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20 Nov 2018
Ministry of Environment
Negative
Hawker stalls required to operate 24 hours

I heard a radio interview about the social enterprise hawker centers. 

One of the condition was that some stalls were required to operate 24 hours, as some of the residents said that they needed food after midnight. 

This was crazy. 

Sure, they needed food. But are there sufficient business to sustain the operation during the wee hours? It does cost the stall holders expenses to pay workers to work during these hours. 

If there were roaring business, there is no need to make it a condition for the rental of the stall. The hawkers would know what to do to tap the business. 

As it turned out, there were insufficient business, and the stall holders could not meet the conditions of the lease to operate 24 hours. 

This condition had to be removed, after "feedback" from the hawkers. 

I am surprised, really surprised, that this condition was imposed in the first place. I am surprised at the naivety of the minister and the officials in charge of this project. 

What to do about people who need food after midnight? No problem. Open a package of instant noodles. That is what I do anyway.

I live in a private housing estate. The food outlets close at 10 pm. There is nobody to sell any food to me. Not even if I am prepared to pay two or three times of the normal price. 

I also have the option to go to the nearby 24 hour convenience stall. They sell hot food at a higher price. They may not be as tasty as the food prepared at the hawker center, but a hungry person cannot expect too much.

If you want to know why the social enterprise hawker centers is a mess, look at the people running this project.

Tan Kin Lian


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20 Nov 2018
Land Transport Authority
Negative
Logic of timing of pedestrian crossing

I take the pedestrian crossing near my home almost every day. Some times, the green man appears in half a minute, sometimes up to 2 minutes.

What is the logic?

Someone said that the timing is based on sensors that monitor the traffic flow.

If the logic works well, I would have observed it. But it does not.

Even if there is light traffic, it can take more than a minute for the green man to appear. Often, I decided to cross the road without the green man. It is quite safe.

If LTA wants to fine me for not observing the traffic regulation, they can wait for me at the pedestrian crossing before KLC International.

What is a better way to control the lights at the crossing?

Get the green man to appear 30 seconds after the button is pressed. It will provide sufficient time for the traffic to stop.

However, if the previous stop occurred less than 1 minute away, get the green man to appear in 1 minute. The pedestrians will understand.

What if there are many stops at the crossing that impede the flow of the cars?

It seldom happens, except for busy roads with many pedestrians.

What is the problem anyway? The cars are used to move slowly during the busy hours. It will not make any difference if the cars have to stop for pedestrians to cross.

How about giving the right of cross for pedestrians?

I have seen many instances where the cars are moving slowly due to road works, but the green man still takes a long time to appear.

I do not understand why a wide road needs to have two separate controls. The pedestrian has to wait up to two minutes to cross one half of the road and wait another long time to cross the other half.

Perhaps LTA thinks that some pedestrians are happy to remain in the middle of the road?

I used to have trust in the intelligence of the people running our govt agencies. Now, I have doubts.

Tan Kin Lian
 


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19 Nov 2018
Prime Minister Office
Suggestion
Weakness of the tender system

Singapore has relied on the tender system for several decades. It is believed to be the best way to get the best price for a work to be done. It is supposed to be open and transparent. 

Sadly, this is not the case. 

There are many ways that the tender system can be manipulated by the purchaser, who works for a large organization.

The purchaser can select the tenderers who work in collusion. One of the party will get the tender, and the price may be higher than market price based on an open tender.

Over the years, we have seen contractors that have made large fortunes. They know how to take the best advantage of the tender system. They build good relations with the purchaser. 

We are not getting the best prices. We are actually paying a higher cost. The cost of our infrastructure and building is quite high, compared to other countries.

In some countries where corruption is quite common, it is usual to see the "ali baba" arrangement. The contract is awarded to a connected party who keeps a margin and get another party to do the actual work. 

Many people may not realize that the "ali baba" arrangement is quite common in Singapore. We call it by a different name, i.e. outsourcing and sub-contracting. The effect is the same. The main contractor, who may be a connected party (or "crony"), keeps a big profit, but the actual work is done by somebody else. 

Maybe, the main contractor add value by ensuring the quality of the work. But in some cases, their value added is questionable.

Is there an alternative to the tender system?

I suggest two alternatives:

a) We should have benchmark pricing for common types of work. There can be a benchmark price for 1 km of road or MRT line or one square meter of a building. While the actual price may vary according to the ground conditions, the benchmark price will set a guide. The quantity surveyor can be used to work out the benchmark price.

b) We should adopt a transparent system to show the actual prices of the work that is awarded. This allows independent parties, who have the expertise in the area, to comment on the prices. If the price is inflated, it can be seen clearly. This process also helps to improve the benchmark price to be used in the future.

It is risky to have blind faith in the tender system. We need to support it using benchmark pricing and transparency.

Tan Kin Lian
 


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16 Nov 2018
Ministry of Manpower
Negative
A confusing approach towards raising wages


I am confused with the approach of the govt. On one hand, they do not want to be involved in the market to set a minimum wage. 

