Malaysia, Singapore and the Half/Crooked/Scenic Bridge

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posted on Mar, 23 2006 @ 03:00 PM
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Malaysia and Singapore, just like any other country that neighbour each other have their disputes. There's that issue of water supply which is now somewhat resolved (I think). Then there's Pulau Batu Putih (Pedra Branca), a rock in the middle of the South China Sea that both countries claim. That issue has been submitted to the International Court of Justice and will be heard next year. Use of Malaysian airspace by Singaporean aircraft is another issue that is often flown (pun intended).

Now we have this bridge dispute. This isn’t a recent issue. It has been going on for quite some years now. A little over 6 or 7 years, I’m not so certain… I wasn’t interested in politics back then. There have been talks, proposals, more talks, more negotiations, talks again… it hasn’t really gone anywhere.

The problem is a simple one. Malaysia wants to replace the 80-year old causeway with a spanking new bridge. Singapore appears uninterested.

Malaysia says the new bridge will allow water to flow again in the Straits of Johor, thereby improving the marine ecology and reducing the stagnation and the stench. Malaysia also hopes the new bridge will reduce traffic congestion in Johor Bahru, which is across the causeway from Singapore. Singapore’s objection is over the cost of building a new bridge as opposed to adding lanes to the existing causeway. At least that’s all the info that I could find.

Before I continue, let me provide some background as to why it’s called ‘the crooked bridge’


Malaysia, Singapore nearing end to bridge dispute

[…]
In 2000, when Singapore rejected Malaysia's proposal to jointly build a new bridge to replace an existing ageing causeway, former premier Mahathir Mohamad came up with the idea of what became known as "the crooked half-bridge".
The 1.45 kilometre (0.9 mile) half-bridge would carry an eight-lane highway some 25 metres (82 feet) above the strait before curving and descending gently to link up with the causeway from Singapore at the border between the two countries.

Please visit the link provided for the complete story.


These days the media on the Malaysian side are calling it ‘the scenic bridge’, because ‘crooked’ obviously have negative connotations. At any rate, early this year Malaysia announced that it would proceed unilaterally with it’s half of the bridge. This didn’t sit too well with Singapore.


Half-Bridge Can Have Serious Implications, Says S'pore
SINGAPORE, March 2 (Bernama) -- Singapore reiterated Thursday that any unilateral move by Malaysia to demolish its half of the causeway and replace it with a half-bridge will bring about serious implications, "however scenic" the bridge may be.

Foreign Minister George Yeo said today the republic had explained the matter to Kuala Lumpur through a third party note.

"We have explained to Malaysia the serious implications of a unilateral move by Malaysia to demolish its side of the causeway and replace it with a crooked bridge, however scenic," he said in Parliament.

Please visit the link provided for the complete story.


Unfortunately the article didn’t do a good job at explaining what the ‘serious implications’ were. Instead it went on talking about ‘low hanging fruits’ (??)

No matter, negotiations went on and it appeared that the end to the dispute was near (see the first article by AFP above, or the one by Reuters below)


Malaysia, Singapore near pact to end spats –report
KUALA LUMPUR, March 12 (Reuters) - Malaysia and Singapore have moved closer to resolving longstanding disputes, including a row over a bridge to replace a causeway linking the two nations, news agency Bernama said on Sunday.

This comes amid warmer ties between the two Southeast Asian states. Both sides have been locked in protracted talks over a number of bilateral issues, ranging from the supply of drinking water to the use of railway land.
"In principle, there have been several agreements achieved. Now we need to go into the details and make the agreements final," Bernama quoted Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar as saying in Malaysia's Johor state bordering Singapore.

Please visit the link provided for the complete story.


Or so it seemed. Personally I don’t know what’s going on anymore. Read the headlines, you’ll understand what I mean:

March 13, No compromise on sovereignty
- Because Singapore requested sale of sand and use of Malaysian airspace to ‘sweeten the deal’

March 18, Bridge differences to keep good ties, Singapore told
- The article didn’t say much, but from the tone of it, I’d surmise that the talks didn’t go so well

Understandably, this has gotten Malaysian MPs a bit peeved. Read on in the next snippet from a news piece that’s not exactly about the issue:


MPs Question AirAsia's Commitment To Nation's Interest
March 21

[…]

Badruddin said it was time for Malaysia to be firm with the city-state and not simply follow its dictates.

