MinLaw’s mission is to ensure a sound legal infrastructure, optimise land resources and promote intellectual property to support our economic and social goals. A total budget of $318 million has been allocated to MinLaw for FY2008.
MinLaw aims to achieve the following outcomes:
A sound and progressive legal framework;
A more harmonious and less litigious society with support for mediation;
Singapore as an international arbitration hub;
Accessibility to justice for persons of limited means;
A debt recovery system which supports entrepreneurship and financial discipline;
A Public Trustee system with stakeholders confident of their rights to assets and compensation;
Robust moneylending and pawnbroking regimes;
Land resources optimised to meet national needs;
A fair and expeditious hearing and a just determination of every land acquisition appeal; and
A robust regime for the creation, protection and exploitation of intellectual property.
A Sound and Progressive Legal Framework
MinLaw works with the stakeholders to maintain a legal framework that supports our social objectives and economic progress. This includes strengthening the legal infrastructure and updating the relevant legislation to serve our goals.
A key effort in FY2008 is the implementation of the recommendations of the Committee chaired by Justice V K Rajah, which was established to comprehensively review the legal services sector and propose measures to enhance Singapore’s position as an international centre for the provision of legal services. The Committee had made many important proposals ranging from university education, postgraduate and professional training, liberalisation of the legal services sector to disciplinary procedures, which have been accepted in-principle by the Government.
A More Harmonious and Less Litigious Society with Support for Mediation
MinLaw’s Community Mediation Unit (CMU) promotes community mediation and provides mediation services for community and social conflicts through its network of Community Mediation Centres (CMCs) and panel of trained volunteer mediators. To enhance the professionalism and quality of its mediation services, the CMU will further develop its training and accreditation programme for its volunteer mediators. The CMU, the Community Development Councils (CDCs) and other community-based groups will also collaborate and conduct basic mediation training to equip community leaders with the necessary mediation skills to handle typical neighbourhood and relational conflicts.
In addition, CMU will further strengthen its links with frontline agencies and other community-based organisations for the referral of appropriate disputes to the CMCs for settlement.
CMU’s longer term strategy is to cultivate a ‘self-help’ mediation culture amongst Singaporeans. CMU will creatively use the mass media, exhibitions and talks to increase general public awareness about community mediation and its benefits.
CMU will partner interested schools to organise general awareness activities and mediation training seminars to inculcate in the young the value of resolving relational disputes amicably in the bud and equip them with mediation as a life-skill. Thus far, more than 40,000 students have been reached through these programmes.
$1.3 million will be allocated to CMU for its work.
Singapore as an International Arbitration Hub
MinLaw will further promote Singapore as a choice location for the conduct of international arbitration. We plan to open the integrated dispute resolution complex in 2009. This building will contain state of the art hearing room facilities for the conduct of high-end international dispute resolution work. The building will also house eminent international arbitration bodies from around the world, including the largest ones from the United States and Europe, along with the Singapore International Arbitration Centre. This will make it the centre of gravity for international dispute resolution work for the region. MinLaw is also working with the Economic Development Board to encourage more international arbitration institutions and foreign law firms to set up here, in order to attract more international arbitration work to Singapore.
$18 million will be allocated for these initiatives, which is 6% of MinLaw’s budget.
Accessibility to Justice for Persons of Limited Means
To ensure access to justice for all, the Legal Aid Bureau (LAB) provides quality legal advice, assistance and aid on civil matters to persons of limited means. Last year, MinLaw expanded the coverage of civil legal aid from the 30th to the 40th percentile based on household income by allowing more generous deductions when calculating disposable income. LAB will therefore provide legal aid to a wider segment of the public.
MinLaw and LAB will also work further with the Law Society of Singapore and the legal profession in the provision of pro-bono legal services to persons of limited means. One pilot initiative launched last year was the establishment of Community Legal Clinics in two CDCs, which are seeing a steady stream of public members seeking basic legal advice. This is expected to continue.
$7.5 million will be allocated for LAB’s work and the initiatives and programmes. This makes up 2% of MinLaw’s budget.