On the other hand, they micro-manage the terms of employment of certain occupations, such as cleaners, to the extend of setting down the quantum of bonus. 

This approach will not help to deal with the underlying problem. It will take many years to implement, and the result will be discouraging. 

We have already wasted a lot of time, in fact more than ten years. 

Quote from Today paper:
Cleaners to get bonus on top of wage increases from 2020

Come 2020, it will be mandatory for cleaning companies to provide annual bonuses of at least two weeks’ pay to their employees, as well as an annual wage increase of three per cent.To qualify, employees must be either Singaporeans or PRs, and have worked in the company for at least a year.
Unquote

Click here for article.

Tan Kin Lian


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15 Nov 2018
CPF
Suggestion
Index CPF Life payouts to combat inflation

The Government today markets CPF Life as a lifelong stream of retirement payouts compared with most private annuities that do so for only a limited period, allowing you to retire in peace for your remaining days.

However, is that really the case?

Inflation is a real problem faced in society today.

Economists see a low inflation increase yearly as a sign of a healthy economy.

The Singapore economy faces a general trend of slightly positive inflation rates year by year.

With this constant inflation, $1 today will be worth more than $1 ten years down the road.

With the prevailing amount of monthly payouts handed out to the elderly, their purchasing power will dramatically worsen over the years.

Indexing is a technique used by many countries where payments are adjusted by means of a price index in order to maintain the purchasing power of the public after inflation.

To curb the problem of reducing the value of the CPF Life payouts, the Government can consider indexing the monthly payouts to the inflation rates experienced by the country's economy.

With this, the elderly will then be able to retire comfortably knowing that they are well provided for in the future.

Wayne Yeung

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/forum/letters-in-print/index-cpf-life-payouts-to-combat-inflation


Agree: 1  Disagree: 0  Vote

15 Nov 2018
Ministry of Education
Suggestion
Give part-time degree holders same opportunities as full-time grads

It is heartening to note that local universities are liberalising the rules for admission for polytechnic students, which is in line with the emphasis to be less reliant on grades alone (Uni admissions: Poly grads' O-level grades to be dropped from 2020; Nov 9).

However, I believe more can be done to level the playing field when students graduate and look for jobs.

Under the current circumstances, let's take the simple analogy of two graduates with the same degree applying for the same job in the civil service. It is a fact that a full-time graduate student from local universities, such as Nanyang Technological University or the National University of Singapore, would be given more weight and recognition compared with someone who obtained a similar degree through part-time studies in a private institution.

The goal to become less reliant on grades should be extended not only to academic pursuits, but employment prospects as well.

We should eradicate this unwritten bias that graduates from local universities are somehow better or more employable than those who gained their degrees part-time.

The mantra of lifelong learning for Singaporeans and encouraging more workers to upgrade would sound hollow if graduates continue to face discrimination in job prospects based on the schools they come from.

If grades do not define success, then all graduates, irrespective of their schools, should be given the same opportunities when looking for jobs.

There are many workers among us who, for various reasons, do not have the luxury of completing their degree as a full-time student and have to do so during their working life. This group should not be penalised for starting late and discriminated against in job prospects or promotions compared with someone who has the privilege of completing full-time education when they were younger.

Seah Yam Meng

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/forum/letters-in-print/give-part-time-degree-holders-same-opportunities-as-full-time-grads


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15 Nov 2018
National Parks Board
Negative
MacRitchie Reservoir needs urgent fix

I visited MacRitchie Reservoir recently and was terribly disappointed to see the state it was in.

Some areas clearly need urgent fixing.

First, the green coating road surface of the upper storey public car-park has peeled-off and driving in wet weather can be hazardous.

Second, the canteen food offering is limited and perhaps the authorities should put out a tender for a 24-hour convenience stall or more food-vending machines.

Third, the old exhibits can be revamped and moved up the hill-top, which is now vacant.

This hill-top site can be developed by National Library Board as a future library and perhaps more outdoor seating provided for people to sit and read in the tranquil of the scenic reservoir.

Lastly, to prevent the usual evening traffic bottleneck along Lornie Road towards Thomson Road, the Urban Redevelopment Authority could consider offering free parking every weekday after 5pm.

This will divert traffic to the area and create more buzz, and possibly attract more business.

Don't confine the use of our reservoirs to just water sports. They have the potential to be popular hot spots for people in Singapore and tourists as well.

Colin Ong Tau Shien

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/forum/letters-on-the-web/macritchie-reservoir-needs-urgent-fix
 


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15 Nov 2018
Land Transport Authority
Suggestion
Feeder service

Many people associate a feeder service with the kind that was implemented in Singapore previously, and still operating for some services now.

These feeder service goes round the town and can take more than 30 minutes to reach the MRT station or bus interchange. They also travel at intervals of up to 10 minutes.

This is not the operation for the feeder service that I propose.

