Make decisions with community consensus

A flat owner who had converted his property's doorstep into a fish tank for his koi carp has failed in his appeal to keep the structure.
A flat owner who had converted his property's doorstep into a fish tank for his koi carp has failed in his appeal to keep the structure. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

It is disheartening to learn that the Housing Board has rejected a flat owner's appeal to keep his koi tank (HDB rejects owner's appeal to keep koi tank outside flat, April 10).

HDB said that "there is a more fundamental reason to turn down the request", which is that the stairway area outside the unit is common property.

This makes little sense to me, since who would regard the stairway right in front of a residential unit as common property? Are people free to hang out at the stairway as they please?

I think this is a good example of how public sector decision-making can be improved.

Yes, there are rules and policies, but civil servants should be given the discretion to enforce them on a case-by-case basis.

It was reported that Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng previously said he hoped the tank could be retained, as it had lasted without problems so far and was accepted by the community.

One might say that the tank has in fact generated positive externalities for the community, and has indeed become "common property" for everyone to enjoy.

Can we make decisions as a community instead of relying on a central government decision?

Can the Residents' Committee be activated to consider feedback from the community and come to a consensus or recommendation?

We want Singapore to be innovative and thrive in a disruptive economy. Civil servants should be taught and empowered to look for innovative solutions that may if necessary conform to the spirit if not the letter of the law.

There will be some messiness on the fringes of any highly innovative society - just look at the United States and China - which we must embrace to make progress.

The Government needs to empower civil servants to allow for more ground-up innovation.

Kelvin Hong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2019, with the headline 'Make decisions with community consensus'. Print Edition | Subscribe