PARLIAMENT: WRITTEN ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER NOT ANSWERED BY 3.00 PM, 26 MAY 2008
ELEVENTH PARLIAMENT OF
MONDAY, 26 MAY 2008
YOUTH OLYMPIC GAMES
(Update on Progress of Preparation)
*15. Mr Seah Kian Peng: To ask the Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports (a) whether all the key positions for the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) organising committee have been filled; and (b) if he will provide an update on the progress of the preparations to-date given that the 2010 YOG is less than two and a half years away.
Dr Vivian Balakrishnan:
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) awarded the hosting of the inaugural Youth Olympic Games to
In March 2008, Mr Ng Ser Miang, International Olympic Committee Executive Board Member in
The planning and preparations for the YOG are on track. Last month, a seminar with the IOC was held in
HAND, FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE
(Enforcement and Control)
*16. Ms Ellen Lee Geck Hoon: To ask the Minister for Health why the enforcement and control of hand, foot and mouth disease cases are not extended to private education providers for toddlers, young children and religious schools such as Sunday school in churches.
Mr Khaw Boon Wan:
Hand Foot Mouth Disease (HFMD) is a notifiable disease. By law, a doctor is required to report all cases of HFMD to my Ministry, including information such as the childcare centre or the school the child is attending. We investigate all clusters of HFMD cases to determine the extent of disease transmission and whether the institutions should be closed to contain the infection. If a cluster were reported in a school run by a private or a religious provider as described by Ms Ellen Lee, we will investigate.
In practice, given the longer exposure time and greater intensity of interaction, transmission risk is higher in the following institutions and they have therefore administrative arrangements to report their HFMD clusters to my Ministry:
a) All childcare centres under the Ministry of Community Development, Youth &
b) All playgroups under the People’s Association;
c) All kindergartens, special education schools, primary schools, secondary schools,
junior colleges, religious schools, private regular schools and foreign system schools under the Ministry of Education;
This arrangement will cover almost all of the children who are cared for outside of their homes.
HFMD is spread through direct contact with the bodily secretions of an infected person or indirectly through contact with contaminated items. Children may be infectious before they show any symptoms. A significant proportion of infected children remain asymptomatic, but they are also infectious. The risk of transmission will therefore exist whenever children congregate and if good hygiene is not practised.
The only way to prevent transmission is to maintain a high standard of personal and environmental hygiene. Parents have an important role to play: set personal example of good hygiene standard, teach the children to do the same, and keep them at home should they fall sick.
*18. Mr Zainudin Nordin: To ask the Minister for Trade and Industry (a) if he will provide an update on the vision of making Singapore an education hub; (b) whether there exists a conducive eco-system that allows education services in Singapore to flourish; (c) whether the recent rise in property prices and operational costs has affected efforts to attract reputable institutions to locate in Singapore; (d) what is the present total number of foreign students in Singapore and the long term target of this number; and (e) whether the current immigration policy is in line with and "friendly" towards the objectives set for the education hub.
*19. Mr Ang Mong Seng: To ask the Minister for Trade and Industry in view of our plans to be an international education hub (a) how many foreign students his Ministry intends to attract over the next 3 years; and (b) what are the plans to provide sufficient affordable accommodation for these students.
Mr Lim Hng Kiang:
The Global Schoolhouse initiative was launched in 2002 with the objective of developing Singapore into a Global Schoolhouse, comprising a rich diversity of quality education institutions and programmes at all levels from pre-school to post-graduate study, and attracting an interesting mix of students from all over the world. Today,
In recent years, we have successfully attracted a range of reputable foreign institutions to set up their campuses in
The Global Schoolhouse initiative is only possible because we have adopted a whole-of-government approach to develop this area with the support of many government agencies across different ministries. Besides EDB, others include the Ministry of Education, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the Singapore Tourism Board and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, just to name a few. All our agencies work together to enhance
We also adopt an open immigration policy to allow legitimate students to easily pursue their education in
HDB’S DESIGN, BUILD AND SELL SCHEME FLATS AT BOON KENG
(Applicants Who Lost Their Booking and Deposits)
*20. Mr Inderjit Singh: To ask the Minister for National Development (a) how many people who registered for HDB's Design, Build & Sell Scheme (DBSS) flats at Boon Keng lost their booking for the flats and their deposits (in terms of option fees) because they failed to secure their loans from HDB or the banks; (b) whether HDB processed the loan applications before or after the applicants paid their 5% option fee; and (c) how many flats remain unsold as a result of cancellations due to whatever reasons.
Mr Mah Bow Tan:
Applicants for DBSS flats are required to pay a booking fee amounting to 5% of the flat price upon booking. This is similar to practices in the private property market, as DBSS flats are built by a private developer. This booking fee is fully refundable if applicants are subsequently found to be ineligible to buy a DBSS flat. If they cancel their application although they are eligible, they would have to forfeit one-quarter of the booking fee.