My proposed feeder service works like this:

a) There will be up to five feeder service in each town, e.g. Ang Mo Kio, Tampines, Bedok.
b) Each feeder service covers a section of the town.

c) The frequency should be 3 minutes.

d) The entire journey for a feeder service should be less than 20 minutes.

Normally, a passenger will take a feeder service to the MRT or the express bus stops. They change to an express bus or train.

At the destination, they can take another feeder service or walk to the final destination.

To travel from one part of the town to another, the passenger may have to take a feeder service and change to another feeder service.

There will be more changes of bus under my proposed system, but the waiting time is short and the overall travel time is reduced.

The bus operations are also simplified for the bus operator and for the passenger.

Tan Kin Lian


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14 Nov 2018
PAP
Suggestion
Give young ministers more 'cooking time'

I refer to the People's Action Party's plan to have young ministers take over the leadership and, after the next general election, crown one of the fourth-generation leaders as prime minister (Big test awaits 4G leaders as next GE nears; Nov 12).

To me and other like-minded Singaporeans, it is a huge political mistake to sideline the veterans in the present Cabinet and not consider them for the prime ministership.

The veterans may be in their late 50s or 60s but they have a lot of drive and life in them. Over their many years as Cabinet ministers, they would have worked with at least two former prime ministers.

They have developed, in the public eye, a certain gravitas and charisma and have been nurtured well in terms of political and leadership exposure.

The younger ministers still have a long active road ahead of them, and it might not be an unwise move to wait until they are 55 to 60 years old before making them prime minister.

We should really consider how much political, administrative and professional experience will be wasted in the present system of selecting political candidates.

Why shouldn't retired top civil servants, businessmen or professionals be inducted into politics and made Cabinet ministers like in the days of Mr Hon Sui Sen, Mr K. M. Byrne and Mr Lim Kim San?

I have great respect for our young ministers and for their intelligence, vibrancy, efficiency and capability, but it will take more political exposure, nurturing and, sometimes, eating humble pie before they can be seen as emitting the aura, charisma and down-to-earth approach of the veterans. They need more cooking time before they are sourced for the top job.

Lim Ang Yong

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/forum/letters-in-print/give-young-ministers-more-cooking-time
 


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14 Nov 2018
Singapore Tourism Board
Suggestion
Why have cartoon characters replaced Christmas decorations?

I find it disturbing that Christmas wishes and greetings are not clearly visible in the annual Christmas decorations along Orchard Road, and that cartoon characters have replaced the traditional Christmas motifs associated with Yuletide cheer (Disney, Disney, everywhere; Nov 11).

Christmas decorations and wishes along Orchard Road are as important as Deepavali decorations and greetings in Little India, Hari Raya decorations and wishes in Geylang Serai and Kampong Glam, and Chinese New Year decorations and greetings in Chinatown.

Each ethnic and religious festival should be given fair play where festive decorations are concerned.

I feel disheartened that the Orchard Road Business Association and the Singapore Tourism Board could be so insensitive as to replace traditional Christmas decorations with cartoon characters, especially in multi-religious Singapore.

Florence Veronica Minjoot

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/forum/letters-in-print/why-have-cartoon-characters-replaced-christmas-decorations


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14 Nov 2018
Ministry of Manpower
Negative
MOM needs to provide details on issue of safekeeping maid's salary

It is disappointing that despite the many letters on the Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) ruling on maids' salaries, there has been no response from the ministry (Employers cannot safekeep their maids' money from Jan, Oct 8; Allow agreement to be signed if maids ask employers to keep salaries, by Mr Tay Yong Hung, Oct 13; Employers will not be able to protect maids under new law, by Madam Sharen Lim, Oct 20).

In my letter, I raised several points.

First, there are thousands of maids who have trusted their employers to safekeep their money instead of the bank.

Many of them are grateful to their employers because they managed to marry their children off in style, pay off their education loans and send money to their aged parents.

Some even started their own businesses.

All these were a result of the mutual trust between maids and their employers.

Unfortunately, MOM's report highlighted only 600 unfortunate cases and painted the thousands of good employers as bullies poised to swindle their maids of their money and disrespect their right to manage their own money.

Even highly educated businessmen sometimes cannot resist temptations to overspend.

Cases of maids emptying their bank accounts and going to moneylenders for more are not uncommon.

Why is MOM not protecting the employers?

Instead of penalising unlicensed moneylenders, MOM is imposing fines on employers.

Second, why are employers required to open accounts only with DBS?

What about the other banks that have branches in the maids' home countries and can easily transfer their Singapore dollars over?

What happens to those who are already depositing their maids' salaries into banks other than DBS?

Are they in violation of the new ruling?

We are now in mid-November but we still do not have details of the law applicable under this new ruling.

Employers hire maids to help out with their families.

Many maids are almost considered family.

But with these rulings, employers may now become potential criminals.

I hope MOM withdraws this new ruling.

Let the good relationship and trust between employers and maids continue.

