Foreign workers dorm in Serangoon Gardens not definite

Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan has stressed that no decision has been made regarding the building of foreign worker dormitories in Serangoon Gardens.

Addressing the issue at a media conference on Wednesday, Mr Mah emphasised that the proposal was still in the initial stages.

He said the different ministries would first conduct a technical feasibility study at the location.

Should the site be found appropriate, a dialogue will be held between the government and grassroots leaders.

In the case of Serangoon Gardens, Mr Mah said it was unfortunate that an email was leaked, resulting in miscommunication.

“There was a miscommunication, an email went out that should not, it was not supposed to be that we had already decided, that was a miscommunication. There was no decision yet at that time to even shortlist it as a temporary dorm site, because we had not even finished the technical evaluation. So this gave rise to a lot of suspicion that we had already made up our mind,” he said.

He added that concerns raised by the residents will be factored into any decision made by his ministry.

Should a decision be made to go ahead with the temporary dormitories at Serangoon Gardens, Mr Mah said it will be present for three to five years.

Serangoon Gardens is one of a few vacant state properties currently being studied.

Mr Mah said the total number of sites numbered less than 10, and all were either near or within residential areas.

When asked for the location of these sites being studied, Mr Mah declined to comment.

Mr Mah said these temporary dormitories were necessary to house the large number of foreign workers in Singapore in the interim period, before permanent housing was built.

Permanent dormitories are expected to be ready by 2010 or 2011.

Putting things in perspective, Mr Mah said Singapore would be worse off without foreign workers.

The challenge is in balancing the needs of these workers and those of Singaporeans.

There are 577,000 foreign workers in Singapore excluding maids. And the National Development Ministry expects more to enter Singapore in the next few years.

“We plan for a certain level of increase but we never expected the demand to go up so high. (If) we don’t have the facilities in place, therefore we don’t allow the foreign workers in, that would affect many of our major projects,” said Mr Mah.

The minister is also against the idea of segregation, saying that more can be done to help facilitate the co-existence of Singaporeans and foreign workers.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 17 Sep 2008

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