A Debt Recovery System which supports Entrepreneurship and Financial Discipline
The Insolvency & Public Trustee’s Office (IPTO) administers individual and corporate insolvency cases with the aim of protecting and balancing the interests of both the creditors and debtors. This includes supporting both entrepreneurship and financial discipline. IPTO currently administers approximately 25,000 individual and 1,000 corporate insolvency cases.
IPTO also looks into ways to help debtors avoid bankruptcy. One major initiative to be launched in FY2008 is the Debt Repayment Scheme (DRS). The DRS allows debtors with relatively smaller debts to pay their creditors to the best of their ability through an arrangement and avoid bankruptcy. Creditors will receive no less than what they would have received had the debtors gone into bankruptcy. By avoiding bankruptcy, debtors will avoid its stigma and restrictions and be given a chance for a fresh start.
$9.4 million will be allocated to IPTO to carry out its work and initiatives. This constitutes 3% of MinLaw’s budget.
A Public Trustee System with Stakeholders Confident of their Rights to Assets and Compensation
IPTO administers small estates of deceased persons and compensation claims of motor accident victims to ensure that the stakeholders’ rights to assets and compensation are safeguarded and the monies expeditiously distributed. $2.1 million will be allocated to IPTO for this work.
Robust Moneylending and Pawnbroking Regimes
The Registry of Moneylenders and Pawnbrokers (ROMP) registers and regulates the activities of moneylenders and pawnbrokers in order to protect the interests of borrowers and pawners respectively. ROMP is working towards strengthening its regulatory roles and enhancing consumer protection, while promoting the growth and modernization of the moneylending and pawnbroking businesses. $0.6 million will be allocated to ROMP for its work.
Land Resources Optimised to Meet National Needs
MinLaw and the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) play an active role in optimising our land resources. We ensure that State land and buildings are properly managed to meet Singapore’s economic and social needs. We also actively promote the use of State land and properties to meet the needs of industries, businesses and the community. This includes promoting creative and innovative uses of State land and properties, and devising and improving schemes for leasing them out.
SLA will be divesting the Atrium@Orchard, and releasing more agricultural and/or agri-tainment sites and infill sites for sale in 2008. SLA will also place out more State properties and land for tender to meet the continuing demand for space of office, hotel, business and other users. For appropriate State land sites, SLA will build basic infrastructure (e.g. roads, electrical sub-station) to make their lease for interim use more viable and attractive.
In addition, SLA has successfully piloted an open bidding system which facilitates a fair and transparent allocation of State properties and allows the market to decide on the rental for such properties. The initiative will be rolled out from Jan 2008.
With regard to land information, SLA, with the participation of 8 other public agencies, is developing iMap - a common platform and map interface for all public agencies to provide map-based information to the public. With iMap, public users will be able to search for public amenities, facilities and other useful information with greater convenience. SLA and the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) will also be leading a Government-wide project to develop a holistic governance, policy and standards framework for the creation and access of spatial data by all government agencies. Such a framework will bring about greater data compatibilities, promote a common access policy and reduce duplication in data collection among agencies.
$249 million will be allocated for these programmes and initiatives. This constitutes 79% of MinLaw’s budget.
A Fair and Expeditious Hearing And A Just Determination of Every Land Acquisition Appeal
The Appeals Board (Land Acquisition) gives a fair and expeditious hearing and a just determination of every appeal against the award made by the Collector of Land Revenue for land acquired under the Land Acquisition Act. $0.4m will be allocated to the Appeals Board.
A Robust Regime for the Creation, Protection and Exploitation of Intellectual Property
MinLaw and the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) ensure a robust and sound intellectual property (IP) rights regime that spurs innovation and supports the growth of knowledge-intensive industries in Singapore. Through awareness and education programmes, we foster respect for IP rights amongst the general public and promote IP-savviness amongst Singapore-based businesses in the management of IP as a strategic business asset. We also help these businesses and public agencies develop IP management capabilities to enable them to fully tap the value of their intangible assets.
MinLaw and IPOS are actively promoting the development of Singapore-based IP services (such as patent drafting, IP intermediary services, and IP education and training) to meet the demands in Singapore and the region. This includes the development of the Intellectual Property Academy (IPA) into a premier centre for IP education and training.
To find out more about the Ministry of Law and our programmes and initiatives, please feel free to visit our website.