Tay Yong Hung

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/forum/letters-in-print/mom-needs-to-provide-details-on-issue-of-safekeeping-maids-salary


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13 Nov 2018
Prime Minister Office
Suggestion
Pay more for water from Malaysia

Malaysia wants to increase the water 16 times from 3 sens to 50 sens per 1,000 gallons. 

The cost of water increases from less than $1 million to $15 million a year. 

See 
https://tankinlian.blogspot.com/2018/08/the-price-of-water.html

$15 million is a small amount. It is half the cost of a F16 fighter jet. 

Singapore has 60 F16 jets and probably need to replace 3 every year. Maybe, we can replace 2 1/2 each year to pay for the water?

If Lee HL agrees to this increase, Dr. M can go back to his country as a hero. Singapore will be seen as being "fair". The goodwill will be tremendous.

If we continue to drag on the negotiation, it will leave a bad taste. The enmity will be costly.

Lee HL is worried that it might "set a precedent". I am sure that Dr. M will understand and will agree that this is a once off matter. It should not be taken as a precedent to bring up other issues. 

Maybe he will return the generosity and sell us some sand. They have plenty of sand to spare. 

Tan Kin Lian


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13 Nov 2018
Ministry of Transport
Suggestion
Comprehensive studies needed before implementing new security measures

I am sure Mr Seah Yam Meng's letter resonates with many MRT users (Airport-like checks at MRT stations an overreaction; Nov 9).

Undoubtedly, most would agree that the inconvenience stringent checks will cause train commuters is significantly higher than that to air travellers.

While we travel by aeroplanes less frequently, commuting by MRT is an almost daily affair for millions.

Without a doubt, these security measures will result in longer travelling time for train commuters, especially during the rush hours.

Comprehensive studies or trials need to be carried out and the accompanying results and evidence should be conclusive in order to warrant the implementation of airport-like checks at our MRT stations.

Also, should commuters be concerned about the radiation and such if they are subjected to daily scans with the use of portable scanning devices and security metal detectors?

Will X-ray machines be deployed at MRT stations to scan passengers' belongings too?

Before these security measures are put in place, the authorities should carry out a thorough risk analysis to ascertain the probability of terrorist threats and whether it makes sense to step up security in this manner.

The cost, resources and degree of inconvenience should also be taken into full consideration.

Even if airport-like checks are eventually implemented, these should be carried out at random.

Joe Teo Kok Seah

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/forum/letters-on-the-web/comprehensive-studies-needed-before-implementing-new-security-measures


Agree: 5  Disagree: 1  Vote

13 Nov 2018
Others
Suggestion
Be understanding about stringent checks

There are many things that some Singaporeans have taken for granted (Airport-like checks at MRT stations an overreaction, by Mr Seah Yam Meng; Nov 9).

To some people, such airport-like security checks at MRT stations may be an inconvenience, especially during rush hours; they do not seem to realise that there could be serious consequences if something were to happen.

The world today is fraught with uncertainties and threats, and the least expected can happen at any time and anywhere.

Hence, we must not consider it an overreaction on the part of the Land Transport Authority if these airport-like preventive measures are introduced as they would prevent the loss of many lives.

Nobody can predict or confirm where terrorists may strike, so it is better to always be alert and vigilant than to be caught unawares.

Many people may not know that members of a terrorist network had planned to bomb targets near Yishun MRT station in the past (Security at train and bus stations stepped up; Jan 17, 2015).

This is ample proof that MRT stations are sensitive locations, and all of us should be prepared to bear the inconvenience of being delayed due to stringent screenings.

We should place supreme importance on our country's security, and this requires our full understanding and support.

Jeffrey Law Lee Beng

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/forum/letters-in-print/be-understanding-about-stringent-checks


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13 Nov 2018
National Environment Agency
Suggestion
Design choices can make homes cooler

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stressed the cumulative effect that each individual action contributes towards climate change, saying that there is a need for mindsets and lifestyles to change (S'pore to shore up defences as mercury and seas rise; Nov 4).

One significant idea that has been ingrained in Singaporeans is the need for air-conditioning.

Air-conditioning consumes a great deal of electricity, and this excessive use of energy can exacerbate the issue of climate change.

In households, air-conditioning has been the key driver of the increase in electricity consumption and accounts for about 24 per cent of a household's electricity consumption (Singapore's household electricity consumption up 17 per cent over past decade; May 5).

While it is difficult to persuade Singaporeans to use less air-conditioning, it is possible to design cooler homes that reduce the need for it. Such passive cooling measures are more sustainable.

Some architectural choices can make the home cooler. New homes can be designed with surface materials that are cool to the touch, while choosing light colours prevents the absorption of heat and helps expel excess heat.

Even in existing homes, simple changes can be made to reduce the ambient temperature.

Plants can be introduced into the home to absorb heat-trapping carbon dioxide, and this can be done by installing a green wall or simply placing some potted plants around the house.

The floor plan can also be used to determine and improve the air flow in the house, and it is important to ensure that the furniture does not restrict the air flow.

As much as possible, concrete walls can be replaced with other dividers, like fabric partitions.

