Questions and answers from PM Lee's Facebook chat

-- PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
-- PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong held a live chat on his Facebook page on Saturday, where he answered a myriad of questions from the public.

The session kicked off at 11.45am, with PM Lee breaking the ice by answering some of the quirkier, lighthearted questions, before tackling more serious issues.

Lighthearted moments

Q: Why do you keep wearing pink shirts? I like pink too! Let's go to Pink Dot this year!

A: My TV producer tells me to do that!

Q: Dear PM Lee, given your hectic work schedule, how do you balance your work with family and personal life?

A: Always a struggle, like everyone else. But I exercise every morning, and try to take a walk with my wife on weekends. I am also just starting to learn something new - Pilates!

Q: Your photos are great! What kind of camera do you use? If it is your phone, any touch-up or editing with a mobile app?

A: iPhone, and a compact camera (especially at night). I use Lightroom to edit, and also Lightzone, which is free but very good.

Q: I want to know what is your favourite cuisine.

A: Home food.

Q: Sir how r u feeling now? Nervous?

A: So far so good, but your question makes me just a little anxious! Why do you ask?

Q: PM - what made you start using Facebook ? I must say its cool to Follow you 

A: I watched my colleagues doing it, and eventually they persuaded me to try. It has been quite a lot of work, but fun too!

Q: Hi Mr Lee. I see that you wear Jawbone all the time. May I know how many steps do you take in a day and average hours of sleep?

A: I sleep 6-7 hrs a day, and walk on average 7000 to 8000 steps. Once in a while I do more than 10000 steps, and the app sings and dances!

Q: Do you prefer traditional coffee or European coffee like latte, cappuccino or espresso? PM Lee, you ever drank bubble tea? You should join the youngsters to drink KOI Café Singapore.

A: I don't usually drink coffee, but once in a while I try whatever brew is being offered (yesterday at the Launchpad @ one-north, I had a cup of kopi-si.). Will try KOI cafe one day!

Q: Dear Sir, ever wonder if you were not the PM, what would you want to be?

A: A teacher or lecturer. It is fun to interact with young people.

PM on more serious issues

Q: Dear PM Lee, why can I not use my CPF the way I want to? I want to spend it on my family while still alive. Will there be a change in policy to allow ultimate discretion to the account owner? The minimum sum seems more like a blackbox as the potrayed scenarios to justify it may not apply to every single Singaporean.

A: The CPF is just the basic amount to take care of everyone in old age. The Minimum Sum is not a lot. Every society has some arrangement like that, and ours is the CPF.

Q: Hello Mr Lee, will Singapore continual to accept talented immigrants next few years ? Will the immigration policy (be) changed? Will Singapore plan to accept more immigrants?

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

Q: Mr Lee, while a universal healthcare system (MediShield) aims to make healthcare affordable to all, the overall costs of the system can possibly be draining on a country. Could this result in cuts in other areas of government? Thanks.

A: This will be an issue if we are not careful. The govt 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. We must get the right balance.

Q: My name is James Lao and I am a secondary 4 student. With the O levels looming in the distance, there have been quite a few debates on the usefulness of bilingualism among some of my friends, with some arguing against it, quoting reasons like “everybody speaks English anyway” and “I’m going to Europe/USA, so Chinese is useless” etc. This has piqued my interest in the matter. I understand that Mr. Lee is a strong supporter of having Mother Tongue in our education system, emphasizing a while back that “We need to speak and write [the mother tongue languages] correctly, but also colloquially” (Straits Times, May 14, 2014). As such, I would like to ask: What was the most compelling argument you have faced that is against the bilingualism policies, and what was your response? Thank you so much for conducting this Q&A, and I wish you and your family good health.

A: The most compelling argument is: it is a very heavy investment to study two languages. Why not concentrate on one, and do it really well?

Q: Mr Prime Minister, my wife (German) and I (Indian) have lived in different parts of the world and finally chose Singapore as our home.There's so much that this country has to offer which many who haven't had the chance to travel outside of Singapore, do not know about. It would be lovely if people like us get a platform to share our stories with our Singaporean brothers and sisters why we admire this place and what makes us wanting to be a part of their beautiful nation. Maybe a 'Postcards from the world for Singapore' online or on the ground initiative, which lets everyone know why an increasing number of people choose to invest their lives in Singapore. We can start with why we moved down from the Middle East to the beautiful red dot....

A: Thanks for moving here, and enjoying Singapore! I appreciate your sharing your story with us. Perhaps you can write to the Straits Times about your experiences.

Q: Hi Sir, will u build more hdb flats for singles? Will u allow singles younger than 35 to own a flat?

