Committee of Supply debate: Ministry of Defence

Ideas of the day

Mr Kok Heng Leun
Mr Kok Heng Leun
Mr Pritam Singh
Mr Pritam Singh
Ms Cheryl Chan
Ms Cheryl Chan
Mr Azmoon Ahmad
Mr Azmoon Ahmad
Mr Lim Biow Chuan
Mr Lim Biow Chuan

During the parliamentary debate yesterday on the spending plans of three ministries, MPs offered ways to nurture bilateral ties and protect consumers from being cheated online. Janice Heng highlights five memorable suggestions.

HAVE CULTURAL ATTACHES

Nominated MP and theatre veteran Kok Heng Leun asked if cultural exchange was a useful tool to facilitate understanding between countries to boost ties. Perhaps every Singapore embassy and consulate should have a cultural attache, he suggested.

Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Josephine Teo said there were no current plans for that. Where the need arises, foreign service officers could be trained to take on that extra role, she added.

RELEASE A DEFENCE WHITE PAPER

The Ministry of Defence (Mindef) should release a White Paper on spending, suggested Workers' Party's Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC).

As the largest consumer of the Budget, Mindef will always be asked about the nature and scale of its spending, and a White Paper will put its mission and needs in perspective, given the need for fiscal prudence, he said.

But Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said the Singapore Armed Forces was not large enough to require a White Paper, and that Mindef has methods such as polls to gauge public support.

MATCH RETIREES TO SMEs

Ms Cheryl Chan (Fengshan) had an idea to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and keep older workers active at the same time.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) could provide job opportunities for retirees with experience in management and business, she said.

She suggested that the ministry set up a platform for matching the retirees to SMEs and start-ups that need help. The retirees can serve as mentors and consultants, and the companies can benefit from their know-how.

ENTREPRENEURSHIP MENTORS

Also keen to tap the expertise of the experienced was NMP Azmoon Ahmad. He asked if the MTI would consider providing incentives to professionals, companies and voluntary organisations to guide and mentor entrepreneurs. Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran said mentorship was already supported through schemes such as Spring Singapore's Incubator Development Programme, under which incubators and accelerators get grants.

PROTECT CONSUMERS ONLINE

Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten) wanted more protection against errant online retailers. He suggested giving online buyers the right to return goods within seven days and get a full refund. He also called for a ban on pre-ticked boxes on online forms.

Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon said the law already requires retailers to make such information clear. MTI is also working with consumer watchdog Case to educate consumers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 08, 2016, with the headline 'Ideas of the day'. Print Edition | Subscribe