On a developmental level, it is heartening to know that the National Research Foundation has funded research to develop a road map to reduce temperatures.

In addition to the proposed measures, the BCA Green Mark rating system can also be enhanced.

A new criterion for ambient interior temperature can be included for new residential buildings. This criterion will assess the natural interior temperature of residential buildings.

Although the scheme already accounts for green features in buildings, measuring the natural interior temperature will encourage developers to ensure that these green measures are indeed effective.

Joel Tong Wei Hao

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/forum/letters-in-print/design-choices-can-make-homes-cooler


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13 Nov 2018
Others
Suggestion
National defence every citizen's responsibility

Security checks at MRT stations are key to the anti-terrorism fight and safety for all, and I disagree with Mr Seah Yam Meng's view (Airport-like checks at MRT stations an overreaction; Nov 9).

While security checks at MRT stations may be a hassle to some extent, we do need to look beyond the inconvenience to understand the meaning behind it.

More than a million people take the MRT daily and it is easy for terrorists to slip in without anyone noticing.

Security checks are more or less a foolproof way to prevent terrorists from invading our MRT network.

Singapore is one of the safest countries in the world. The reason behind this is that we have a strong national defence.

While other countries have been plagued by bombings and shootings, Singapore has been very peaceful and quiet.

What we do not realise is that we are taking it for granted. We can be attacked at any moment.

We need to take measures to reduce the chances of attacks happening, and stringent checks at MRT stations are a good measure because they are one of the places likely to be attacked by terrorists.

Take, for instance, how the authorities revealed in 2002 that Yishun MRT station had been the target of a bomb plot by a terrorist cell here. If attacks could have happened then, why do we assume that they cannot happen now?

National defence and anti-terrorism is every citizen's responsibility.

The Government is implementing security checks and we, as citizens, should also play our part by cooperating with the security checks.

If people feel they might reach work or school late, then they should leave home earlier so that they can arrive on time.

We should not see these security measures as a hassle or an annoyance, but rather, as something that will protect the Republic and keep us safe and sound. Together we will be able to stand strong against terrorism.

Kenneth Tan Kai Siang

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/forum/letters-in-print/national-defence-every-citizens-responsibility
 


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13 Nov 2018
Ministry of Health
Negative
Lack of internet access hamper the work of doctors


I am surprised to learn about the problem faced by the doctors that is caused by removing the internet access. The doctors need to retrieve the records of patients for their treatment.

By removing the internet access, the staff has to spend a lot of time to get the information. This caused delay and stress.

This episode exposes the weakness of the culture that is prevalent in Singapore.

Leaders just refused to take the lead, to take responsibility and to exercise their common sense.

I know that there was a breach of security that led to 1.5 million patient records being stolen.

This large number is shocking and should not be allowed to happen.

But a small number that is stolen is not serious. The data that is stolen is not critical. It is just the name, address, date of birth and NRIC number of the patient, and maybe a few more fields.

What is the problem?

If my data is stolen, I would not be worried. My name and address can be found from the telephone directory (not sure if they still print it).

My date of birth is 9 March 1948. Please take note and send me birthday greetings.

If you want to know my NRIC No, you can work as a security guard at any building. They scan my NRIC and also asked for my mobile No.

There is no need to be paranoid that this type of data can be stolen by hackers.

I do not condone the large scale loss of data. However, I do not agree on the extreme reaction.

It is all right to restrict certain types of access to the local area network, i.e. not accessible through the internet. This applies to the web pages that contain the details of many patients, e.g. those who visited the various hospitals in a day.

I suspect that this was how 1.5 million records were hacked.

But it is all right for the doctor to get access to 1 patient record at a time.

I have recommended the every access should be logged, so that the system administrator know the doctor, the patient and the timestamp of each access.

The log will be able to tell if a particular doctor had accessed many patient records in a day. This is likely to be unauthorised access.

I now come back to the issue of taking responsibility.

Our health minister should come forward and authorise the restoration of the internet access to doctors who need the patient records to treat the patient.

If he is not sure about the risk, he can consult me. He does not need to pay me for my consultation. He only need to be humble to ask me.

He can continue to stay in the background and let the patients and the staff continue to work under difficult conditions, without the information that is needed for their work.

He can also delay taking any action on the excuse that this is being considered by the commission of inquiry. It is quite common to "pass the buck". It is our prevailing culture.

Tan Kin Lian
 


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12 Nov 2018
Smart Nation
Suggestion
Standardise cashless payments

Singapore needs to step up its game in terms of going cashless.

It is common to find certain shops or even restaurants not accepting Nets payments, or accepting Nets only with a minimum amount spent. I have also chanced upon retailers who accept only cash payments.

When incidents like these happen, they cause a stir as customers fumble to switch between payment methods.

Such limitations may be minor to the retailers, but they can cause huge inconveniences to users. They might also discourage people from using such payment methods in future.

There should be a standardised form of cashless payments in all shops for a smoother and faster shopping experience.

