Committee of Supply debate: Ministry of Communications and Information

Out of the box

Several MPs flagged problems and offered suggestions on how to deal with them during yesterday's debate in Parliament. They were discussing the budgets of the Ministry of Manpower, Ministry of Communications and Information, and Ministry of Education. Charissa Yong highlights five standout ideas.

INCENTIVE SCHEME FOR FIRMS HIRING NSMEN

Bosses may be reluctant to hire operationally ready national servicemen, noted Mr Low Thia Khiang (Aljunied GRC).

These employers dislike the disruptions caused when NSmen have to be away for reservist training for periods of time, particularly in companies with fewer staff and less flexible operations.
These employees may also receive poorer performance reviews, or not be promoted.

Mr Low suggested introducing an appropriate incentive scheme to encourage employers to employ NSmen, especially those who still have to go for their in-camp training stints


STUDENT VOLUNTEERS IN LIBRARIES
Mr Darryl David (Ang Mo Kio GRC) suggested that polytechnic or Institute of Technical Education students in IT courses volunteer in libraries, where they can help older residents with their e-government transactions.

This makes public computers available to those who have no access to the Internet at home, while also building community spirit.

MORE SUPPORT FOR FREELANCERS

Organise a marketplace that enables gig economy workers to access pooled medical coverage and be efficiently matched to jobs, said Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC).

She added that workers and employers can also rate each other.

This would strengthen support for these freelance workers who do contract-based, on-demand work. They can face job insecurity and risk not being adequately insured for medical bills.

SCHOOL BUSES FOR KIDS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS

Special needs schools face difficulties finding school bus contractors, as the operators may need more staff or special equipment. This may lower their profits.

Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera suggested a one-off financial assistance package for school bus operators to retrofit their buses with facilities for children with special needs.

This could be similar to the Land Transport Authority's financial assistance scheme in 2008 to retrofit seatbelts and provide booster seats on small buses, Mr Perera said.

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MEET-THE-PEOPLE SESSIONS' FOR SMEs

To help small and medium-sized businesses go digital, the Government could organise "Meet-the-Firm Sessions", akin to Meet-the-People Sessions where residents meet their MPs, said Ms Sun Xueling (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC).

But instead of meeting an MP to seek assistance, the company's bosses could meet an officer from the Info-communications Media Development Authority. The officer can then let them know about various ways to go digital.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2017, with the headline 'Out of the box'. Print Edition | Subscribe