Budget debate

Thinking out of the box

Mr Faisal Manap (Aljunied GRC).
Mr Faisal Manap (Aljunied GRC).
Mr Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC)
Mr Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC)
Dr Tan Wu Meng (Jurong GRC).
Dr Tan Wu Meng (Jurong GRC).
Mr Chong Kee Hiong (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC).
Mr Chong Kee Hiong (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC).
Ms Tin Pei Ling (MacPherson SMC).
Ms Tin Pei Ling (MacPherson SMC).

On the second day of the Budget debate yesterday, MPs offered unconventional solutions to deal with issues ranging from better socio-economic integration to marrying subsidies and new technology for eldercare solutions . Rachel Au-Yong highlights five suggestions.

PSYCHOLOGY IN CLASSROOMS

Psychology should form the main thrust in training programmes, said Mr Faisal Manap (Aljunied GRC).

This is so people can become more self-aware and understand others better which, in turn, will help them develop more effective intra- and interpersonal skills, he said. He also urged the Government to consider incorporating some psychology topics into the existing science curriculum for lower secondary school students for similar reasons.

"With better awareness, our young ones will be able to establish good social and community values... Equipped with skills and knowledge, our young Singaporeans will be more empowered when they enter the workforce," he said.

THIRD LANGUAGE EXPOSURE

A more flexible curriculum could see students picking up a third language - without it being an examinable subject - to help them remain adaptable and competitive.

Mr Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) said learning Malay, Tamil and Hindi could put Singaporeans in good stead. Similarly, non-Mandarin-speaking students could pick up the language.

It is just as important to learn cultural nuances at a young age, he told The Straits Times.

This is because there has been a greater focus on the region recently, given increasingly protectionist measures from Western countries.

"We need to examine our approach and explore enhancing our language policy to make us the true global trader that we are," he said. 

RENTAL FLATS IN NEW HDB BLOCKS

The Housing Board could have rental flats in each new block to encourage better integration of Singaporeans from different economic backgrounds.

This would be similar to its Ethnic Integration Policy, put in place to preserve Singapore's multicultural identity, said Dr Tan Wu Meng (Jurong GRC). He urged the Government to pay attention to social cohesion in all its policies, and expressed concern over wealth inequality.

"Design changes in public housing can be revenue-neutral but they shape an entire generation of society in our heartlands," he said.

BUILDING THE SINGAPORE BRAND

Companies that meet the standards of their industries should be rewarded with an official logo they can display.

Mr Chong Kee Hiong (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) said the Government could give out "Proudly Made in Singapore" or "Proudly Singapore" stamps, to encourage local firms to strive for higher quality.

It is also a way to encourage environmental sustainability as buying products made at home helps reduce one's carbon footprint. "Hopefully, the 'Made in Singapore' label will become as trusted and respected as the 'Made in Japan' or 'Made in Germany' labels," he said.

SUBSIDIES FOR HEALTHCARE APPS

Ms Tin Pei Ling (MacPherson SMC) is not the first MP to suggest having digital platforms that link freelance healthcare professionals or caregivers to elderly residents who need it.

But she wants the Government to go one step further and allow existing subsidies to be applied to these services.

"Such platforms are the new norm. But some of them are privately run and elderly people who wish to utilise them may be deterred out of fear that the subsidies they may be eligible for cannot be applied via these platforms," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2017, with the headline 'Thinking out of the box'. Print Edition | Subscribe