Wee Wen Xin, 17

Polytechnic Year 1 student

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/forum/letters-in-print/standardise-cashless-payments


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12 Nov 2018
National Environment Agency
Suggestion
One piece of contaminated plastic can taint the whole recycling bin

Many Singaporeans are still unaware of the type of plastic that can be recycled (Inconvenience and ignorance key obstacles to recycling; Aug 31).

In fact, only a meagre 6 per cent of our plastic waste is recycled.

Without having proper knowledge of recycling, uninformed Singaporeans tend to throw the wrong items into the recycling bin. Ultimately, the lack of knowledge on how to recycle plastic properly may lead to them choosing not to recycle altogether.

Most of our plastic waste comes in the form of food and beverage packaging.

However, contaminated plastic is not recycled by waste collectors and is sent to be incinerated. One piece of contaminated plastic in the recycling bin is enough to taint the entire bin's worth of plastic, contributing to our extremely low recycling rate for plastic.

However, Singaporeans still throw their used-food packaging into the plastic recycling bin.

With proper education on the importance of recycling and the steps to follow, the amount of contaminated plastic thrown into the recycling bins can be reduced tremendously.

I applaud the Let's Recycle Together campaign by Zero Waste SG, where volunteers educate residents on items that they can recycle.

More informative posters can also be put up beside recycling bins to educate those who wish to recycle on the proper way to do so.

We should also have facilities near recycling bins for those who want to recycle plastic to rinse and clean their contaminated plastic waste before recycling it.

With proper education and facilities provided through the efforts of environmental groups and the National Environment Agency, we will be able to strive for a sustainable Singapore.

Kieran Ethan Tan

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/forum/letters-on-the-web/one-piece-of-contaminated-plastic-can-taint-the-whole-recycling-bin
 


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12 Nov 2018
Ministry of Health
Suggestion
Take action to curb underage smoking

The prevalence of underage smoking has been growing at an alarming rate. One factor that contributes to the spread of this is peer pressure as humans intrinsically feel the need to conform to societal norms. But only about 10 per cent of Singaporeans smoke, so this is far from the norm.

Furthermore, the fact that these minors have the means to obtain tobacco products is a cause of worry. Perpetrators who supply them with cigarettes should be promptly prosecuted.

Schools must continue to educate our youth and actively raise awareness about the dangers of smoking. Their focus has to shift to teaching students to say no. Parents should guide their children to use other channels to relieve stress and feel good.

I suggest the relevant authorities take action quickly.

Yang Yizhen, 16

Secondary 4 student

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/forum/letters-in-print/take-action-to-curb-underage-smoking


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12 Nov 2018
National Library Board
Suggestion
Keep libraries open 24/7 and on public holidays

In the light of the National Library Board (NLB) wanting to make libraries more accessible, I suggest it consider keeping the libraries open 24 hours and on public holidays as well (New VivoCity library will draw 1.5m visitors: NLB; Nov 2).

Our public libraries open till 9pm daily and are closed on public holidays. It will be a good idea to extend the operating time to encourage reading among Singaporeans. Parents who lack the time to take their children to the library at weekends can do so on public holidays.

As many Singaporeans enjoy bonding with friends late at night over supper and drinks, why not provide an alternative, and beneficial, night activity - reading?

Most working adults work till late in the evening and extending the opening hours to 24 hours will give them a longer window to visit the library. This may also find favour with readers who enjoy a quiet late night read before bedtime.

I understand there will be manpower constraints. Here are some suggestions to tackle that.

NLB can start off with selected libraries first - especially those with greater footfall, before extending this to all libraries.

Alternatively, libraries can be kept open 24 hours at weekends, when more people have time to visit them, similar to how businesses operate longer hours at weekends.

With regard to manpower, NLB can deploy fewer librarians at night. Alternatively, it can also rely more on automation or artificial intelligence for late-night operations, in line with the country's Smart Nation initiative.

NLB can limit library services at night to the bare basics - merely borrowing and manning the reading area - and keep other less-in-demand services, such as consultations, research and advisories, to the current hours.

NLB can also consider having community volunteers for the late night shift. Perhaps NLB can kick off a six-month trial to determine if such a move will be welcome.

Sean Lim Wei Xin

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/forum/letters-in-print/keep-libraries-open-247-and-on-public-holidays


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12 Nov 2018
Smart Nation
Negative
Corp Pass has become a nightmare

Corp Pass is now a nightmare for me.

In the past, I could log in to the Registrar of Society website to submit the annual return for a society that I am responsible for.

Last year, they asked me to register a Corp Pass for this society. As several office bears are involved, each person has to register a separate Corp Pass just for this purpose.

I went through the difficult process of registering my Corp Pass identity. I had to copy down the UEN, user ID and password, as it was difficult for me to remember it.

Yesterday, I logged into the ROS website to approve the annual return. I used my Corp Pass identity. I had to refer to my record to get the UEN, user ID and password.

It failed. I tried many more times. It failed.

