to come up the front steps consist of a mother, laden with shopping, and two sons, aged around 12 and 8. The bus driver tells her in mainland-accented Chinese that they shouldn’t board because the two boys each have an ice-cream cone in hand.

The mother starts to make a scene. “They are only children, you cannot be so strict with children,” she says, “and anyway I am in a hurry.”

She adds that they need to get home and can’t afford to wait for the next bus. Continue reading ‘Public trashport’

Danger zone: home, part 2

A point made by Carl Siciliano, Executive Director of the Ali Forney Center which helps homeless LGBT youth, may be counter-intuitive, but still true: The home can be a dangerous place for some young people, especially if they are gay, lesbian or transgender.

Tiffany Cocco’s story illustrates this well.

“I wasn’t dealt the best cards in life,” she says with a bucketful of euphemism. “My parents were drug addicts, so I was put in foster care at age four.”

Her mother managed to regain custody, but then died two years later of Aids. Both her fathers too died soon after, and she ended up living with her grandfather. Continue reading ‘Danger zone: home, part 2′

Priorities, priorities

Sometimes, on an ordinary day, minding one’s own business, we cannot help but notice things that make us think beyond our private thoughts and about the wider world. And so it was one evening last month when I visited my father in hospital. I found him bored out of his wits.

“Why don’t you at least turn on the telly?” I asked.

“There’s nothing there.”

I wasn’t going to believe him so easily. So I fiddled with the remote to surf the channels. There were our handful of free-to-air channels (in other words, nothing worth watching), and another 6 or 7 cable channels. With the exception of the Cartoon Network, all the cable channels were Arabic. Three of them are imaged on this page – channels 15, 18 and 14. There were news, drama and even Arabic cartoons. Continue reading ‘Priorities, priorities’

Transport landscape reflects Singapore’s income gap and rightwing ideology

Why are the rates charged by Singapore’s Electronic Road Pricing scheme (ERP) so low? Why aren’t they three or four times higher? This was the intriguing question posed (but not fully answered) by Christopher Tan, the Straits Times’ motoring correspondent in his op-ed 30 April 2012 (Time to rethink COE system?).

Continue reading ‘Transport landscape reflects Singapore’s income gap and rightwing ideology’

A window to the importance of design

Another maid falls to her death, making seven so far this year. There were altogether 24 in the last five years, according to John Gee, writing in the Straits Times (25 April 2012, Ensuring the safety of maids, by John Gee).

Minister of State for Community, Youth and Sports, Halimah Yacob, recently said that the cleaning of the exterior of windows should be banned (Straits Times, 23 April 2012, Halimah: Don’t let maids clean outside of windows). I find such calls problematic.

Firstly, this may be very hard to enforce, especially when most people want their windows clean.

For example, Continue reading ‘A window to the importance of design’

Time to demote some gods from the altar

Minister for Transport Lui Tuck Yew has told Singaporeans that regular temporary closures of the metro system will be the new norm. Shutdowns will occur on weekends for maintenance and reconstruction.

As Singapore’s metro system ages, such work will become inescapable.

Lui has promised that careful planning will go into these planned shutdowns, yet something tells me they are going to go about it with tunnel vision (double entendre intended). They are likely to focus mainly on providing signs and bridging shuttle bus services to move passengers through the disrupted sections. Your typical Sunday outing will soon look like this:

You will get annoyed. Nobody likes to make a five-segment journey, even if you have been notified in advance.

Continue reading ‘Time to demote some gods from the altar’

How to subsidise buses

This is a follow-up article to PAP government in messy affair with new sweetheart. The earlier article focussed on the government’s muddleheadedness and the mess that it is creating in terms of accountability. In this note, I wish to outline a better way of subsidising bus transport.

I accept that the “user pays” dogma is incompatible with our public transport objectives. This is a criticism I have of the government’s starting philosophy, which they themselves now recognise as unable to meet public objectives. Nonetheless, they do not want to disown their earlier philosophy, so they seem intent on keeping the structures they created under the “user pays” scheme — the sectional monopolies and the two government-linked “private” companies, each with split objectives, not quite sure whether they should focus on rail or bus — while showering them with subsidies. These would be sweetheart deals opaque to public scrutiny; creating the worst of possible outcomes.

Continue reading ‘How to subsidise buses’

The S$1.1 billion question — let me say it again

My earlier article on the proposed S$1.1 billion give-away to SMRT and SBS Transit, our two public bus companies, was, truth be told, rather rambling. I was trying to cover too much ground. A comment by Yuen has motivated me to try to re-state my case, this time in a more succinct way. Further down, I will provide a more direct response to his comment.

In six points, my thoughts on this matter are:

Continue reading ‘The S$1.1 billion question — let me say it again’

PAP government in messy affair with new sweetheart

For decades, the government claimed to be faithfully wed to Self-reliance. Users must pay the full cost of services, otherwise Singapore will slide into the purgatory called a “welfare state”. At the same time, corporations charged with delivering those services must ensure they run a lean outfit, and what better way to ensure that than to subject them to the discipline of the market, the thinking went.

And so bus services were corporatised (“privatised” they call it — though how accurate that term is, we shall see) and told to sink or swim on their own.

Now rumours abound that the government has left the marital bed, and is having an affair with a new sweetheart called Subsidies.

Continue reading ‘PAP government in messy affair with new sweetheart’

Government fights lonely battle for eldercare centres

The cynic will say, “See, I knew the government would ram it through, regardless of public opinion.”

Saturday’s Straits Times carried the news that the go-ahead has been given for building a day-care centre for the elderly within the void decks of Blocks 860 and 861 in Woodlands  (Straits Times, 11 Feb 2012: Plans for Woodlands eldercare centre to proceed, by Janice Tai). Two weeks ago, news had erupted that residents in the area vociferously objected to the plan. Reported objections ranged from the loss of communal space, to fears of traffic congestion and the inauspiciousness of having the old and dying in the area.

Continue reading ‘Government fights lonely battle for eldercare centres’


For an update of the case against me, please see AGC versus me, the 2013 round.

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