By The Way

CNY greetings, Budget prep and being C-plus: What politicians are talking about

The Straits Times looks at what politicians, and the politically related, are up to in this weekly series. PHOTOS: FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - The Straits Times looks at what politicians, and the politically related, are up to in this weekly series.

Political parties welcome the Year of the Tiger

MPs and political parties took to social media over the past week to wish netizens a roaring new year.

And the most popular tiger-themed greetings? Hu hu sheng wei, or to have the vigour and formidable strength of a tiger, and ru hu tian yi, literally a tiger that has grown wings, signifying might redoubled.

These were the greetings that capped a public service announcement by Health Minister Ong Ye Kung and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong on Sunday (Jan 30).

The two co-chairmen of the multi-ministry task force fighting Covid-19 urged Singaporeans to stay home if they are feeling unwell, and to self-test before visiting someone vulnerable.

Meanwhile, Workers' Party (WP) MPs and members "passed" oranges to one another virtually, while wishing viewers a merry festive season. Among them were former WP chief Low Thia Khiang, clad in maroon, who wished everyone a happy new year in Teochew.

The WP also got in on the trend of cute Telegram stickers, with a set of four Chinese New Year-themed stickers featuring its hammer logo.

One netizen thanked Associate Professor Jamus Lim for including the Peranakan community with his greeting of "panjang panjang umur" (long life in Malay), and that it was "sweet melody to my ears, especially since this is the first year I'm unable to wish my mum anymore".

The Progress Singapore Party (PSP) reprised its Chinese New Year video from last year - a music video of Forward New Year, a ditty composed by party chief Francis Yuen.

The video featured PSP chairman Tan Cheng Bock giving out hongbao, including to the party mascot Otica the otter.

"As we enter the new year with renewed vigour and confidence, may we wish all a prosperous, healthy and safe Year of the Tiger," the party wrote on Facebook.

A time for feasting - in moderation

Speaking of Chinese New Year, Mr Ong appears to have a weakness for homemade pineapple tarts, while Manpower Minister Tan See Leng favours the melt-in-your-mouth kueh bangkit.

In a Facebook post, Dr Tan noted that while each kueh bangkit is "small and really yummy", he has to ration his intake as the crumbly white biscuits pack a lot of calories.

Mr Ong also noted the importance of enjoying Chinese New Year goodies in moderation, saying: "This being my first CNY as Health Minister, I am afraid I need to be a bit of a nag. Do enjoy all these goodies in moderation, as they can contain quite a lot of sugar, salt and fat."

As much as he and his wife like the bite-sized pastry, they each take at most one pineapple tart a day, he said.

Former Sembawang GRC MP Amrin Amin, however, received contrary advice. He had put up a picture of himself trying to make pineapple tarts.

"Mum stepped away and I tried my hand. I've been told to stick to eating," quipped Mr Amrin, who lost in Sengkang GRC in the 2020 General Election.

Over at Marymount MP Gan Siow Huang's house, the guilty pleasure of choice is cupcakes with extra chocolate chips, baked fresh on the second day of the Chinese New Year.

Mr Amrin spotted the confections, and commented that they looked great. Perhaps that is his next CNY baking project.

Counting down to crunch time

Chinese New Year is a time of rest and red packets for many, but not for the civil servants at the ministry in charge of the Government's purse strings, Second Minister for Finance Indranee Rajah noted on Thursday (Feb 3).

"While most people are able to take a break over the CNY period, the opposite is the case for MOF (the Ministry of Finance)," she wrote on Facebook.

"With the Budget traditionally delivered in February, this is our busiest period."

With Budget 2022 set to be announced by Mr Wong on Feb 18 - a mere fortnight away - MOF officers are working hard to put the finishing touches on the Government's and ministries' spending plans, as they have year after year.

"Through the decades, MOF works to keep our fiscal lifeline going - to support our livelihoods, our health, our families and to protect and defend our country," said Ms Indranee.

"Budget 2022 will provide support for today, and put in place the things we must do to strengthen our tomorrow."

Last week, she posted about the sessions she had with young people about their priorities for this year's Budget, such as job and mentoring opportunities, while Mr Wong met virtually with representatives from the social service sector.

"Helping our vulnerable will be a key part of our Budget and for many more years to come," he said.

"More will be announced in my #SGBudget2022 speech on Feb 18. Stay tuned."

C+ means Covid-19 positive

At least two MPs caught Covid-19 over Chinese New Year - thankfully, they were able to detect their infections through frequent use of antigen rapid tests (ART).

Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development and Culture, Community and Youth Eric Chua found out on Thursday (Feb 3) that he had Covid-19.

Mr Chua wrote on Facebook that he had poor sleep the night before due to body aches and a low-grade fever. He had thought he was a little “heaty” but his routine ART in the morning returned a positive result.

The Tanjong Pagar GRC MP said he takes an ART daily as he meets many people regularly.

On testing ART positive, he drove himself to the nearest GP, was placed on 72-hour self-isolation by the doctor, and was given Panadol and lozenges.

Mr Chua tipped his followers to FairPrice’s 100% Coconut Water for helping with his recovery: “Not peddling this as a Covid-19 treatment for sure, but hey, it makes me feel good!”

Also on Thursday, Minister of State for National Development and Communications and Information Tan Kiat How said on Facebook that he had just recovered from Covid-19 after testing positive on an ART days earlier.

Noting that he had neither fever nor a sore throat, he said: “I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t been doing almost daily ART.”

Over the Chinese New Year holidays, he was self-isolated in his study feeling slightly more tired than usual, and spent a fair bit of his “solitary confinement catching up on anime (thank you, Netflix)”.

Mr Tan and his wife’s priority was to protect their 18-month-old son, Isaac, he said.

On Wednesday, his wife also tested positive, though she was feeling well. She had been doing a daily ART since Mr Tan first tested positive.

“We scrambled to pack all of Isaac’s stuff (and kids have a lot of stuff!) and shipped him off to his grandparents,” he said. “I think Isaac was the most excited about this adventure.”

Mr Tan said he empathised with parents of young children who worry about bringing Covid-19 home to their family. For now, it is his turn to take care of the chores as Mrs Tan sees out her isolation.

“In the meantime, my turn to do my share of the housework and take care of wifey during her isolation!”

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