Parliament Addresses the Demise of TPP, Fake Food, Empty Apartments and Healthcare

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Here are some of the parliament questions that were filed in the last Parliament sitting (Note: we report the parliamentary Q&As as is as opposed to the MSM's abridged versions to help give you, our readers, a clearer idea on what is being done in the house in your name.)
What the demise of the TPP means for the Singaporean economy
Filed by Mr Ang Wei Neng: To ask the Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) what is the impact on Singapore's economy in the wake of the challenging global trade situation including the US' intention to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the threat of a trade war between the US and China and increasing calls for protectionism by many developed countries.
Filed by Assoc Prof Randolph Tan: To ask the Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) whether the Ministry has a strategy to deal with the potential impact to Singapore's trade from the decision by the new US administration to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Filed by Mr Pritam Singh: To ask the Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) (a) whether the Government will continue to pursue the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with like-minded countries; and (b) what is the Government's assessment of the efficacy of the TPP without the participation of the United States.
Reply: We are witnessing a rise in anti-globalisation sentiments in Europe and the United States. If protectionist approaches become the norm or a trade war between major economies ensues, global trade will be adversely affected, with knock-on effects on economic growth worldwide. 
Small and open economies like Singapore are especially vulnerable. Protectionist barriers to trade, would curtail Singapore’s ability to tap on demand in export markets or serve as an intermediary for global trade flows. This would have an adverse impact on our economy, of which two thirds of our GDP is driven by external demand.
On the other hand, our external linkages can also make us more resilient in facing these headwinds. Over the years, we have carefully built up our regional and global connectivity with multiple regions across the world. We have also developed an efficient, stable, pro-business environment, with effective and consistent business and investment frameworks. This allows us to tap on the growth opportunities in Asia and elsewhere, for mutual benefit with like-minded partners. Amidst the current rise of anti-trade sentiments, Singapore will stay the course to remain open and connected, to be an attractive global city that welcomes the best companies, talent and investments. 
We remain firmly committed to pursuing a rules-based global trading system and achieving greater regional integration. We will do our part to ensure that markets remain open, so that companies in Singapore can continue to scale and internationalise.
The agreement that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) parties negotiated was one of several such pathways to achieve stronger trade linkages that will promote growth opportunities and job creation in the member countries. With the US’ withdrawal, the TPP agreement as signed cannot come into effect. This is a setback for the global trade liberalising agenda but need not be the ultimate outcome.  Each TPP partner will now have to carefully study the new balance of benefits without the US' participation, and consider the value of an agreement among the remaining 11 partners.  In addition to consulting with other TPP partners to find a mutually beneficial pathway forward, Singapore is also actively engaged in other regional integration initiatives such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). 
Madam Speaker, we will also continue to work with like-minded partners at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as advocates of a rules-based multilateral trading system. On the bilateral front, Singapore has an existing network of 21 Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) in force, including with eight TPP countries, and the US. These speak to our deep ties with key trading partners and will help us stay connected as the environment evolves. We will also actively pursue other forms of economic cooperation initiatives, including industrial parks and other projects in the region, to create more opportunities for our companies to collaborate and grow. 
Has there been other similar cases of "fake food" like the recent hoax involving NTUC jasmine rice case and what does the government do in regards to those matters.
Filed by Er Dr Lee Bee Wah: To ask the Minister for National Development: (a) how many cases of fake food imported from overseas have been detected by AVA over the past three years; (b) what is the breakdown of the country of origin in these cases; and (c) what action has been taken against the suppliers. 
Reply: The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) has not detected any cases of fake food products in Singapore to date. Fake food is defined as food that is made from ingredients that are not edible and can be hazardous when consumed. 
The Government places great importance in ensuring that our food is safe. In addition to sampling food imports for safety tests, AVA also conducts checks to ensure that food is accurately labelled. From 2014 to 2016, AVA took enforcement action against 26 cases of mislabelling of food products, including honey, black moss and chai seeds. The traders involved were warned or fined, and required to correct the labels. 
The maximum penalty for importing fake food or mislabelling food products is a fine not exceeding $10,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 months or both.
What is the number of empty apartments thanks to the current slump in the property market
Filed by Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar: To ask the Minister for National Development:
(a) to date, how many unsold dwelling units built by property developers are there still available in the market; (b) how many dwelling units are there available in the market put up for sale by home owners; and (c) whether the Ministry will consider slowing down or halting the sale of land parcels for residential development in light of the current sluggish property market. 
Reply: At the end of 2016, there were about 9,700 unsold private dwelling units, including from executive condominium developments, which have been launched for sale by developers. These include completed and uncompleted units. 
If we include those that have received planning approvals but have not yet been launched for sale, the figure is about 25,000 dwelling units. This is a historical low since the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) started compiling such data in 2001. 
The Member also asked about the number of dwelling units put up for sale by home-owners. URA does not compile such data as home-owners are not required to report their intention to sell their homes. 
The demand for private housing remains robust. In 2016, developers sold about 12,000 dwelling units, or 20% more than the approximately 10,000 units sold in 2015. Apart from housing demand, the Government considers other factors such as overall economic and property market conditions to determine the housing supply to be provided in each Government Land Sales (GLS) programme. 
As the current inventory of unsold units is at a historical low, it is important to maintain a healthy level of housing supply to mitigate any shortages in the future. We do not have immediate plans to slow down or halt the supply of private housing through the GLS programme.
Reorganisation of Healthcare Clusters
Filed by Assoc Prof Daniel Goh Pei Siong: To ask the Minister for Health (a) how much will the re-organisation of the healthcare clusters cost; (b) what are the considerations for re-organisation into the three clusters instead of two or more than three; (c) what additional concrete benefits of the re-organisation such as shorter waiting times for appointments, are there for patients.
Reply: We announced in 2012 Healthcare 2020, which outlined our plan to expand capacity, improve quality and enhance the affordability of healthcare services.  Even as we implement Healthcare 2020, we need to plan ahead further into the future.  Last year, I announced three key shifts to prepare for our healthcare needs beyond 2020: beyond hospital to community, beyond quality to value and beyond healthcare to health.  This transformation is necessary as our healthcare needs will grow in volume and complexity due to our ageing population and increased chronic disease burden, among others. For this reason, we need to organize ourselves better so that we can implement the transformation more swiftly and decisively.
The public healthcare system will be reorganised into three integrated clusters, each having a fuller range of facilities, capabilities, services and networks across different care settings.  This will enable them to deliver more comprehensive and person-centered health promotion, disease prevention, curative and rehabilitative care for the population in their respective regions.
Primary care will play an increasingly important role in our care transformation.  After reorganisation, each cluster will have a group of polyclinics which, together with General Practitioner partners and community partners, can anchor care more firmly in primary and community settings.  Collectively, these changes will ultimately benefit Singaporeans by providing more appropriate care and bringing care closer to them.      
In addition to greater economies of scale, the reorganisation will also facilitate scaling up of programmes and services by the integrated clusters, and their collaborations with the private sector and community partners, across a wider region to benefit more Singaporeans.
The integrated clusters will be able to tap on a larger pool of manpower resources and talents.  They will also be able to offer their employees a wider and deeper range of professional development opportunities, and a broader platform for cross-learning that will benefit staff and our patients.

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