Singapore will build a new terminal that will double the capacity of Changi airport in a bid to retain its edge as a regional aviation hub, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.
The plans were announced in his annual National Day Rally policy address, in which he also vowed to improve housing affordability and revamp the healthcare system.
Construction work at the airport would begin soon and be completed in 12 to 15 years, Lee said.
"T5 [Terminal 5] sounds like a terminal, but it is actually a whole airport by itself, as big as today's Changi airport," he said.
He did not reveal the cost of the new facility, but said it would include a third runway that would double the capacity of Changi, which handled 51.2 million passengers last year.
Changi airport, named the world's best by Britain-based consultancy Skytrax this year, currently has three terminals with a total capacity of 66 million passengers a year.
Lee noted that Malaysia's Kuala Lumpur international airport and Thailand's Suvarnabhumi airport were planning to expand.
"The question is do we want to stay this vibrant hub of Southeast Asia, or do we want to let somebody take over our position, our business and our jobs?" Lee asked.
Lee, 61, is stepping up measures to ease concerns of Singaporeans who have been buffeted by infrastructure strains, rising living costs and greater competition for jobs, education and housing. The prime minister said the country was at a "turning point" and must make a "strategic shift" in its approach to nation building.
The government would "strengthen social safety nets, assure people that whatever happens to you, you can get the essential social services that you need, especially health care," Lee said.
Coverage under the government insurance scheme, MediShield, would no longer stop at 90 and would be expanded to include even those with preexisting illnesses, he said.
Lee is trying to steer the economy through an ageing population and a declining overseas-worker supply by prodding companies to produce more with less manpower and hire older Singaporeans, as well as increasing the birth rate. The foreign labour shortage is set to worsen as he pursues a four-year campaign to reduce reliance on such workers.
"The foreign worker issue is complex and government cannot meet all the demands and there's no perfect solution but we'll definitely help small and medium-sized enterprises find a way to make it," Lee said.
He also elaborated on plans to free up 800 hectares of space for homes and offices by moving a military airbase to the eastern part of Singapore.
More land would also be available after 2027 when the lease for ports at Tanjong Pagar near the central business district expired and operations moved to the island's southwest, Lee said.
Bloomberg, Agence France-Presse