Six blocks in opposition-held Hougang selected for lift upgrading
By Hoe Yeen Nie, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 03 October 2009 2216 hrs
SINGAPORE: Six blocks in opposition-held Hougang constituency have been selected for lift upgrading. This follows the announcement on Friday that Potong Pasir, another opposition ward, would also receive lift upgrading.
The opposition wards have never undergone the programme and the issue of upgrading was highlighted during the last General Elections in 2006.
As the government had only announced that opposition wards would be eligible for the programme three months ago, observers said on Saturday the speed at which the first blocks were selected took them by surprise.
Assistant Professor Eugene Tan, School of Law, Singapore Management University, said: "It'd be interesting to find out whether these precincts had the highest percentage of votes for the *** in the 2006 General Elections.
"My suspicion is that votes for upgrading are still in play, just that it's now being applied in a more nuanced way, in a way that doesn't get residents angry."
In Hougang, this suggestion was refuted by the People's Action Party (***) adviser to the grassroots organisations. Eric Low said blocks 351, 352, and 354 to 357 at Hougang Avenue 7 were chosen after he met the area's Member of Parliament Low Thia Khiang.
"We discussed, then we looked at the various reasons for our choice and finally, we came up with our common list. So this precinct that is the first precinct to be announced today is also agreed upon by Mr Low Thia Khiang," said Mr Low.
Mr Low Thia Khiang is out of the country and could not be reached for his comments.
Analysts said it is in the interest of all parties involved to ensure that lift upgrading goes ahead.
For the opposition MP, it means fulfilling an election promise to the residents, whereas the prominent involvement of the *** grassroots adviser could reap him political benefits when election time comes.
But in Potong Pasir, the situation is a little trickier as the town council has just S$4.5 million in its sinking funds.
"If the lift upgrading doesn't proceed because of a lack of funds, I think that would be a tremendous blow to the Member of Parliament... It is a reflection of the town council being unable to muster enough financial power to back up this programme," said Assistant Prof Tan.
The remaining opposition precincts that will be upgraded could be named over the next few months.