Murali Pillai
4 min readMar 1, 2024

On 29 February 2024, I delivered a speech as part of the Ministry of Law’s Committee of Supply Debate. In my speech, I focussed on (1) How to keep up with the stiff competition so as to retain Singapore’s legal hub status; (2) How to better enhance access to justice for lay people; and (3) Areas for law reform.

My speech is set out below.


Mr Chairman, I beg to move “That the total sum to be allocated for Head R of the Estimates be reduced by $100.

Last year, for the 15th consecutive year, the Economist Intelligence Unit (“EIU”) ranked Singapore as the world’s leading business environment citing our technological readiness, infrastructure, connectivity and regulatory environment as reasons.

Our strong legal system and our deep commitment to the rule of law are key contributors to our country’s business friendly environment and have made us a leading international legal services hub. MinLaw continues to be heavily involved in building up our capacity to be a global hub for intellectual property activities. Singapore’s legal industry continues to attract top notch talent.

These are good signs. It is, however, getting more and more difficult to maintain our position. Over the years, competition has become stiffer. Several jurisdictions are investing significant resources to develop their own capabilities to be business friendly and to attract legal work.

What are MinLaw’s plans to ensure that we keep up with the competition?

One area I am particularly interested is how we can deepen the bench strength of Singaporean and Singapore-based arbitrators so that they more regularly feature in high value arbitrations conducted by institutions such as ICSID and ICC in addition to SIAC.

We can also be more tightly woven into the global legal system. For example, I recommend that Singapore consider the merits of acceding to the 2019 Hague Judgments Convention. This will strengthen the ability of Singapore judgments to be recognised and enforced in the European Union.

One other suggestion I have is to consider reforms to allow for execution of electronic deeds. Deeds are the lifeblood of so many commercial transactions. Many security documents such as charges are executed as deeds. In countries with financial centres such as UK, formalities such as the need to execute in wet ink have been done away with. It is not yet the case in Singapore.

This does not appear to square with Singapore’s position as a leading business and financial hub. I would respectfully suggest the time has come to remove indentures from the exclusion list of documents that are not subject to the Electronic Transactions Act 2010 sooner rather than later.

Singapore needs to secure its position in the global legal fraternity. At the same time, it needs to ensure that laws serve to secure justice for everyone in our community.

MinLaw has made great strides over the years to improve access to justice, particularly for the vulnerable. The set up of the Public Defender’s Officer in 2022 was an epochal moment. There has been excellent utilisation of technology to offer laypeople with easier and cost-effective means to get advice on standard cases, commence action in tribunals and so on.

I am particularly pleased with the launch of the Probate eService last year which will enable self-represented persons to apply for probate; something that I have been pushing for several years now. The process now is simpler, faster and much cheaper. I commend the team responsible for the successful launch of this e-service.

I wonder whether there are plans to scale up the eService offerings in the near future. Currently, the eService applies to probate matters involving sole executors. May I please ask whether there are plans to extend the service to matters involving multiple executors? We also need to look at providing similar services to intestacy matters.

One other connected point, having regard to the fact that Singaporeans have become increasingly affluent over the years and may hold property in other jurisdictions, is the viability of Singapore acceding to the 1961 Wills Convention, which has 42 contracting parties at this point time, including China. This convention assists testators to dispose of inheritance within a single will, even if the property in question may be situated in different countries.

Finally, Sir, I seek an update from the hon Minister on matters that have been identified for law reform; in particular with reference to the Debtors ’Act, Limitation Act (and the Inheritance (Family Provisions) Act.

I raise this not to trivialise the amount of work that has to be put into the review of these matters. I am also aware of the heavy legislative agenda of MinLaw. It is just that the cases that have been made for law reform in these areas are based, amongst others, possible unfairness that will fall on individuals should the current status quo persists.

Mr Chairman, I beg to move.



Murali Pillai

Member of Parliament, Bukit Batok SMC, Advisor to Bukit Batok SMC GROs.