Straits Times: $100k offered but Low wants $381k to improve Hougang

BY PEH SHING HUEI

OPPOSITION MP Low Thia Khiang finds the $100,000 offer from his PAP opponent to improve Hougang for the elderly and handicapped “grossly insufficient”.

He urged the Government to spend $381,000 – an estimate which his town council believes is necessary for building ramps and handrails in the ward’s HDB estates.

“I am confident that this is affordable, as just a year ago during the General Election campaign, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong had said that $100 million for upgrading Hougang constituency had been set aside,” he said.

The statement he issued came a day after The Straits Times reported that for the first time, Singapore’s two opposition MPs and their PAP rivals are working together.

They are teaming up to create a barrier-free environment in Hougang and Potong Pasir, an upgrade that is part of a nation-wide project to make HDB estates elderly- and disabled-friendly by 2011.

In the 2006 elections, SM Goh had pledged $100 million to improve Hougang but only if the People Action Party’s (PAP) candidate, Mr Eric Low, won the poll. But the PAP man lost to incumbent Low Thia Khiang, the Workers’ Party (WP) leader.

Similarly, the PAP’s man in Potong Pasir, Mr Sitoh Yih Pin, lost to incumbent Chiam See Tong of the Singapore Democratic Alliance.

Yesterday, Mr Sitoh told The Straits Times that a joint committee has been set up for the project, with representatives from his grassroots and Mr Chiam’s town council.

In Hougang, Mr Low Thia Khiang said yesterday that a proposal from his town council was submitted to Mr Eric Low in July, and he has not heard from him since.

The WP leader added that contrary to what Mr Eric Low had said, he has not accepted the $100,000 offer from the Government.

Mr Eric Low was reported telling The Straits Times that he has funds of about $100,000 to build ramps and handrails in the ward.

But yesterday, he clarified that the sum was an estimate from him and it is Mr Low Thia Khiang’s “prerogative” to ask for more.

“The Minister for National Development will have to approve it. I’m just the supporter,” he said.

As the adviser to the Hougang grassroots, Mr Eric Low, and not Mr Low Thia Khiang, has access to the Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC) fund, which will be used for the barrier-free works.

The CIPC, which reports directly to the Minister for National Development, disburses funds for minor improvements to estates.

On the point that Hougang’s town council had submitted a proposal, Mr Eric Low said he had not replied to it because he needed to go through the plans.

“Some of what he has submitted is for rebuilding, which is cyclical works. I won’t support that,” he said, adding that he did not want to get into a slinging match with his opponent.

“This is for Hougang residents. I don’t want to make it a political thing.”

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