According to the developer of the DBSS project at
Out of the remaining 8 cancellations, 5 cancellations could be related to financing reasons while 3 were due to health-related reasons. Of the 5 financing-related cases, only 1 had applied for and was granted an HDB loan after booking the flat. The other 4 cases did not apply for an HDB loan, although 1 of them did enquire at the HDB loan counter.
Buying a flat is a major financial commitment, and applicants are advised to work out their finances before committing to a flat purchase, including checking on their bank or HDB loan eligibility before booking a flat.
Since 1 January 2007, HDB requires those who need mortgage financing to first obtain an HDB Loan Eligibility (HLE) Letter from HDB or a Letter of Loan Offer (LO) from the banks before they commit to a flat purchase. For the Boon Keng project, flat buyers had more than one month from the launch of the project to work out their finances before the start of the booking exercise.
HDB’S REDUCED REPAYMENT SCHEME
(Number of Cases Approved)
*21. Mr Liang Eng Hwa: To ask the Minister for National Development (a) how many cases under HDB's Reduced Repayment Scheme were approved in 2006, 2007 and 2008 respectively; and (b) whether HDB has any plans to enhance the scheme so as to reduce the number of cases of flats being repossessed.
Mr Mah Bow Tan:
The HDB has in place various financial assistance measures to help flat owners who are in temporary financial hardship. The Reduced Repayment Scheme (RRS) is one such measure, whereby the monthly mortgage instalment is reduced for a limited period not exceeding 2 years. From 2006 to 2008, HDB has granted the RRS to about 24,000 households.
The financial assistance measures are meant to give the lessees some time to tide over temporary financial difficulties. They are not meant to be long-term solutions. Lessees whose financial situation has deteriorated must be prepared to make lifestyle changes such as sub-letting a room, include another working family member as a joint owner or downgrading to a smaller flat. Enhancing the RRS for such lessees will not help, as they will still be unable to pay the mortgage installments once the assistance comes to an end.
HDB will give ample time, advice and assistance to allow lessees to work out a realistic long-term financial solution. For example, HDB can help by offering another concessionary loan to facilitate downgrading.
Unfortunately, not all lessees in financial hardship are receptive to advice and some are even reluctant to take action to prevent their arrears from accumulating. In such cases, HDB will have no choice but to compulsorily acquire their flats so that the lessees do not end up in greater debt. I must stress that compulsory acquisition is the last resort to help these households, taken only after all other measures have been exhausted.
MANDATORY CANING OF FOREIGN WORKERS WHO OVERSTAY
(Review of Law)
*22. Mr Gautam Banerjee: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs whether the Ministry has plans to review the law on mandatory caning of foreign workers who overstay as a result of rogue labour agents.
*23. Mr Gautam Banerjee: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs (a) in the last 12 months, how many foreign workers were caned for overstaying; and (b) whether caning of foreign workers, particularly if they are innocent victims of unscrupulous labour agents, will affect Singapore's relationship with the countries from which these workers come from.
Mandatory caning of at least three strokes for foreigners who overstay 90 days or more was introduced in 1989 to curb the immigration offender problem. Our experience prior to 1989 had shown that a mandatory imprisonment term of at least 6 months alone was not sufficiently deterrent. With the introduction of mandatory caning, the mandatory minimum imprisonment term was reduced from six to three months. In 1995, the law was again amended to remove the requirement of imposing a sentence of at least 3 months.
Mandatory caning remains a necessary deterrent in today’s context. Long term overstayers who stay here illegally pose social problems. In addition, not being able to work legitimately in
The mandatory caning provision applies only to overstayers who have overstayed for more than 90 days, in other words, these are deliberate law-breakers. Foreign workers who are victims of scams, whilst deserving of support, should not overstay in
This is one reason why MOM has stepped up its outreach efforts to educate employers and workers on our employment and immigration regulations. For example, it has published a guidebook in various languages which highlights the penalty of mandatory caning for overstaying. This is given to workers at the Work Permit Services Centre when they collect their work permits. In addition, MOM conducts regular dormitory road-shows to reach out to foreign workers.
For these reasons, we do not think it is necessary to review the law on mandatory caning for overstayers at this point in time.
We do not track the number of foreign workers allegedly cheated by rogue agents who were subsequently caned for overstaying. In any case, we do not think that the caning of foreign workers will affect our relationship with the countries from which they come.
All persons, whether local or foreign, are subject to our laws and will be punished accordingly if they do not abide by them. This approach likewise applies to Singaporeans who commit offences in other countries. I believe countries whose nationals come to
“10TOUCH POINTS” COMPETITION
(Use of Design Solutions in Public and Private Sector)
*25. Miss Penny Low: To ask the Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts in light of the ‘10TouchPoints’ competition held in 2007 which promotes innovation and creativity in the redesigning of objects for daily use (a) whether the winning entries have been adopted or adapted by public agencies and corporations; (b) if so, what is the success rate; and (c) if not, does the Ministry plan to promote its design solutions to both the public and private sector.
