PM tackles a range of personal questions, and some political ones, in Facebook chat

Mr Lee with staff of Facebook in Singapore. -- PHOTO: MCI/LEE HSIEN LOONG/FACEBOOK
Mr Lee with staff of Facebook in Singapore. -- PHOTO: MCI/LEE HSIEN LOONG/FACEBOOK
Mr Lee with his Facebook fans and Instagram followers. -- PHOTO: MCI/LEE HSIEN LOONG/FACEBOOK
Mr Lee with his Facebook fans and Instagram followers. -- PHOTO: MCI/LEE HSIEN LOONG/FACEBOOK
Mr Lee making a video in which he thanks people for participating. -- PHOTO: MCI/LEE HSIEN LOONG/FACEBOOK
Mr Lee making a video in which he thanks people for participating. -- PHOTO: MCI/LEE HSIEN LOONG/FACEBOOK
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong starting the online chat. -- PHOTO: MCI/LEE HSIEN LOONG/FACEBOOK
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong starting the online chat. -- PHOTO: MCI/LEE HSIEN LOONG/FACEBOOK
He wears pink on the advice of TV producers, takes pictures with his iPhone and a compact camera, and his favourite cuisine is home-cooked food. These were some nuggets of his personal life that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shared during a 45-minut
He wears pink on the advice of TV producers, takes pictures with his iPhone and a compact camera, and his favourite cuisine is home-cooked food. These were some nuggets of his personal life that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shared during a 45-minute Facebook question-and-answer session on Saturday morning. -- PHOTO: LEE HSIEN LOONG/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - He wears pink on the advice of TV producers, takes pictures with his iPhone and a compact camera, and his favourite cuisine is home-cooked food.

Like many Singaporeans, he struggles to balance work and exercise, but he knocks out a workout every morning, just started learning Pilates, and sleeps six to seven hours every night.

In an alternate world, he would have been a teacher or a lecturer.

These were some nuggets of his personal life that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shared during a 45-minute Facebook question-and-answer session on Saturday morning, revealing some things Singaporeans have always been curious to know about the prime minister.

Mr Lee, who was at the Facebook office in Singapore for the Q&A, started inviting questions at 11.30am and began replying shortly after.

More than 500 questions had been posed by noon, and by the end of the session at 12.30pm, over 1,600 questions had been put up.

 Personal questions aside, Mr Lee tackled a number of questions on policy issues. To a question by Mr Allen Yu on whether Singapore plans to take on more immigrants, the answer was an unqualified yes.

 "Yes we will continue to accept talent. We must continue to be welcoming and open," he said. "We have set our immigration policy for now, but will review it after a few years."

Transportation issues were a hot button topic, with more than a hundred questions posed to Mr Lee on everything from petrol prices to train breakdowns and the recently announced increase in bus and MRT fares.

 "Dear Mr Lee, why is it that our transportation cost keep on increasing? Every year they increase and we do know that SBS transit earn huge profits for their pockets," asked Ms Alanna Si.

 Mr Lee replied that this was a difficult problem that many countries faced, and that it costs money to run the trains and buses and improve service standards.

"It is not true that SBS Transit earns huge profits. In fact in recent years their bus operations have not been making money," he said. "The government subsidises public transport heavily - we are spending billions every year building MRT lines, and also spending almost a billion on the BSEP (bus services enhancement programme). But commuters too have to pay a fair share." 

He added that while fuel prices have fallen, the fare adjustments that were made recently were leftover from last year.

 "So overall fares have to go up a bit. Hope you will understand," he said.

 On the question of whether universal health insurance in Singapore would become a financial drain on the country - the Medishield Life scheme will kick in here later this year - Mr Lee said the government has to get the balance right.

"The government does not have unlimited money, so if we spend more on healthcare we will have less to spend elsewhere, or must raise taxes to pay for the spending," he said.

At the close of the session, Mr Lee thanked everyone for participating.

"It's been a lot of fun these last 45 minutes, reading your questions, answering them, typing furiously and keeping up with the flow. Hope you have enjoyed it as much as me," he said. "I'm sorry I couldn't answer all of the questions you have asked, but thank you for participating."

"I will do this again one day. I hope you'll be there again," he added. "Next time, I'll try hard to get to more questions."

yanliang@sph.com.sg

 

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