"They want water, we give water...they want durian, we give durian...they want durian without the skin, we give and throw the skin in Johor. Enough is enough.

"They were once part of Malaysia. Now they want to teach us. If we keep entertaining them we will end up the losers," he said.

[…]

Datuk Mohamed Aziz (BN-Sri Gading) said the question of selling sand or opening Malaysia's airspace did not arise after Malaysia decided it would proceed with a crooked bridge, now called the "scenic bridge".

"We want to tell the government, there is no need to think any more.

"We just go ahead with the crooked bridge, no need to worry about whether we have to sell sand or open up our airspace as the conditions set by Singapore are for a straight bridge," he said.

Please visit the link provided for the complete story.


Actually there are a lot more vocal remarks in that article. I just didn’t want to aggravate any Singaporeans here on the boards. The issue is out of the hands of both nations’ citizens.

After all those articles, we can summarize the situation as follows:

1. Malaysia wants to replace the 80 year old causeway with a new bridge. Reasons given are –

  • To improve the marine ecology by allowing the water in the Straits of Johor to flow
  • To reduce traffic congestion in Johor Bahru

2. Singapore is reluctant to replace the causeway with a bridge. Reasons given are –

  • Cost is higher than simply upgrading the causeway
  • Unspecified environmental concerns

3. Negotiations between the two countries are underway, but it is not moving anywhere

4. Malaysia has decide to proceed with it’s half of the bridge unilaterally


So what is all the fuss? Why is Singapore reluctant to cooperate with Malaysia in building a new bridge? Why are they stalling?

It’s not specified anywhere in the media, but I think the reasons are simple. The causeway has basically dammed up the Straits for a little over 80 years now. As a result, shipping traffic has to go around Singapore to get from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.

Singapore gets a lot of revenue from shipping traffic. Removing this dam/causeway will cause traffic to divert through the Straits of Johor, reducing traffic to Singapore and possibly increasing traffic to her rival port across the Strait. Both situations are not favourable to Singapore.

What will the end result be then? I honestly can’t say. All I’m sure of is that Singapore will not willingly cooperate, if my theory is right.

Fellow ATSer, what do you think? To any Singaporean members out there, what do you think?

Related Internet Links
Wikipedia - Straits of Johor
Sun2Surf - A bridge that stirs troubled waters
New Straits Times - Syed Nadzri: Making too many compromises

[edit - I can't seem to resize AND align the pic...]

[edit on 23-3-2006 by Beachcoma]




posted on Mar, 23 2006 @ 03:23 PM
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Dunno too much about the issue from a financial or political perspective, but I have been across the straits many times, so I'll add some thoughts:

Malaysia's concerns about pollution are understandable. When you look at Johor Bahru, there's quite a lot of development along the southern coast, and the pollution does seem to eddy near that side for some reason. The Singaporean side on the other hand is largely industrial rather than commercial, so the the pollution doesn't bother citizens to the same degree.

Regarding alternative shipping routes- I don't think this is a concern. My understanding is that the straits were never used for serious shipping, even before the causeway was built, because they are two shallow and more or less devoid of port facilities, unlike those of the straits of Singapore, which are by contrast the worlds second largest (after Rotterdam). Remember also, Singapore is a free port, JB on the other hand isn't even a port! Most ships using the Straits of Singapore are taking long Suez-East Asia routes and require refuelling, shore leave, and cargo sorting for that purpose, as well as many manufacturers using Singapore as a depot for value-addition to their products. It's doubtful shippers would want to use the causeway because of these factors, even if they physically could.