A: We are indeed building more HDB flats, and singles can now apply for them. But I don't think we will reduce the age below 35. It is not so old!

Q: Can the government consider to make PIC (Productivity and Innovation Credit) a permanent scheme beyond YA2018? It is a great help for promoting innovation and productivity especially for SMEs

A: Will ask DPM Tharman to consider this!

Q: I run a small business with my GF and we are having a very hard time finding Singaporeans who are willing to work entry level jobs. Most of the young candidates want to have more pay and work less hours than more senior members. Easing restrictions on the Foreign Worker Quota would allow us to grow and thrive. Can you speak about the balance between small business growth and supporting jobs for local Singaporeans?

A: Many SMEs have experienced the same problem as you. We have tightened on foreign workers, but we have not shut them off. (Some people wanted us to stop foreign workers altogether!) We have to continue to be tight, but we are watching carefully to make sure we don't overdo things. This is one issue DPM Tharman is studying.

Q: Dear Sir. I have 2 retired parents who (need) regular follow ups at Polyclinics and Specialists Centres. They have been telling me that they are paying a lot of money for non standard medications that are prescribed by their doctors as there are no generic ones in the market. I applaud the PGcard implementation which really helped them a lot. Please consider extending these subsidies to non standard medications too, at least for old folks like them. Thank you.

A: There are lots of non-standard medicines (e.g. vitamin pills), so we have to be careful. But if the doctor thinks the non-standard item is essential, and your parents can't afford it, we have a scheme to subsidise them. Where do your parents live? Perhaps I can ask their MP to help them?

Q: Mr. Prime Minister, Sir, What is your view on our evolution as a gracious society? In what ways are we making progress and how can we continue to make progress?

A: We have made progress, but must work harder. e.g. in some MRT stations (like Bishan) commuters queue up to get into the carriages. We should do that in all our stations. I know the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM) is doing good work. I will post about it on FB soon, so that more Singaporeans learn about what you are doing!

Q: Dear mr lee, why is it that our transportation cost (keeps) on increasing? Every year they increase and we do know that sbs transit earn huge profits for their pockets. Cant the government take back shares within the transportation system such that the prices dont increase every year and work with the privatised operation? the price of fuel drops but our rates increase again. Hk mtr has dropped their transport fees to give back to the society. What about us? Can we stop experiencing fare hikes?

A:  This is a difficult problem everywhere. Nobody likes to pay more for train and bus rides. Yet it costs money to run the trains and buses, and to improve the 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. The govt 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 to have to pay a fair share.

This year fuel prices have dropped. According to the formula, fares should go down too. But we have half an adjustment left over from last year, so overall fares have to go up a bit. Hope you will understand.

Q: Hi there Mr Lee. How do you think Team Singapore will fare in June? #SEAGames

A: They are training hard, so I am sure they will do well.Go for it, Team SG!

Q: This is a letter from my 9 year old daughter, Charlotte. Wanted to attach the picture of her handwritten letter but could not, due to some setting restrictions. So I typed out her letter instead. Hope Mr Lee will take a little time to address her question at the live Q&A session on Facebook.Dear Mr Lee,My name is Charlotte Eng. I am from Haig Girls' School and I am 9 years old. I would like to keep a Golden Retriever but I cannot keep one because I live in a HDB flat. My mummy told me that people who live in HDB flats cannot keep big dogs because big dogs need big space to run around. Why is it that some condos are smaller and yet they can keep big dogs?I choose to keep a golden retriever because I did many research and found out that golden retrievers are most suitable for me because they are very intelligent and are easier to train. They rarely bark and are also very family-friendly. I want to keep a dog because it can teach me to be more responsible. Mr Lee, can you convince HDB to change their rule so that I can keep a golden retriever? Thank you.Yours sincerely,Charlotte Eng

A: Dear Charlotte, Thanks for your letter. I like golden retrievers too. They are lovely dogs. I have never owned one, though we used to have labradors at home. I think HDB's concern is that big dogs may cause a nuisance to neighbours, so their rule is only to allow small dogs. If your dog is not so big, perhaps we can ask HDB (and your neighbours) to be flexible about it?

(later) Dear Charlotte, My staff just told me HDB and AVA is reviewing the policy.

Q: You have consented to post Minister Chan Chun Sing to NTUC full time from April. Which areas of work in NTUC and tripartism do you hope to see him building on in the years ahead? Whats most critical for Spore when it comes to worker issues? Thanks.

A: You should ask Chun Sing that question! Certainly worker upgrading is important, so that our people can do better jobs. So is working with employers and the govt, to cope with the rapid changes in our economy. We talk about restructuring just as a concept, but for a worker whose job is restructured it can be a very painful and difficult thing.

 

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