Table of Contents
Security and External Relations
Ministry of Law
Ministry of Law (MinLaw)
The mission of MinLaw is to ensure a sound and progressive legal infrastructure, intellectual property infrastructure and insolvency regime, and to optimise land resources to support national goals. The Singapore Land Authority (SLA), the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS), the Insolvency and Public Trustee’s Office (IPTO), the Legal Aid Bureau (LAB) and the Community Mediation Unit (CMU) are part of the MinLaw family. A budget of $540.2 million has been allocated to MinLaw in FY2012 to achieve its mission.
A Sound and Progressive Legal Framework
MinLaw works closely with stakeholders to ensure a sound and progressive legal framework.
As part of MinLaw’s law reform agenda in FY2012, amongst others, MinLaw will be introducing a Status of Children Bill (Assisted Reproduction Technology) to clarify the legal status of children born through assisted reproduction technology. The International Arbitration Act will be amended and a new Foreign Limitation Periods Bill introduced to enhance Singapore’s attractiveness as a destination for commercial legal work.
MinLaw also helps to protect and promote Singapore’s international legal interests. In FY2012, MinLaw will continue to advance and review our position on various international legal issues.
S$3.9 million will be allocated for these initiatives.
A Vibrant Legal Services Sector
MinLaw will continue to work with legal industry stakeholders and economic agencies to further develop Singapore as a key regional centre for the provision of legal services.
The Ministry will introduce various measures to help Singapore law firms grow, enhance their competitiveness, and expand their practice and service capabilities. The Ministry will also review the Qualifying Foreign Law Practice scheme with a view to further liberalising it.
To supplement our local talent pool and meet commercial client needs, various measures including the Foreign Practitioner Examination and a widened ad hoc admission scheme for Queen’s Counsel and equivalent counsel from other jurisdictions will be implemented.
A committee chaired by the Attorney-General will review the regulatory framework for law firms and lawyers with a view to ensuring that it keeps pace with the changing global and domestic legal landscapes.
MinLaw will continue to ensure that our international commercial arbitration laws and infrastructure remain progressive and aligned with international best practices. Efforts to promote Singapore as an international dispute resolution hub will also continue. In June 2012, Singapore will host the prestigious International Council for Commercial Arbitration (ICCA) conference which will bring together over 1,000 eminent arbitrators and legal experts from around the world.
$7.6 million will be allocated for these initiatives.
A Robust Intellectual Property Infrastructure
Intellectual Property (IP) is an important pillar of Singapore’s knowledge-based economy. MinLaw and the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) aim to develop Singapore as a leading IP hub in the region for the protection and exploitation of IP. We will encourage the development of a vibrant IP marketplace for companies to commercialise and unlock the potential of their IP. We will work with EDB to bring in global IP intermediaries and firms which provide IP support services such as patent drafting to Singapore. We will continue to support SPRING to strengthen our SMEs’ IP management and exploitation capabilities.
Our IP infrastructure will be strengthened by moving from the current patent self-assessment system to a positive grant system, where only patent applications that fully meet all patentability requirements will be granted. This will increase businesses’ confidence in the quality of our patents. As part of this move, we will develop indigenous patent search and examination capabilities.
To make it more convenient for companies and the public to register IP and access relevant information, IPOS is developing an integrated IT system for the different types of IP. We will forge more partnerships with international IP bodies to facilitate the international filing and protection of Singapore-originated IP, through Singapore.
The IP Academy will continue to offer quality training programs to develop IP professionals and equip IP practitioners with skills and knowledge to meet the needs of the industry. Trainees can work towards recognised qualifications under the new IP-Workforce Skills Qualifications framework.
We will also work closely with the people, private and public sectors to promote IP awareness and respect.
$9.5 million will be allocated for these initiatives.
Optimal Use of Land Resources
Optimising State resources
MinLaw and the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) play an active role in optimising the use of Singapore’s land resources. SLA manages about 5,000 State properties and 14,000 ha of State land. As part of its State land optimisation initiatives, SLA works with relevant planning agencies to identify vacant State land that can be put to interim use pending the finalisation of long term development plans.