Also, while I am not sure about ownership of the straits, if standard international practice is applied, the line of demarcation would flow in the middle of these rather narrow straits, raising all kinds of questions about who gets to charge tolls for passage. Singapore could end up benefitting even if ships were able to pass through, so I am not sure this is a reason to worry. Finally, there is also the second causeway, which, while a bridge, is still a hindrance to the kind of shipping that flows through the Straits of Singapore.

I would look at the following factors to determine Singapore's reluctance.

1.) Who would pay?
2.) Who would benefit? Nicer straits of Johor would benefit JB but not so much Singapore because of the zoning layout, as mentioned.
3.) What happens to the water (meaning the drinking water)? Can Singapore afford to be without the vital water the causeway carries for the duration of construction? Would construction lead to Singapore paying Malaysia higher rates for water that would have to be transported via other means?

[edit on 23-3-2006 by koji_K]



posted on Mar, 23 2006 @ 03:37 PM
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Originally posted by koji_K
Regarding alternative shipping routes- I don't think this is a concern. My understanding is that the straits were never used for serious shipping, even before the causeway was built, because they are two shallow and more or less devoid of port facilities, unlike those of the straits of Singapore, which are by contrast the worlds second largest (after Rotterdam).


You do realize that this is sort of a catch-22. There's hardly any real port facilities in JB because it has not been a major shipping route (via the Straits) for over 80 years. So, understandably development on that level is not a priority.

Now if the straits were to be open...

However, the other points you brought up are very good.


[edit on 23-3-2006 by Beachcoma]



posted on Mar, 23 2006 @ 04:31 PM
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Originally posted by Beachcoma

You do realize that this is sort of a catch-22. There's hardly any real port facilities in JB because it has not been a major shipping route (via the Straits) for over 80 years. So, understandably development on that level is not a priority.

Now if the straits were to be open...

However, the other points you brought up are very good.




Good point. I was just reading that link to the straits of Johor wikipedia article you provided. Apparently it was big enough for a cruiser to fit into during WW2, so maybe it is big enough for large shipping after all.

I guess a lot of the issue stems from the fact that both Singapore and Malaysia were both British up until the 1950s, so Malaysia didn't really have an opportunity to build up its own port operations in the Straits of Johor, and the British saw no need since Singapore was serving the purpose as the major port in the area. If history was different, maybe Malaysia could have had port presence there of its own. At the very least it would probably be useful for inter-Malaysian traffic. I know at one time during the 90s there was some speculation that the Malays were going to try to build their own canal further north. It would have been a major operation and I don't think it ever got off the drawing board, but they did look into it and it showed their intent to take over some of Singapore's shipping traffic.

Your post raises some excellent questions and I should state that most of my last post was just speculation on my part with no research done. I hadn't heard of this issue before and I'll be paying attention to it!


[edit on 23-3-2006 by koji_K]



posted on Mar, 24 2006 @ 12:02 AM
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Originally posted by koji_K
I know at one time during the 90s there was some speculation that the Malays were going to try to build their own canal further north. It would have been a major operation and I don't think it ever got off the drawing board, but they did look into it and it showed their intent to take over some of Singapore's shipping traffic.


This is partly the reason I'm basing my theory on. However it was the Thai government who was interested in building a canal through the Kra Isthmus. In fact there has been talk of the canal since the 17th century. If completed, it would cut 600km off of the journey around the Malay Peninsular.

If I'm not mistaken, Malaysia has some concerns over the canal project, because we do have ports that operate in the Straits of Malacca. But I vaguely recall Singapore kicking up an even bigger fuss about it. I could be wrong about the latter, but I am certain that Singapore is concerned about the project.

I do realize that the Thai Canal project would be an even bigger concern to Singapore than a competing port on Johor's side. However, speaking from a business point of view, if I were Singapore, I'd be concerned with any competition, irrespective of the actual impact it would have.



posted on Mar, 24 2006 @ 01:13 AM
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Originally posted by Beachcoma

This is partly the reason I'm basing my theory on. However it was the Thai government who was interested in building a canal through the Kra Isthmus. In fact there has been talk of the canal since the 17th century. If completed, it would cut 600km off of the journey around the Malay Peninsular.