I do not know what went wrong. But I did waste quite a few minutes of my time.

I tried SingPass. It went through.

However, there was a message that it would not be allowed after 1 September 2018. So, it seemed that the change was not implemented.

Clearly, Corp Pass is a mess. It is not necessary. Govt Tech should recognize that this is a failure and revert back to Sing Pass.

Tan Kin Lian


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11 Nov 2018
Ministry of Trade & Industry
Negative
High cost is chasing away tourists


My friend went with his family on a cruise in the Mediterranean. They visited Milan.

He was surprised to see the shopping situation. The shops were full with tourists. Many of them were from China.

He said - it is not true that the retail scene is dead, caused by the online websites. In Milan, there were many shoppers. The prices are much lower than Singapore and they offer the more up-to-date products.

What happened to our Orchard Road? Where are the tourists?

I hope that our tourist board is aware about what is happening. It is obvious that our high prices are chasing away the tourists.
 


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10 Nov 2018
Ministry of Environment
Suggestion
Offer monetary incentives to encourage plastic recycling

There has been much discussion on single-use plastic straws and bags, and banning them, with more organisations getting on the no-plastic-straw bandwagon.

In fact, such discussions have been ongoing for years, but it seems that there has not been much improvement in the situation.

Why have past efforts not been successful?

It is because plastic bags have become deeply rooted in our lifestyles as a product of convenience or necessity, just like how people are still using the air-conditioner despite knowing its harmful effects on the environment.

So instead of calling for a total ban on single-use plastic straws and bags, we should focus on two factors.

First, technology should be used to come up with an alternative form of carrier that will not harm the environment, like something that will dissolve in water without releasing harmful toxins, for example.

This will solve the problem of plastic bags clogging the oceans and harming marine life.

Second, a monetary incentive can be offered for the recycling of plastics, just like how metal and paper are collected and exchanged for cash.

This initiative will take off only if there are substantial economical benefits that can be derived from recycling these plastics into something useful. Again, there needs to be technological investment to kick off this initiative.

Perhaps the Government can invest some resources into these two areas, given the lacklustre response from the private sector so far.

These can be part of the initiatives by the Government to combat global warming in the long term.

Once the private sector sees that there is an economic benefit to this, there will be more players jumping on this bandwagon.

Victor Tan

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/forum/letters-in-print/offer-monetary-incentives-to-encourage-plastic-recycling


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10 Nov 2018
Ministry of Environment
Suggestion
Issue of marine pollution getting more urgent

It may not be easy or cost-efficient for corporations to take up green initiatives, as consumers might not be comfortable with the sudden change.

However, we must begin looking towards how we can cut down on our plastic usage in Singapore, and a direct approach is for companies to stop providing single-use plastics.

I was recently involved in the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore this year and saw first-hand how plastic waste can get into the ocean if not properly managed, or if we do not reduce our use of them. Among the items collected were 1,345 straws and stirrers within two hours in a 100m stretch of beach.

Single-use plastics contribute to marine pollution, which affects marine life, and can enter our food chain.

The example of Resorts World Sentosa (RWS), which has stopped providing single-use plastic straws at its attractions and eateries, is also telling of how Singapore as a nation is striving towards environmental conservation and reduction of waste (RWS stops providing single-use plastic straws at attractions, eateries; Oct 30). This complements Singapore's efforts in becoming a zero-waste nation.

Conservation does not end after the banning of straws. We must continue looking into other areas where we can reduce plastic waste.

Therefore, RWS' decision to also look into reducing the use of disposable water bottles is a step in the right direction.

Perhaps RWS can also look towards collaborating with civil society groups that target the reduction of single-use plastics in Singapore. This could possibly help make conservation efforts more effective nationwide.

The Government must decide if legislation to ban single-use plastics here is feasible, following the recent vote for a complete ban on a range of single-use plastics across the European Union.

While the current stance is to take a long-term approach to build national consciousness, we can also take cues from how other nations are managing their plastic waste as the problem of marine pollution appears to be getting more urgent.

Merrick Ho Yong Jin

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/forum/letters-on-the-web/issue-of-marine-pollution-getting-more-urgent


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10 Nov 2018
Ministry of Health
Negative
Focus on curbing drinking too

I am very disappointed that the authorities are concentrating on curbing smoking but nothing much is being done about drinking.

Drinking can be and is a bigger and more severe evil than smoking.

There are events and promotions to encourage drinking, like Whisky Live and Wine Fiesta, but there is no such thing as a smoking festival.

As a social drinker and smoker, I wonder why there are no warnings on alcoholic bottles in Singapore with gory images to remind all of the dangers of drink driving, such as fatal accidents. There have been many other injuries and deaths related to drinking too, such as rioting and fighting.

I hope that the authorities will do more to curb drinking instead of just focusing on smoking because drinking can have more severe consequences than smoking.

