Requiem for a Library

NMP and regular Today contributor Siew Kum Hong’s latest column really made my day.

Last November, when asked if the cost of the tunnel was justified by its benefits, the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) director for road development and management Yap Cheng Chwee told this newspaper: “I don’t think it is fair to use a cost-benefit analysis to analyse the project. The main aim was better utilisation and parcellation of land around the area. We found that there was a need to redirect roads in the area and the tunnel was the solution. Benefits like time savings for motorists are a result of the primary mission to utilise land better.”

I found that answer baffling then, and I remain baffled now. How does the LTA make decisions, if not through a cost-benefit analysis? Is there any other basis for decisions? Surely the LTA does not spend millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money without considering the costs and benefits of such expenditure.

Read the article at TODAYOnline or on his blog.

Siew raises important questions about the decision to destroy the old National Library building for a tunnel. He points out that even in terms of money and time, the tunnel may not have created more costs than benefits. More importantly, he implicitly asks whether  Singaporeans truly privilege efficiency & convenience over memory & identity. Or is it just a couple of engineers in high places?

I’m still upset that the old Central Library had to be torn down for a road tunnel. As if to add insult to injury, there are also large steel letters on top of the Fort Canning Tunnel declaring to all the world that, yes, this is the “FORT CANNING TUNNEL”. As if we haven’t already displayed our state of ignorance enough.

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