SINGAPORE : Bedok New Town, located in the eastern part of Singapore, is getting another facelift.
Senior Minister S Jayakumar said the next five-year upgrading plan for the town will be revealed in January.
Prof Jayakumar was speaking on Thursday evening at a community event to recognise his 30-year contribution as MP for the estate.
Bedok is one of the older estates in Singapore, and as a Member of Parliament since 1980, Prof Jayakumar has witnessed the transformation first hand.
In many ways, the transformation of Bedok mirrors land-scarce Singapore. There was massive land reclamation, and in place of the villages and coconut plantations emerged a modern housing estate.
Prof Jayakumar said: “In the early years when I first came here, people were not keen to come to Bedok. Why? It was 'ulu' (undeveloped)! Remember, we did not have the expressway, we did not have the MRT and also there were all sorts of ghost stories – because when there were excavations, they dug up bodies of people who had been killed by the Japanese during the Japanese occupation.”
The estate is now home to some 59,000 housing units and nearly 200,000 residents.
The last upgrading programme was rolled out five years ago.
Prof Jayakumar, who is MP for the ward, said his team of MPs has delivered on the upgrading promise. Nearly all flats in Bedok have been upgraded, including lifts fitted.
The latest transformation is in the town centre, with markets and shops rejuvenated.
Prof Jayakumar, however, gave little away about the latest estate renewal plan.
He said: “I have to keep the residents in suspense, because this will be announced fairly soon, in January. But I wanted to address the concerns of some residents – well, have we done everything that needs to be done? There's no more scope for improvement.
“That is not so, there's nothing that cannot be improved on, and we have to think of other ways to improve the physical and the non-physical. The physical part of it is one aspect, the other side is to make sure that it does not just be a concrete jungle.
“You have to find activities so that the young, old, neighbours get together, mixing. It's not easy because the older folks in Bedok who were in the villages, they were quite used to the idea of the kampong spirit. In the younger generation, how do you replicate that? It's easier said than done.”
He added: “Upgrading is important for all estates, particularly for estates where majority of the flats are more than 20 years old. So there has to be constant tending to the needs of the residents, other than just ad-hoc. They compare with newer estates. So you have to keep up as it were, you have to see how new facilities can be created for different age groups.
“So I think the task of an MP is to have a good sense of what kind of upgrading requirements other than of course to the blocks, to the flats to the precincts so I think this is work in progress, we have to be attuned to the needs of the residents.”
When asked if he will be standing in the next general election, due by February 2012, the 71-year-old said it is his duty to serve, if the Prime Minister decides to field him as a candidate.
However, he said given that he has served as an MP for so many years, it would be good to make way for new blood in the ruling People's Action Party.
Prof Jayakumar, Senior Minister and MP for East Coast GRC, said: “We believe in rejuvenation and self renewal. In fact, I chair the party's committee which interviews all potential candidates and as Prime Minister announced we have a very good slate of candidates.
“On the other hand if I were to step down, I have no qualms about it. Why? Because I'm confident that Bedok and the GRC will be in very strong hands and we have a strong team to look after Bedok.”
Prof Jayakumar currently leads a team of five MPs for the East Coast Group Representation Constituency, which includes one other cabinet minister.
Channel News Asia