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Day 2 of debate on government spending: What you need to know

The Committee of Supply debates resumed for the second day in Parliament on Thursday (March 3), following the end of a debate over the Budget earlier this week. Fielding questions were ministers overseeing the Ministry of Defence (Mindef), Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Ministry of Law (MinLaw).

A view of Parliament House against the backdrop of the Central Business District in Singapore.

A view of Parliament House against the backdrop of the Central Business District in Singapore.

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  • Debates on government spending for the various ministries resumed for the second day in Parliament
  • Some announcements included a more-than-doubling of police cameras in Singapore and a possible increase in the quota for Muslims’ Haj pilgrimage to Mecca
  • Ministers also laid out the Government’s position on various issues including the death penalty for drug traffickers and the tensions between major world powers

SINGAPORE — The Committee of Supply debates resumed for the second day in Parliament on Thursday (March 3), following the end of a debate over the Budget earlier this week.

The debates allow Parliament to examine each ministry’s plans. Members of Parliament file “cuts” to speak on issues under the various government ministries’ purview.

Among the government leaders that fielded questions on Thursday were ministers overseeing the Ministry of Defence (Mindef), Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Ministry of Law (MinLaw).

Announcements made on Thursday included a more-than-doubling of police cameras in Singapore and a possible increase in the quota for Singaporean Muslims’ Haj pilgrimage to Mecca.

Ministers also laid out the Government’s position on various issues including the death penalty for drug traffickers and the tensions between major world powers, including the United States, China and Russia.

The following are what you need to know.

1. MINDEF 

Make-up pay claims: From the second half of 2022, operationally ready national servicemen and their employers will no longer need to submit claims and supporting documents for operational ready national service (ORNS) activities such as in-camp training.

Insurance coverage doubled: In 2023, the group term life and group personal accident core insurance coverage for Mindef and MHA servicemen will be doubled from S$150,000 to S$300,000 for each insurance plan.

Redeployment during operationally ready national service cycle: From 2022, Mindef and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will allow eligible NSmen with relevant expertise to be redeployed at any point in their ORNS cycle, instead of only after they have served a minimum of two high-key in-camp trainings and five ORNS years. 

Enterprise Safety Information System: SAF is developing the next-generation safety information system that uses digital technologies and data-driven safety management to better support the safety requirements in today’s world. This system takes safety information from across SAF and uses data analytics to highlight areas of safety concerns to predict and prevent potential accidents.

Heat Resilience and Performance Centre: SAF is working with the National University of Singapore and the DSO National Laboratories to establish the Heat Resilience and Performance Centre later this year to research the impact of rising ambient heat to SAF’s operations and training.

2. MFA

Multilateralism and US-China relations: In his speech, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said that although the Government wants stronger ties with both the United States and China, Singapore will “make decisions based on our national interests and make it clear that we are not a proxy, vassal state or cat’s paw of any country”.

He was addressing MPs’ concerns about the tensions between US and China, as well as the relevance of multilateral organisations such as the United Nations, considering that superpowers that are also founding members, including Russia, flout international rules.

Dr Balakrishnan said that multilateralism and economic integration have been a formula for peace and prosperity.

Small states such as Singapore value a system where sovereign states have equal rights, where disputes can be settled in accordance with international law and not be subject to “rules of the jungle where might is right” or to be forced to choose between big powers, he added.

Possible increase in Haj pilgrimage quota: In a recent phone call with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong requested that the quota for Singaporean Muslims’ Haj pilgrimage to Mecca be increased, Dr Maliki Osman said.

The Second Minister for Foreign Affairs added in Malay: “We look forward to receiving more details on whether Haj 2022 will be open to international pilgrims and also an increase in our Haj quota.”

Support for Palestine: Giving an update, Dr Maliki said that Singapore has doubled the Enhanced Technical Assistance Package to support capacity building in Palestine from S$5 million to S$10 million in 2016, benefiting more than 600 Palestinian officials who have taken part in courses in public administration, economic development and urban development. These courses have continued during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Helping stranded Singaporeans return home: Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, MFA has assisted more than 4,600 Singaporeans from around the world to come home in the midst of the unpredictable nature of the infectious disease and border controls. This included more than 450 Singaporeans stranded in Malaysia since March 2020, Ms Sim Ann, who is Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said. 

Medical help rendered to other countries: Dr Balakrishnan said that more than 500 tonnes of liquid oxygen were provided to Indonesia through Singapore’s “Oxygen Shuttle” programme.

A batch of 256 oxygen cylinders was sent to India to support the South Asian country’s pandemic response at the height of its second wave last April, he added.

