Source: Changi Airport/Facebook

In a bid to remain at the forefront of the competition, it is paramount that Changi Airport continues to expand ahead of demand, said Coordinating Minister of Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan yesterday.

Speaking at the official opening of Terminal 4 at Changi Airport, Mr Khaw said that one of Singapore’s “economic success factors” lies in the ability to anticipate demand in areas such as aviation, maritime, and industrial development.

Mr Khaw said: “For global business, if you don’t have the capacity to serve, you lose business to your competitors. It’s as simple as that.”

He also highlighted the importance of making calculated and informed predictions in building ahead of demand, saying that it “requires strong judgement”.

The Transport Minister said that the aviation sector is “unpredictable, subject to many disruptions, including oil prices and at times, unhelpful governmental interventions”, adding that it “may end up with white elephants” should these potential risks fail to be taken into account in the process of building new infrastructure.

“We must be sensitive to potential disruptions and be ready to make strategic changes promptly when warranted,” he elaborated.

Touching on the construction of Terminal 5, which he dubbed as Singapore’s “second airport”, he said that an estimated rise in 50 million passengers will be observed annually at Changi Airport as a result of the terminal’s debut.

This will result in an estimated 150 million passengers yearly, in comparison to the present capacity of 82 million passengers.

Elaborating on the development of Terminal 5, Mr Khaw said: “To manage the risk of disruptions, we are designing T5 in scalable modules and to build them in phases.”

“This is a practical approach to avoid over-investment and being caught wrong-footed should our projections turn awry,” he concluded.

At approximately 1,000 hectares, Terminal 5 will take up land that is equivalent to the size of Tampines New Town, or more than twice the size of Marina Bay.

Netizens were baffled by Mr Khaw’s argument for the new developments taking place at Changi Airport, with many arguing that many other sectors are in need of the funding that has been channelled into building Terminal 5 and even Terminal 4.

Jenny Jee Eng said:

Why does Singapore need so many airport terminals? Kiasu syndrome!

Fauziah Ismail wrote:

This is called a Terminal illness ???

Kenneth Chan wrote:

“Projecting demand is indeed one of Singapore’s economic success factor” & “building ahead of demand requires strong judgement”, so did we have to build the ‘Budget Terminal’ previously? Was it a failure in projecting demand then?

It was not too long ago then the budget terminal was opened in 2006 and shut  down in 2012? What happened to “building ahead of demand” then? From building only a new budget terminal, shutting it, rebuilding as Terminal 4 & now to say they need to have a Terminal 5 as a “SECOND AIRPORT”?

I cannot agree that this is an economic success factor as claimed [by Khaw].

Timothy Ang said:

Having a bigger airport is better because tourists do not need to come out and see the real Singapore. Singaporeans never notice when they ask their overseas friends what they think of Singapore. All they can say is, “oh Changi Airport is very nice”, not “Toa Payoh got good shopping [spots]”.

Cheryl Chew commented:

Then next time, they’ll suggest to use the whole of Singapore to build a super trillion airport. Then can earn more $$$.

Several netizens have touched on high costs borne by citizens regarding basic necessities such as healthcare and how the funding for Terminal 5 should have been used to subsidise healthcare systems and other basic necessities:

Kevin Ng wrote:

Why are we spending money like nobody’s business when we don’t have enough for basic necessity like healthcare?

Kelvin Wong said:

Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan said: “When we underestimate demand, the result is overcrowding at hospitals, as we now experience at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. If we over-estimate demand and over-supply, we end up with under-utilised assets – a costly outcome.

“Between over-supply and under-supply, I would prefer to slightly under-supply than to over-supply as this will put pressure on ourselves to intensify usage and minimise over-consumption.” – September 2007

William Sam said:

The logic is simple. How has the average Singaporean benefitted from these projects? The cost of living has been increasing at an accelerated rate. If there are benefits then we should be able to see reduced costs and not higher costs.

Mark Roche wrote:

Money should go into making Singaporeans’ cost of living cheaper and more affordable, instead of wasting it on unnecessary costly projects.

Kohila Thavanesan said:

Another expensive project? Ahead of demand?! What about existing demands like the increased costs of living of Singaporeans – isn’t that a primary concern? Utilise reserves to solve that issue. We are not happy with being labelled the most expensive city in the world! Get off your ivory tower and look at what’s happening around you.

Naidu Billy said:

Many homeless Singaporeans…

Can they go there sleep bo?

Patrick Fok said:

Claiming the best, largest and most modern airport in the world does not feed the marginalized citizens!

Imran Becks said:

And us Singaporeans feel the pinch. Gas prices go up. Electricity goes up. Public transport fare goes up. Not long from now, GST will be increased too. All for unnecessary things like this.

A small country but with 5 airport terminals. Go figure.

David Firdaus said:

Competition never ends la. So if we have more competitors means what? Build more airports?

Sudyono Bin Salleh wrote:

Then go and build one airport all around each of the estates lah.. Easy for us Singaporeans.

Dennis Teo commented:

Soon the whole island will just be airport terminals.

Several netizens have also highlighted the importance of upgrading the current Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system instead of building what Mr Khaw calls a “second airport”.

Jian Xun said: 

Why not use the money to upgrade trains and improve on rail infrastructure? Demand of tourist is more than demand for train efficiency?

Leon Khor wrote:

How about spending more of that money to improve the MRT system…

Lim Jun Jie commented:

So… Does this mean that air travel is more important than internal transport systems? Hence things like MRT do not need to improve “ahead of demand”?

Jason Tan, however, supported the expansion of Changi Airport via Terminal 5:

Being forward thinking with a measure of risk is what will take us forward. Ask any entrepreneur, they do not calculate all their risk and allow the fear of risk to cripple them, but take measure risk and with foresight run ahead and take the lead. That is the different between success people and other. He former focus on opportunity and the other focus on risk.

Octovan Spartan Foo also supported the move to expand Changi Airport:

Yes it’s very expensive, I agree, but… […] If not, how to cope with the rising demands? How to boost Singapore tourism to earn money? And building [a new terminal at the] airport = more job opportunities for security industry, retail industry, construction industry also, among other sectors… At the end of the day, Singapore’s economy will still benefit from this [new terminal at the] airport.

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