Ace Kindredzen Cheong

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/forum/letters-in-print/focus-on-curbing-drinking-too


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10 Nov 2018
Ministry of Education
Suggestion
JC grads who don't qualify for local unis overlooked

I applaud the Government for recognising that there are many students who are late bloomers and may mature academically during their polytechnic years (Uni admissions: Poly grads' O-level grades to be dropped from 2020; Nov 9).

As an educator, I would like to highlight a batch of students who are constantly overlooked: junior college graduates who do not qualify for local universities and may not have the finances to study abroad. Every academic year, there must be a few thousands of them.

The Government should do a detailed study on the impact of them going to private universities in Singapore and whether these degrees are recognised in the civil service, the extra financial burden this brings to families, how difficult it is for them to get a job after graduation, whether the pay is equitable and the difficulty of academic debt repayment.

The Government should be upfront in telling the general population that the route to higher education appears to be more likely now with a polytechnic diploma, as the JC route appears to be the road less travelled these days.

I feel that JC graduates rejected by the local universities are also a big potential economic loss to Singapore because they were once the "early bloomers".

Colin Ong Tau Shien

source: https://www.straitstimes.com/forum/letters-in-print/jc-grads-who-dont-qualify-for-local-unis-overlooked


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10 Nov 2018
Ministry of Law
Negative
High cost of litigation


Someone said the purpose of high cost of litigation is to discourage people from taking this route.

This is a bad reason.

People need to find a just solution to a dispute.

Some disputes can be solved by mediation or through the small claims court. But some cannot.

The high cost will prevent many people, who cannot afford it, to abandon this means of solving a dispute. It leads to the rich and powerful winning the disputes because the poor cannot afford the cost of litigation.

We need to find a better way bring down the cost of litigation.

Some countries appoint an ombudsman to handle some kinds of disputes. This concept started in Switzerland and has been adopted in other countries, e.g. Australia. Some ombudsman handles disputes with the government but some also handles disputes with business organizations.

I support the use of the ombudsman.

But a better solution is for the govt and the court to put a cap on the fees that are charged by lawyers. It is horrible that some senior counsels charge $20,000 for each day of hearing in court. This could represent one years of earning for a low wage worker.

Some cases can drag on for a long time in court. There should also be an overall cap on the legal fees for a case, so that it does not drag on for a long time in court.

I know of some court cases where the legal fees could come up to more than 1 million dollars.

Lawyers are happy with such a system, but is it fair to the ordinary people?

We need to address this flaw in our legal system.

Tan Kin Lian


 


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09 Nov 2018
National Parks Board
Suggestion
Count nylon strings that grass cutters get and use

I share the view of telecommunications consultant Bill Bremner that our green spaces have been marred by litter from grass cutting (Green spaces marred by litter left from grass cutting; Nov 7).

Four years ago, I noticed this problem at Bedok Reservoir Park and it appears to have improved since it was reported to NParks.

This problem can be easily solved if all parties involved put some effort into it.

First, grass cutters should be warned against throwing used nylon strings on the ground. They should carry a bag to keep all the used nylon strings for proper disposal after finishing their work.

The contractor in charge of the grass cutters can issue a fixed number of nylon strings to them at the start of the day and, at the end of the day, collect and count the used nylon strings and check if the numbers tally.

If they do not tally, the grass cutters must have thrown the used nylon strings away and they should be penalised for doing so.

The management of green spaces such as NParks should continue to carry out checks and penalise the contractors if their grass cutters continue to litter.

This should resolve the problem after some time.

Tan Keng Hai

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/forum/letters-in-print/count-nylon-strings-that-grass-cutters-get-and-use
 


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09 Nov 2018
National Environment Agency
Suggestion
Improve outreach programmes on going green

The Government has encouraged Singaporeans to be more environmentally conscious, given the serious threats that climate change poses to Singapore (Learn how to waste less at green carnival; Nov 4). Events like the Clean and Green Singapore Carnival teach Singaporeans how to fix common household appliances when they break down, thus reducing electronic waste.

But more can be done to reduce Singapore's carbon footprint and counter increasing energy consumption (Local household electricity usage up 17% over past decade; May 6). Current efforts are not addressing the root cause of the problem - the lack of public recognition and awareness.

Educational outreach programmes and media promotions need to be improved.

First, events such as the Clean and Green Singapore Carnival can be held multiple times in the year at different locations to reach out to all Singaporeans. Invite celebrities and social media influencers to the events to attract crowds.

Second, set up a quiz booth at the carnival and give electronic coupons to those who answer questions on carnival exhibits correctly. This may motivate visitors to explore the carnival and learn about climate change.

E-mail discount coupons for energy-efficient products and tips on waste reduction to participants, encouraging them to switch to cost-effective appliances.

Third, the Environment Challenge for Schools should be upscaled to promote greater participation. Non-governmental organisations can be invited to guide students in their projects.

Students who are more environmentally conscious could help to educate their families on how to reduce energy consumption and adopt environmentally friendly practices.

Chin Yuan Yee (Miss)

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/forum/letters-in-print/improve-outreach-programmes-on-going-green


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