Budget debate

Thinking out of the box

Mr De Souza said promoting adoption could lower abortion rates and raise total fertility.
Mr De Souza said promoting adoption could lower abortion rates and raise total fertility.

On the second day of the Budget debate yesterday, MPs offered unconventional solutions to deal with issues ranging from Singapore's low birth-rate to retrenched workers. Lim Yan Liang highlights five suggestions.

PROMOTE CULTURE OF ADOPTION

Publicising adoption more widely could encourage pregnant women who are thinking of abortion to keep their babies, said Mr Christopher De Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC).

This could result in the total fertility rate here increasing, he said.

Noting that those with unwanted pregnancies may not have thought of putting their child up for adoption, Mr De Souza called on the Government to publicise it as "a comforting, loving, nurturing and voluntary alternative".

This can be done during the mandatory pre-abortion counselling sessions, he said.


RETURNS ON RESEARCH INVESTMENTS


Dr Tan said the Government could retain some equity in start-up firms receiving help.

The Government should tweak the way it supports research so that gains from its investments are returned to society when the research becomes successful, said Dr Tan Wu Meng (Jurong GRC).

He suggested that the Government retain some equity in start-up firms receiving grants or loans, the way private venture firms do.

This could take the form of preferred stock that has priority in receiving dividends, and does not have to be a controlling stake.

Another way is by adjusting loan repayments based on the profitability of the company, he said.


DESIGN WITH PRODUCTIVITY IN MIND


Mr Zainal said better design in buildings could result in more efficient levels of staffing.

Despite government funding to nudge companies towards sourcing for services based on quality, many companies are still looking at costs when procuring services such as cleaning, said Mr Zainal Sapari (Pasir Ris-Punggol)

This gives service providers little incentive to improve productivity. And headcount-based contracts are also expensive and unproductive, especially as labour supply grows tighter, he added.

He called on buildings to be designed with a "productivity mindset" so building owners can hire fewer people to provide cleaning, security and landscape services.


ANNUAL STATEMENT FOR ALL


Mr Zaqy said the statement could act as a sort of snapshot of a citizen's financial state.

With help schemes becoming more complex, the Government should send out a consolidated statement to each citizen once a year to let them know what benefits they receive, said Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC).

The statement can let people know the exact amount of rebates, vouchers and benefits they will get.

It can also provide a snapshot of the current balances in one's Central Provident Fund (CPF), CPFLife, Medisave and MediShield Life accounts as well as retirement benchmarks, so Singaporeans know if they are adequately covered for their future, he added.


BANK VOLUNTEER-HOURS


Ms Pereira said volunteer hours could be traded for perks such as priority queueing.

To get more senior citizens volunteering, a "time bank" should be created that allows every hour spent volunteering to be deposited.

Suggesting this, Ms Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC) said the hours could then be exchanged for certain privileges such as priority queuing at polyclinics and hospitals and free or discounted courses at the People's Association.

She added that it could also go towards offsetting a $50 fee needed to apply for a Lasting Power of Attorney, a legal instrument allowing individuals to nominate others to make decisions on their behalf when they are unable to do so.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2016, with the headline 'Thinking out of the box'. Print Edition | Subscribe