$20 million 'carrot' offered

Are the carrots out again?

For Jalan Besar GRC residents, it possibly comes in the form of a $20 million estate upgrading scheme, slated to happen over the next five years.

This includes about 200 improvements to covered walkways, residents' corners and other community facilities in the newly-revived Jalan Besar GRC, which will take over the soon-to-be-defunct Moulmein-Kallang GRC.

This facilities improvement master plan, titled "My Kampung in the City", was unveiled yesterday by Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim and his team of MPs near Block 63, Kallang Bahru, where an exhibition showcasing the details of the estate upgrading scheme was held.

Dr Yaacob, Mr Heng Chee How, Dr Lily Neo and Ms Denise Phua also announced that they will be standing in Jalan Besar GRC in the coming general election.

But Dr Yaacob played down the notion that this five-year plan was part of a bid to sway voters ahead of the GE.

"We are just about to complete our last five-year plan. So the planning...started much earlier," he told reporters yesterday.

He added that the current plan to improve the estate was spearheaded by Moulmein-Kallang MP and chairman of the town council Edwin Tong. It is slated to be completed between the end of this year and the start of next year.

As such, the new "draft" is being introduced early to gather feedback from residents, Dr Yaacob said.

"This is just a draft... where we have some ideas. So this exhibition will travel across the GRC to collect ideas before we finalise the masterplan." Dr Yaacob also said that he and his team have delivered on their 2011 election promises.

Since 2011, their wards have seen lift upgrades, childcare, youth and senior activity centres, and a new bus service 140.

The promise of Housing Board estate upgrades to win votes has been used by the People's Action Party (PAP) since the 1997 election.

But such a tactic may not be as effective and appealing to voters today, said Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan.

"Voters don't doubt the PAP's ability to deliver these estate upgrades. It's not game-changing any more. In fact, voters may now expect the PAP to produce these plans.

"Today, many voters see the worth of the opposition in a different light - to have more opposing voices in Parliament," he said.


But Associate Professor Tan said there is still value in offering these estate upgrades as some may be swayed by the prospect of having these enhancements bump up their property prices.

National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser said the timing of this new five-year masterplan for Jalan Besar GRC may be useful as it reminds voters what the party has done in the past and that it will continue to do more, if elected.

"It can be helpful to persuade the undecided voters, especially if the opposition challengers have little to offer, except the promise of greater opposition voices in Parliament," he said.

But he said that this cannot be the only benefit to voters that the PAP promises to offer.

People's Power Party chief Goh Meng Seng criticised the use of such upgrades, calling the tactic "insincere".

"What sort of values would this teach the future generation - that everything can be bought?

"Voters today are more concerned with broader issues such as job security, healthcare and retirement. They want more than just physical improvements," he said.

Residents approached by The New Paper were mostly indifferent to the estate upgrade masterplan.

Food and beverage manager Ng Chee Yoong, 40, who lives in Bendemeer, said his estate has been undergoing upgrading for years and the five-year master plan was not new.

Mr Biswajit Sen, 54, who works in IT and is a Kallang Bahru resident of 18 years, saw nothing wrong with the dangling of such carrots.

"I think it's good that candidates publicise what they can promise and what they can do," he said.

This article was first published on August 17, 2015.
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