SLA also identifies suitable State land for public recreational and community uses. In 2011, SLA carried out improvement works to parts of the former Malayan Railway Authority land and opened them to the public for community use. In FY2012, SLA will identify and open up more of such sites.
$464.2 million will be apportioned for these initiatives.
Increasing the public’s use of geospatial technology
As the custodian of the largest amount of Singapore land data, SLA promotes the usefulness of Geospatial Information Technology (GIT) and geospatial data.
‘OneMap’, which was launched in 2010, is an integrated online geospatial platform that provides reliable, timely and accurate location-based services and information to the public. It is a multi-agency platform designed on a common base map of Singapore and provides a myriad of services and functions. To date, there are 48 layers of themed information contributed by various agencies.
New services and information available on OneMap include PropertyPrices and BusRouteExplorer. In FY2012, SLA will introduce more location-based services in OneMap.
To support the increasing use of geospatial information in our society, SLA will collaborate with WDA and IDA to develop a competency framework for geospatial skill-sets. SLA will also explore with MOE on building a geospatial component into geography subjects.
$0.9 million will be allocated to the further development and operation of OneMap.
Enhancing the scope and accuracy of Singapore’s land information
Being the national cadastral authority in Singapore, SLA is responsible for the management and maintenance of the national land survey system which facilitates the definition of boundaries or legal limits of properties.
SLA will revamp the existing Singapore Satellite Positioning Reference Network (SiReNT). SiReNT is a nation-wide reference network developed to support real-time high precision land surveying and other positioning applications. With the revamp, we will achieve greater availability and reliability. It will also enable a wider group of users to take advantage of SiReNT for uses in navigation, tracking and Geographical Information System (GIS) mapping.
SLA will develop its capacity to take on a wider range of mapping capabilities by developing the Digital Elevation Model (DEM) using stereo satellite photogrammetry and surveying techniques. The DEM will provide the foundation for the establishment of 3D Cadastre, a new project that will allow the Government to manage 3D property spaces, in particular underground developments, more efficiently and effectively. The DEM is also useful to planning agencies in their development planning and scenario simulation activities.
SLA will develop a new system to integrate the current systems in managing the cadastral survey inspection and approval process. The new system will incorporate a new automated module for plan inspection and verification, which will further improve the integrity of the cadastral survey information.
Enhancing land title search
SLA is developing an integrated electronic lodgement, registration and search system for both private and public (HDB) properties. This will provide a one-stop service for lawyers and the public to obtain information on both private and public properties. Forms will also be simplified to help the public prepare instruments for lodgement at SLA.
Access to Legal Help for Low Income Residents
The Legal Aid Bureau (LAB) provides legal aid, assistance and advice to low income residents on a wide range of civil matters including divorce, adoptions, claims for maintenance, custody of children, separation, wrongful dismissals, tenancy disputes, monetary claims, motor and industrial accident claims and estate matters. In FY2011, LAB helped over 9,000 persons.
MinLaw and LAB are reviewing the legal aid means test to ensure that legal aid remains accessible to low income residents, with a view to implementing the changes in FY2012.
LAB is assisted in its work by a panel of about 140 active Assigned Solicitors from the private sector. In FY2012, LAB will continue to ensure a reliable pool of Assigned Solicitors by expanding the panel through promotional and networking events.
MinLaw also provides funding to the Law Society to facilitate the work of its Pro Bono Services Office (PBSO).
$9.5 million will be allocated to LAB and other pro bono initiatives.
Accessible and Effective Community Mediation Services
The Community Mediation Unit (CMU) provides community mediation services to the public and promotes mediation as a preferred means of dispute resolution for social, family and relational disputes. In 2011, CMU conducted 596 mediation sessions.