Oops.. it was Thailand! Thank you for correcting that. I think I had it confused with Malaysia's data/IT corridor or something like that (another project Singapore kicked up a fuss about, if I recall!).



posted on Mar, 25 2006 @ 11:59 PM
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The former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad admits that he failed to resolve the issues with Singapore while he was in office because the island republic was 'difficult'


Mahathir Says 'Difficult' To Negotiate With Singapore

ALOR STAR, March 25 (Bernama) -- Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Saturday he failed to resolve outstanding issues with Singapore as it was "difficult to negotiate" with the city state.

[...]

He said the negotiations ended in failure because the city state always wanted more from Malaysia than what it was willing to give in return.

[...]

"Now they want sand (from Malaysia for Singapore's land reclamation programme) and permission to use our air space for their military aircraft to agree to the construction of a bridge to replace the causeway. But what do they give us in return...nothing...zero," he said.

Please visit the link provided for the complete story.


That has always been the case. Until now the bridge issue is still hanging in limbo. I don't know what is going on.



posted on Mar, 27 2006 @ 02:22 AM
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Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said that work on the new bridge to Singapore will proceed on schedule despite the fact that talks between Malaysia and Singapore are still on going.


Najib: No delay in building bridge to Singapore

KUALA LUMPUR: Construction of the bridge to replace the Johor Causeway is proceeding on schedule although talks between Malaysia and Singapore are continuing, Datuk Seri Najib Razak said yesterday.

"There is no postponement. Construction of the bridge is proceeding," the Deputy Prime Minister said.

He was replying questions from reporters who asked if construction would be delayed as talks on whether the bridge would be straight or "scenic" had yet to be concluded.

Please visit the link provided for the complete story.


Malaysia's side of the bridge will cost RM620 million (USD167 million) and is expected to take 36 months to complete.

[edit on 27-3-2006 by Beachcoma]



posted on Mar, 27 2006 @ 02:52 AM
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I found an article from Thai Press Reports, March 17th (can't provide a link). It mentions two other issues aside from the air rights and sand for Singapore's land reclamation projects- water prices and "the withdrawal of the Central Provident Fund contributions by Malaysian workers."



The current negotiations between Malaysia and Singapore entered the final stage and the two sides reached agreement on several main issues, said Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar.

The agreement was reached in a meeting at Putrajaya between officers from both sides on several outstanding issues after four other earlier meetings failed to reach an agreement, he told reporters on March 13.

The outstanding issues include the permission for Singapore fighter planes to use Johor airspace, sale of sand for Singapore's land reclamation project, prices of Malaysian water sold to Singapore and the withdrawal of the Central Provident Fund contributions by Malaysian workers, the FM elaborated.

Please visit the link provided for the complete story.



posted on Mar, 27 2006 @ 03:27 AM
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Hmpphh. The water issue is nothing new. They've been demanding unreasonable terms since as far back as the 90s. I don't know what the current situation is, but the following report shows what it was:

Look elsewhere for extra water, Singapore told

From that article you can see that not much progress has been made.

Here's a link to an overview of the CPF:
Central Provident Fund

I can't say I understand the full implications of asking Malaysian workers to withdraw from the CPF, except that on the surface that move doesn't look at all beneficial to Malaysia.



posted on Mar, 29 2006 @ 10:20 PM
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curently the malaysians re havoc wth d new issue..scenic bridge.
so i believe if malaysian government is not firm and strict towards this issue....this issue will be like d water issue. D singapore government will ask d irratonal thin' from malaysian government due to the scenic brige project. As long as Malaysian Goverment practise their 'soft action ' towards singapore as we're neighbour....d singapore govermnt will continue their unacceptable attitiude towards malaysia. so...for this issue i think that malaysia should proceed wth their plan on scenic bridge coz it will brin' benefit for both sides economically..eventhough d singapore keep denyin' it



posted on Mar, 30 2006 @ 02:29 AM
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I agree. We are to soft with others, too much the 'mister nice guy'. We work very hard not to offend anyone, which is not always the best move when it comes to diplomatic relations.

