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Spending by Ministry of Home Affairs to hit 1.3% of GDP in 5 years (Amended)
GOVERNMENT spending on fighting crime is set to rise to around 1.3 per cent of nominal GDP yearly over the next five years, up from 1.1 per cent now.
Alerting Parliament to an increase in cyber crimes, the ever- present threat of terrorism and a higher demand for emergency medical services as the population ages, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said on Friday that the Ministry of Home Affairs' spending in financial year 2015 alone will jump 11.7 per cent to 1.2 per cent of GDP.
"With greater certainty and a higher level of funding, we can make long-term plans, develop our forces more systematically, build stronger operational capabilities, as well as strengthen community partnerships," he said during the debate on MHA's expenditure plans.
The ministry's projected spending for FY2015 totals about S$5 billion, up from an estimated S$4.5 billion for FY2014.
Preliminary official figures put Singapore's GDP last year at S$390.1 billion at current prices. GDP is likely to grow 2-4 per cent in the next few years.
Part of MHA's increased outlays will go to beef up the Home Team, which has seen the number of its officers jump from about 19,300 to 24,700 over the past years.
Mr Teo, who is also the Minister of Home Affairs, indicated that 2,000 more officers will be added in the next five years to cope with the rising traffic through Singapore's immigration checkpoints, boost frontline policing and emergency medical services and speed up response to public order incidents and fires.
He said that the Special Operations Command (SOC) started hiring last year and it aims to sign up 150 officers by end-2015. By 2017, the SOC will have 300 more officers, according to him.
Singapore's overall crime rate of 589 cases for every 100,000 people remains low compared to major cities such as London, Sydney, Tokyo and Hong Kong.
Mr Teo noted that the Economist Intelligence Unit's recent Safe Cities Index 2015 ranked Singapore top for personal safety, which measures crime, police engagement and perception of safety. And this is in spite of a 7.4 per cent spike in the number of crime cases in 2104 from 2013.
Mr Teo said that the jump in last year's crime rate was driven largely by a rise in online crimes. Unlicensed moneylending harassments tumbled to under 6,000 cases in 2014, a sharp fall from 2009 when there was almost 18,000 cases. Drug abuses also slipped 14 per cent from 2013 to 2014, but Mr Teo said that MHA remains concerned about younger people getting involved in drugs. Arrests for immigration offences, fatal traffic accidents and fatalities also fell in 2014.
And Singapore's fire fatality rate is lower than cities such as New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong, according to him.
Mr Teo said that MHA's key challenges ahead lie in three areas - terrorism, cyber crime and domestic developments driven in part by Singapore's changing demographics.
To tackle them, MHA will take a three-pronged approach - make full use of the potential of the Home Team officers; invest much more in systems and technology; and take community partnership to the next level.
"We will significantly step up our investments to leverage systems and technology as force multipliers," Mr Teo said. "We expect to increase our development expenditure gradually from about 8 per cent of expenditure in the past five years to about 20 per cent over the next five years."
MHA will also build a new police divisional headquarters and two fire stations in the next five years.
Beyond the police cameras already installed in 10,000 HDB blocks and multi-storey carparks, the Home Team will tap the five million smartphone cameras carried by Singaporeans and installed in vehicles.
"The police will take a major step to improve its existing platforms for members of the public to send in videos on traffic violations and crime-related information," Mr Teo said.
In an earlier version of the story, the figure stated in paragraph 7 was 5,000. It should have been 2,000. We are sorry for the error.