The Community Mediation Centres (CMCs) operated by CMU are supported by a panel of more than 130 trained volunteer mediators. To improve the effectiveness of community mediation, CMU will embark on a review of the recruitment, training and accreditation of its volunteer mediators. This will include the provision of specialised training and upgrading of their conflict resolution skills.
CMU will continue to actively engage its network of referral partners and reach out to new partners, which includes frontline agencies dealing with the public, community organisations such as grassroots groups, and other government organisations, to raise awareness of and promote the use of CMCs’ mediation service.
CMU will expand its public education initiatives to develop a mediation culture amongst Singaporeans. These include educating grassroots leaders on the benefits of mediation, and continuing to educate young Singaporeans about mediation as an important life-skill through peer mediation training workshops, discussion forums and general awareness activities, in collaboration with interested schools.
$1.5 million will be allocated to CMU.
A Sound and Efficient Insolvency Regime
The Insolvency & Public Trustee’s Office (IPTO) has responsibility for individual and corporate insolvency administration, the Public Trustee’s Office and the Registry of Moneylenders & Pawnbrokers (ROMP).
IPTO administers individual and corporate insolvency cases with the aim of protecting and balancing the interests of both creditors and debtors.
IPTO currently administers approximately 25,000 individual and 800 corporate insolvency cases. Since 2009, IPTO has also been administering the Debt Repayment Scheme (DRS) to assist debtors with debt sizes under $100,000. Around 300 debtors have been admitted into the DRS since its inception.
IPTO has spearheaded initiatives in the area of financial rehabilitation for insolvent persons such as collaborating with the Workforce Development Agency to refer insolvent persons for skills-upgrading courses or employment opportunities. IPTO has also worked with financial education providers to offer customised workshops to insolvent persons to promote financial responsibility.
IPTO has been working with the Insolvency Law Review Committee, which was set up in 2010 and comprises members drawn from the private sector (lawyers and accountants who are insolvency practitioners), academia, and the Attorney-General’s Chambers, to finalise its report on the Omnibus Insolvency Bill.
$13.0 million will be allocated to the individual and corporate insolvency services of IPTO.
An Efficient Public Trustee System
The Public Trustee (PT) carries out a number of different functions. The PT helps to administer a deceased person’s estate (provided that the value of the estate does not exceed $50,000) and un-nominated CPF monies. On average, the PT handles around 8,000 such cases every year. The PT also acts as a trustee to administer monies and trust funds with charitable or public interest. The PT ensures the adequacy of compensation sums paid to victims in motor accidents, and that they receive their compensation expeditiously. On average, around 2,900 motor accident compensation cases are handled every year.
$3.2 million will be allocated to the Public Trustee Division of IPTO.
A Fair Moneylending and Pawnbroking System
IPTO, through the Registry of Moneylenders (ROM) and Registry of Pawnbrokers (ROP), licenses and regulates the activities of moneylenders, pawnbrokers and pawnbroking auctioneers in order to protect the interests of borrowers and pawners.
To raise the standard of professionalism in the moneylending industry, ROM has implemented a written test to ensure that licensed moneylenders are familiar with the Moneylenders Act and Rules. The test already applies to new licence applicants and will be extended in 2012 to existing licensees.
To safeguard the interests of borrowers, ROM implemented new measures in 2011 to regulate the advertising and marketing activities of moneylenders and imposed new licence conditions. In 2012, ROM will review and further enhance safeguards for borrowers.
In 2011, enforcement activities against moneylenders and pawnbrokers were stepped up. 2011 also saw the first convictions of licensed moneylenders under the enhanced Moneylenders Act brought into force in 2009. ROM will further step up enforcement efforts in 2012 and continue to work with other law enforcement agencies to take errant moneylenders to task.
The Pawnbrokers Act will be reviewed in 2012 to enhance the licensing and regulatory framework to protect the interests of pawners and facilitate business operations.
$6.5 million will be allocated to the ROM and ROP Divisions of IPTO.
To find out more about MinLaw and our programmes and initiatives, please visit our website.