October 8, 2008
And so the saga continues. First, the Serangoon Gardens residents cry foul over proposals to build a dormitory for foreign construction workers. The Ministry of National Development quickly responds by saying that no decisions have yet been made. A few days later it announces that the dormitory will be built but with provisos.
These provisos include: reducing the capacity of the dorm from the original 1000 to 600; and building a new road from the dorm to the Central Expressway (CTE) and Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 so that buses ferrying foreign workers to and from the dormitory will bypass the Serangoon Gardens estate. This would, presumably, render these foreign workers invisible to the good residents of Serangoon who are terrorized by foreign faces (unless these faces happen to be white).
Now residents who live in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 are complaining that the S$2million new road would create traffic and noise congestion. Complaints come from residents of Tai Hwan and Mei Hwan Estate, the same class bracket as those in Serangoon Gardens.
Two things stand out in this saga. First is the obvious. We all love and need foreign workers. But not in my backyard. That goes without saying.
The second is somewhat more intriguing. Why did the LTA or MND not anticipate the protest from Tai Hwan and Mei Hwan estate residents given the experience with Serangoon Gardens? Did these two government agencies not learn anything?
Furthermore, it is true that the new road that branches from Ang Mo Kio and the CTE will be full of traffic. Imagine trucks and buses ferrying workers adding to the rush hour jam on the CTE. Unless you stagger the times for ferrying workers in and out of their dorms, an impractical thing to do, the jam is inevitable.
But is a new road enough? Need not these workers shop for groceries or have leisure time? Surely there would be access from the dorm to Serangoon Gardens via a small gate in order for them to buy their necessities? If so, aren’t we back at square one?
The way the LTA and MND handled this tells us two things:
1. They work independently from each other. MND announces one thing, LTA assesses the possibilities, and the MND reconsiders its announcement. A real bureaucratic carousel.
2. Policy-making and decision-making in the civil service is a hit and hope affair. We want to build a dorm in Serangoon Gardens but they raised a storm, so let’s try somewhere else and hope residents there keep quiet.
And we pay these folks top dollar.