It doesn't help that our current Prime Minister is too much of a nice guy. Not only nice, but soft-spoken too. When Abdullah first took over after Mahathir, most of the speeches by him that we hear on TV are somewhat inaudible. The media crews took 4 months to realize that when the PM is speaking, the mikes have to be tuned up for extra sensitivity.

I think the Malaysian government is scared of Singapore. It's a small country but they've got better military capabilities then we do. I heard from someone in our military that should Singapore decide to invade Malaysia, they could take over half the Peninsular in 3 hours. I believe him.



posted on Apr, 3 2006 @ 04:09 AM
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i agree...our defence systemis is not at d same level wth singapore...especially their air-force coz they have collaboration wth Israeli army. so, they re more powerful..but d singapore government should realise when they got attack by epidemic like SARS...d virus spread easily coz they re small n island country. by geology....many singaporeans buy house in peninsular malaysia coz d island is believe to be sink oneday coz of over development.



posted on Apr, 3 2006 @ 05:19 AM
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Water Sale

www.singapore...-_org/sw02/020128up.htm

It was stated in the middle part of the passage that Singapore was not profitting from the sale but it is in fact the Malaysian government.

[edit on 3-4-2006 by NotheRaGe]

EDIT: actually I wrote a chunk but screw up when i edited and accidently deleted the whole passage. I do not have much time to rewrite again. Another lesson learned.


[edit on 3-4-2006 by NotheRaGe]



posted on Apr, 3 2006 @ 05:44 AM
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Water is the key to the Malaysian/Singapore relationship.

Singapore does not fool around when it comes to its water, because it is so reliant on Malaysia for its needs. Residential buildings of a certain size and in certain zones are actually required to have swimming pools, so that they can be converted to emergency reservoirs should Malaysia decide to cut them off.

As for its military, Singapore always seemed to be equally fearful of Malaysia as Malaysia seems of it. It's a lot like South Korea in its mandatory service requirements and many dual-use facilities (for example, many highways are designed to be easily convertable into airstrips). I don't know about Singapore being able to hold whatever gains it would make into Malaysian territory for very long, as its military seems to be geared primarily around defense rather than offense. It's a decent military but its only so big and only exists to give Malaysia, Indonesia, or some other regional players pause to think before attempting to take it, in any hypothetical future conflict. If any of these nations were really willing to take the losses it would entail, they could all eventually take Singapore given enough time, assuming some other nation(s) doesn't come to the rescue. I doubt it would be able to cope with either insurgents in its occupied areas (I doubt malaysians would take kindly to Singaporean occupation) or the fact that Malaysia has plenty of land from which to launch a counteroffensive- including Sabah and Sembawang. (And of course its very unlikely the two will actually be going to war any time soon, despite disputes over the bridge and water.)

[edit on 3-4-2006 by koji_K]



posted on Apr, 4 2006 @ 04:55 AM
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Originally posted by koji_K
Singapore does not fool around when it comes to its water, because it is so reliant on Malaysia for its needs. Residential buildings of a certain size and in certain zones are actually required to have swimming pools, so that they can be converted to emergency reservoirs should Malaysia decide to cut them off.


Funny you should mention that. This was just released in today's papers:


No policy to cut supply

KUALA LUMPUR: It has never been Malaysia’s policy to cut its water supply to Singapore, said Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

The Prime Minister said Singapore had always been concerned about its water supply.

“They think we want to cut off their water.That has never been our policy in all these years. But still, for Singapore it’s something they would always worry about,” he told reporters after chairing the Umno supreme council meeting here last night.

Please visit the link provided for the complete story.


The rest of the article sort of rehashed the uncertainties I mentioned when it comes to the crooked/scenic/half/straight bridge. Singapore still seems worried that work on the new bridge would cause their water supply to be cut off despite Malaysia's continued reassurance.



posted on Apr, 15 2006 @ 04:45 AM
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After ten years of negotiations and with no result, Malaysia has decided to scrap the project for the time being. The main reason for this decision is because of 'legal complications'. That is, Singapore has threatened legal action if we went ahead with the project.

