Tuesday, 26 September 2023

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Forward planning isn’t just about planning for GDP of a country but also how citizens’ lives will be affected

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan has credited the government’s “sound judgment” in relation to the building of Terminal 4 of Changi Airport (T4). At the official opening of T4, Khaw further said that “Building ahead of demand is indeed one of Singapore’s economic success factors”

I don’t wish to rain on the parade of T4 but I have to ask – If building ahead of demand is indeed why we decided to build T4, why did the government rush to build the Budget Terminal only to tear it down in a few years to make way for T4? I still remember the great fanfare in which Budget Terminal was unveiled. There was even a naming contest that went with it which garnered much press coverage. It was therefore a shock when news broke that it was going to be shut in just shy of 6 years! That does not sound like forward planning to me. Rather, it sounds like rushing to build something for the sake of it or to plug a short term gap. In short, it sounds like a waste. If it was always the government’s intention to build T4, why didn’t it go straight for T4 instead of building a Budget Terminal?

There are many considerations that come with opening a new terminal. Costs aside, there are also environmental concerns that come with the increased flights. Were the people living within the flight paths consulted before T4 was built? Was there an impact assessment commissioned to report on the increased noise and air pollution that comes with the increased flights? What about property prices for those who live within the flight paths?

While I understand the importance of economic factors, these have to be balanced with the quality of life of Singaporeans too. It may well be that those affected do not mind which makes this a moot point. However, were they consulted?

Take the immigration issue in Singapore. I don’t think most Singaporeans have an issue with immigration but the failure on the part of the government to factor in the city’s limited resources was a prime example of the government’s lack of forward planning. Or rather, the government’s limited forward planning – i.e. looking only in terms of business numbers and not the long term effects these might have on the rest of the country.

Forward planning isn’t just about planning the GDP numbers of a country. It is also planning how your citizens’ lives will be affected. In building ahead, we also have to take a step back and assess. It isn’t just about rushing to build and meet a deadline. It is also about sustainability and long term effects.

The rapid building and closing of Budget Terminal is an example of avoidable waste.

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