Singapore also gave out hundreds of thousands of Covid-19 vaccine doses to neighbouring countries including 120,000 doses to Batam and the Riau Islands in Indonesia, 100,000 to Malaysia and 200,000 to Brunei. 

3. MHA

Fighting the drug problem: Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam spoke about the death penalty for offenders who traffic drugs above certain thresholds in his speech. He revealed that MHA did a study in 2021 on persons from the region where most arrested drug traffickers originated in recent years. It found that a majority believed that capital punishment was effective in deterring traffickers and those who commit other serious crime offences.

Singapore’s rehabilitation approach: In 2022, the Government will expand the TAP (Train and Place) and Grow initiative to the food services sector. The scheme involves setting up training academies in prison in partnership with the various sectors, and inmates will be offered jobs by partner employers upon release.

The Yellow Ribbon Project will also launch a Digital Literacy Masterplan for inmates to gain basic digital skills in prison, which is estimated to benefit around 750 inmates each year. A package to support the digital learning of inmates is being developed as well to prepare inmates for their emplacement in the community.

Mr Shanmugam revealed that there were about 3,400 people undergoing rehabilitation in community-based programmes at the end of last year, double the number five years ago. Last year, close to 90 per cent of inmates in these programmes completed them successfully.

Community Supervision Skills sessions: By March 2023, the Central Narcotics Bureau will progressively roll out the Community Supervision Skills programme islandwide.

Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Minister of State for Home Affairs, said that the programme has been piloted since 2019 and feedback to it has been positive.

The programme helps former drug abusers pursue drug-free lives by aiding them in their financial, accommodation and other reintegration needs.

Police cameras: By 2030, the Singapore Police Force will expand its camera networks to more than 200,000 cameras, up from the 90,000 cameras installed at public housing blocks, multi-storey car parks, town centres, neighbourhood centres and hawker centres as of the end of last year.

These cameras have helped the authorities solve more than 6,000 cases by the end of last year, and has also deterred criminals, Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo said.

SCDF nationwide sensor grid: In the next few years, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) will implement a real-time 24-7 nationwide sensor grid to detect hazardous materials. Earlier detection of such harmful materials will allow the organisation to “quickly dispatch resources to investigate and manage the situation”, Mrs Teo said. 

Video calls available for emergency responders: Starting from the first quarter next year, operation centres for emergency responders will be able to receive video calls from people who dial 999 or 995, which will allow operators to observe what is happening from the caller’s viewpoint and help responders react quicker and better.

Automated immigration clearance lanes for most travellers: The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) will introduce an “automated clearance initiative” this year to allow more visitors to use automated clearance facilities without the need for prior application, so long as they are eligible.

Most passengers, residents, long-term pass holders, and visitors will be cleared through automated lanes in the passenger halls in the longer term, Mrs Teo said.

ICA will also be making more e-services, such as the application of identity cards, passports and extension of visit pass available on its MyICA mobile app.

Tackling errant debt collectors: MHA intends to introduce a debt collection regulatory framework to address public disorder and disamenities caused by debt collection activities, Mr Desmond Tan said. The Minister for State for Home Affairs added: “This framework will involve a licensing regime, and introduce restrictions on what debt collectors can or cannot do.” 

Changes to allow prosecution of more money mules: Mr Tan revealed that a large proportion of investigations into money mules do not result in prosecutions because of “inherent difficulties” in proving the money mule’s intent to participate in moving money for scam syndicates.

To address this, MHA will be making amendments to the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act, to allow money laundering offences to be made out at lower levels of culpability. The changes are scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year.

4. MINLAW

Reforms to the Family Justice System: MinLaw is working with the Ministry of Social and Family Development and the Family Justice Courts to study improvements to make family proceedings less acrimonious, simpler, more efficient and affordable. The changes will also include enhancements to the process of enforcing payment of maintenance orders.

Reforms to the Civil Enforcement Framework: MinLaw is studying proposals to make the enforcement of civil judgements simpler and more streamlined. This is in response to feedback that the current process is expensive and difficult to navigate.

Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong said that any such change will benefit small- and medium-sized enterprises and litigants-in-person who may find the current process expensive and difficult to navigate. 

Transforming former schools and state properties: The former campus of Loyang Primary School in Pasir Ris will be transformed with its first plot repurposed for use by a childcare centre. MinLaw and the Singapore Land Authority will also rejuvenate the Gillman Barracks arts site in Alexandra, a state property, to introduce creative lifestyle concepts to drive footfall.

Related topics

Parliament Budget 2022 MHA minlaw MFA Mindef

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