[EXPLETIVE DELETED]! Such nasty neighbours we have... [EXPLETIVE DELETED] mother[EXPLETIVE DELETED][EXPLETIVE DELETED]. In my entire live I have met only one single nice Singaporean. Just one. Can you imagine that. Hmmmphhh, figures. Nasty [EXPLETIVE DELETED]. So full of themselves and so selfish.

Anyway, the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak said that Malaysia will not bow down to the unreasonable demands of Singapore.


No Malaysian can accept the sale of sand to Singapore for a reclamation project for 20 years or to allow its jetfighters to use our air space as a trade off for it to agree to the proposal.

It is like asking Malaysia to give up its sovereignty.


The nerve of some people
So they say they are worried about the environmental impact of building the bridge? What about the environmental impact of land reclamation then? So it only applies to Malaysia and not Singapore? What nonsense. Go [EXPLETIVE DELETED] yourselves.

The Foreign Minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar has said that talks on the replacement for the causeway may be re-opened in the future. Yeah, sure. I say let them be the ones who re-open the talks, not us. Otherwise the selfish island republic will just use it as leverage to get sand, airspace or water re-pricing again.

The former Prime Minister, Datuk Seri (now Tun) Dr Mahathir Mohamad had adopted an unfriendly posture when dealing with Singapore (he adopted an unfriendly posture with most of America's lapdogs.. er, I mean 'regional allies').

The current Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi took a different, friendlier and more open approach, hoping to mend ties with the republic. Looks like they didn't seize the chance to improve relations, preferring to remain the beligerent [EXPLETIVE DELETED] that they are. No surprise there.

I'm not mad that the bridge was cancelled. I am pissed off that that uncooperative country down south thinks she can take and take and take but not give anything back. Such horrible attitudes.



Related News Stories:
Malaysia scraps bridge project to replace causeway with Singapore
Hope of many dashed
Pak Lah explains why bridge called off
Johor accepts bridge decision
MPs support decision to halt bridge project
Syed Hamid leaves door open on bridge talks
Najib: Bridge to replace Causeway a good thing
Scrapping the bridge the best solution

Chronology of events of bridge project

[edit on 15-4-2006 by Beachcoma]



posted on Apr, 16 2006 @ 08:11 AM
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Look at it this way, both media in Singapore and Malaysia are feeding crap to the citizens as far as we are concerned.

Have you ever really talked to another Singaporean?Well, I've have talked to many Malaysians and i'm even 1/4 Sabahan-Singaporean and most agree the present Causeway serves both of us pretty well.



posted on Apr, 16 2006 @ 08:45 AM
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LazerLordz,

If there's anything I've learned on ATS, it's that ALL media everywhere are just a mouthpiece for the powers that be to feed us the little people crap.

And yes, I have talked to many Singaporean chinese and most of them seem to have this self-proclaimed air of superiority about them... most that I've had contact with anyways. Hell, even Singaporean malays are a bit more sombong than mainland malays, I dunno why... BUT, like everything bad in this [EXPLETIVE DELETED] world of ours, I'm sure it not representative of the whole although it speaks louder than the majority.

As for the causeway serving us well, I think that's very subjective. JB is the backyard of Singapore. By this I mean the side of Singapore facing JB are mostly factories and industrial areas. So Singaporean residents don't have to live with the stinky, stagnant water that the causeway has, well, caused.

Anyway, it's nice to finally get input from a Singaporean. Since this is a conspiracy site, what do you think of my original theory at the last few paragraphs of the original post?



posted on Apr, 16 2006 @ 01:28 PM
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Well, those are the very reasons and the painful truth which the SG government will never say openly.

It's the only logical reason, because transhipment and port operations is still one of the main pillars of the Singapore economy.

I believe a canti-lever bridge should be best for all, like the one being built in Washington DC though.

With a new bridge, I don't see how shipping will improve over on the JB side, seeing how the channel is narrow after the Tuas 2nd Link, and getting past the bridge there, is also not easy for the larger container vessels if I'm correct.





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