Transportation expenditure has more than doubled over the past few years, as plans to build new airport terminals, construct a new mega port, and improve our public transportation system are underway.
More than 1 billion passengers, connectivity to 380 cities worldwide, and one flight every 90 seconds.
That’s how far Changi Airport has come since it began operations in 1981. Millions have passed through Changi’s corridors and marvelled at its efficiency, grace, and modern charm.
Changi Airport, voted the world’s best airport for five years in a row, is a Singapore icon and a testament to the economic vibrancy of a tiny island nation-state, which is soaring high despite its size.
But even crown jewels need polishing. Over the years, we have added new terminals to the airport to boost its capacity. In October 2017, Terminal 4 began operations, while retail and lifestyle complex Jewel Changi Airport will open in 2019. Terminal 5 is in the process of being built. When ready, Terminal 5 will allow Changi to handle up to 135 passengers a year.
Changi Airport is just one of the many investments in infrastructure that Singapore has made over the years. But the improvements are not just cosmetic – they serve to boost our connectivity, which establishes the country as a transport hub for Asia, This, in turn, contributes to our economy and generates thousands of good jobs for Singaporeans.
In 2015, the aviation sector accounted for 3 per cent of Singapore’s gross domestic product and employs over 50,000 workers.
Over the past few years, total expenditure on transportation has more than doubled from $4.47 billion from 2011 to $9.17 billion in 2017.
Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for National Development and Second Minister for Finance, noted recently that the major infrastructure projects that will unfold over the next 10 years will put the national economy on an even stronger footing.
For instance, the port of Singapore is essential to global maritime trade, with the industry accounting for 7 per cent of the economy. As one of the world’s busiest ports, it handles more than 130,000 vessels annually, carrying goods from Europe to Asia and back.
To ensure that Singapore continues to be at the forefront of maritime trade, we are investing to transform Tuas into a mega sea port. Equipped with the latest technology, such as big data analytics and smart computing, the upgraded ports will position Singapore for the future.
In 2015, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore signed a $2.42 billion agreement for works on Tuas Terminal Phase 1, where contractors will dredge the waters, construct the wharves and reclaim 294 hectares of land. It will be completed by 2021. When fully completed in 2040, the new Tuas Terminal will be twice the size of Ang Mo Kio town, and it will be able to handle more than double what the terminal handled in 2016.
Better infrastructure for smoother connectivity within and from Singapore
Apart from improving connectivity to the region and the rest of the world, connectivity within Singapore has also been given a new upgrade.
A S$1.1 billion five-year Bus Service Enhancement Programme, which added 1,000 government-funded buses to the country’s roads, was completed in 2017.
The capacity of 70 per cent of bus services here, or 218 bus services, have been boosted since the programme was rolled out in 2012. This was achieved by deploying more double-decker buses and increasing trip frequencies.
Bus intervals have been shaved from 30 minutes to 15 minutes, thanks to the programme, alongside the transition to the Government’s bus contracting model in 2014 where operators have to meet higher service standards. Intervals for feeder services during peak periods have also been trimmed to six to eight minutes, from more than 10.
The Government also expects to spend more than S$20 billion over the next five years (from 2017) to almost double the train network by 2030, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat has said.
Major projects include building 30 more MRT stations as part of the Cross Island Line. This enhancement of Singapore’s public transport infrastructure will put eight in 10 households within a 10-minute walk of a rail station.
Work is also underway to improve the performance of the current train services, by replacing the sleepers, third rail, and signalling system of the oldest North-South and East-West Lines.
Trials are underway to test autonomous vehicles in several neighbourhoods. Driverless cars could soon be zipping down the Pan Island Expressway, ferrying families to birthday parties and family reunions.
Meanwhile, we are also further enhancing transport links to Malaysia through better rail connectivity.
The planned 340km-long high-speed rail line, which is estimated to cost S$14.8 billion (RM40 billion) to build, travel time from Jurong East in Singapore to the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur is expected to shorten to as little as 90 minutes, with seven stops in Malaysia.
In addition, both countries inked an agreement in Jan 2018 to build the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link. Set to open by 31 Dec 2024, the 4km cross-border MRT line would allow commuters to travel seamlessly between Woodlands North and Johor Bahru.
Infrastructure development goes beyond building up transport links. We are also investing in major projects, such as the Remaking our Heartland programme to transform towns and districts in Singapore, building new schools and hospitals, and developing regional centres such as Woodlands and Jurong.
These investments are costly but crucial. They serve to boost our economy, create jobs, benefit Singaporean families, and represent the confidence we have in the country’s future.
Meanwhile, national resources are finite, and there needs to be careful and prudent investments to ensure that public funds are spent judiciously, balancing different priorities.
For infrastructure spending, investments are meant for the long-term and targeted at preparing Singapore for the future. Singapore is able to do this because decisions to spend are always guided by the key principle of fiscal sustainability - spending only what the country can afford, while providing for a better future for everyone.
This way, we ensure that future generations of Singaporeans benefit from decisions today.