Dr Lee Boon Yang:
10TouchPoints was an exercise to improve the design of public amenities. The top 10 items for design improvement were identified from public nominations and voting. 400 nominations were received and over 17,000 votes cast. These 10 everyday items, namely bicycle dismounting system, bus stops, drains and canals, hospital signage system, mailboxes, multi-purpose ID card, playgrounds, public toilets, recycling bins and takeaway meal boxes, were then put to the designers for their redesign.
A Jury Panel led by distinguished designers from
For instance, the winning design for recycling bins, which cleverly uses the items to be recycled as its appearance, were put on trial along
In addition, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) has awarded a design contract to adapt the recycling bins for implementation in the three terminals of
We are also happy to note that the National Parks Board had taken an interest in Roy Pang's bicycle dismounting design to encourage cyclists to dismount at specific points along a cycling path. The Board is studying the idea with the designer.
Aside from the tangible outcomes highlighted above, 10TouchPoints has helped to raise the awareness of how good design can enhance the functionality and aesthetic quality of such common items for all users. DesignSingapore takes a long-term view in promoting design awareness. It plans to run the 10TouchPoints campaign once every two years. The second 10TouchPoints will be launched in early 2009.
WORKFARE INCOME SUPPLEMENT SCHEME
(Extension to Housewives)
*26. Ms Ellen Lee Geck Hoon: To ask the Acting Minister for Manpower in light of the intrinsic value in the contribution of homemakers, whether he will consider extending the Workfare Income Supplement Scheme to housewives who have no income by staying at home to look after their children and having a maid/childcare is too costly for them.
Mr Gan Kim Yong:
The objective of the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) Scheme is to encourage older low-wage Singaporeans to work by supplementing their income. Therefore, a person is eligible for
Nevertheless, if the spouse of the homemaker is working, he will be eligible for
MANDATORY REST DAY FOR FOREIGN DOMESTIC WORKERS
*27. Mr Siew Kum Hong: To ask the Acting Minister for Manpower whether the Ministry intends to introduce a mandatory rest day for foreign domestic workers and, if not, why.
Mr Gan Kim Yong:
The Ministry of Manpower is committed to safeguarding the well-being of foreign domestic workers, or FDWs, in
In addition, the accreditation bodies have, in 2006, introduced a standard employment contract for FDWs. All accredited employment agencies are required to use this standard contract. The standard contract requires employer to stipulate the number of rest days per month, and zero is not an option. Employers are also required to compensate their FDWs salary, should the FDWs work during their rest days.
This is a more practical approach than legislating a fixed number of rest days per month for FDWs, given the unique nature of domestic work. Households that have for example disabled family members who require constant attention may find it difficult to release the FDW for a prescribed period every month. Therefore, allowing households the flexibility to work out an employment arrangement with their FDWs, including paying their FDWs for not taking their rest days, is a more sensible approach. Nonetheless, MOM encourages employers to grant FDWs rest days regularly wherever possible.
As a result of our education and enforcement efforts, together with other measures to enhance the protection of FDWs, most FDWs are happy working in
*32. Mr Arthur Fong: To ask the Minister for Trade and Industry aside from the 2-3 months of utilisation of the
Mr Lim Hng Kiang:
Mr Speaker Sir, the pit building is attractively located within the
With 4 months to go before the F1 race in September, the priority now is to ensure timely completion of the pit building. On this note, I am pleased to inform the House that construction works are on schedule, and the pit building should be completed by early-July.
The race promoter and the many government agencies involved in this project are now entering the final stages of preparation for our inaugural F1 race and we look forward to a successful event.
*33. Ms Sylvia Lim: To ask the Minister for National Development (a) why the
Mr Mah Bow Tan:
Under the new Draft Master Plan 08, which URA unveiled on 23 May, the Paya Lebar area will be comprehensively redeveloped into a commercial hub called Paya Lebar Central, where new commercial floor space for retail, office and hotel use will be located.
The site occupied by
To retain the ethnic character of the area, a new pedestrian mall will be created along Geylang Road to accommodate more stalls during the annual Hari Raya bazaar.
In summary, the comprehensive redevelopment of Paya Lebar Central into a new sub regional commercial hub will allow us to cater to new commercial and civic uses, while retaining the rich Malay heritage of this area.
Office of the Clerk of Parliament
 The penalty of overstaying including mandatory caning for overstaying beyond 90 days is set out clearly under the section “Singapore Laws & You” of the guidebook.
 The 'Waterways Watch' is a special volunteer group with the mission of formulating and implementing an on-going action plan to assist in keeping the waterways of