20130620 To Minister Shanmugam (Facebook posting)

From: phillip ang
Sent: Thursday, June 20, 2013 4:36 PM
To: SHANMUGAM
Cc: bga336 ; bokkoh ; choonhock ; cue_liew ; DILLON ; <a title="teo_chee_hean ; DPM THARMAN ; <a title="gerald.giam ; INDERJIT ; <a title="s_iswaran ; jaya kumar ; <a title="jjauto ; lchertan ; LUI TUCK YEW ; <a title="yaacob_ibrahim ; MP JANIL PUTHUCHEARY ; <a title="zainal_sapari ; news ; newseditor ; ngys ; nicole.rebecca.seah ; ongqyqy ; PM LEE ; <a title="ravi ; SPH GAO ; <a title="yuanyi ; ST CHINLIAN ; <a title="stnewsdesk ; STANLEY ; <a title="sylvia ; THEREALSINGAPORE ; <a title="theonlinecitizen ; TRE ; <a title="reachus ; zblocal
Subject: 20130620 To Minister Shanmugam (Facebook posting)

Dear Minister Shanmugam

I refer to Minister Shanmugam’s Facebook posting @ https://www.facebook.com/k.shanmugam.page

While the majority contributing to online media do not condone the use of expletives, we also understand the frustrations of those who do.

The haze situation has been recurring for more than a decade, reaching unhuman levels again yesterday. The PAP government continued with its usual approach of monitoring cum rhetoric. Facts on transboundary haze @ http://www.rsis.edu.sg/nts/html-newsletter/alert/nts-alert-oct-1201.html

Our expectations of a solution are really not unjustified based on the remuneration of the brightest and most capable in the civil service in the world. But track faults on our public transportation keep recurring, the last one yesterday preceded by another recent one 4 days ago, the record number of dengue cases, etc. There are signs of a broken system.

Since Minister Shanmugam says that ‘”we are often price takers”, I would assume Singaporeans are overpaying our leaders because many solutions are conditional upon foreign events which are totally beyond our control.

Minister Shanmugam should not be requesting Mr (expletive) Sin for feedback because it is clear that nothing could be done at such a late stage except to wait it out.

Your question should be directed at the NEA since they are the experts in charge. To be fair, there is presently no solution. The problem – no civil servant has been able to think out of the box to produce a solution after more than a decade. And neither has any been held responsible/accountable.

Knowing that forests are burned between June and September, the NEA should have anticipated months earlier the situation in Sumatra through contacts on the ground. Instead, it waited till fires have started with record-setting PSI levels. Our approach is akin to sending firemen with buckets to douse a towering inferno.

The government has belatedly sent NEA’s CEO Andrew Tan for an emergency meeting with the Indonesian authorities “to get them to do the right thing”. We should not raise our hopes too high as Indonesian resources are stretched at the moment, personal temperatures are also high and the area is many times larger than our country.

In situations like this we should be sending our minister to talk to the Indonesian authorities personally. This sends a strong message of our resolve compared to sending the head of a statutory board. Doesn’t the health concerns of 5,400,000 inhabitants of a country justify the intervention of none other than the minister himself? Should the minister in charge continue talking over the phone only?

To conclude that the “haze situation is not quite under our control” is being overly pessimistic. It appears to be outside our control because all the actions taken so far have been discouraging. Instead, the government should be thinking outside the box for a solution, which is what it is paid to do.

Monitoring the situation and talking to Indonesian counterparts are simply a waste of time. Any Ah Beng, Ahmad or Arumugam could have thought of this. Perhaps the government could work out the cost of forest fires and determine if assistance could be rendered to small farmers towards land clearing. Maybe some sort of temporary incentives to wean them off slash and burn.

The reality is the longer we wait, the higher our economic costs. Health costs for many could stretch into the future.
Since our losses have already amounted to billions, if the financial cost to reduce haze is a fraction of our economic losses, why not set up a fund for such a purpose? At the same time, Singapore could exert pressure on the Indonesian government and be seen as being proactive and concerned instead of merely complaining and always resorting to legal means to settle issues.

The large corporations are easier to deal with but it is a wonder why they have never been shamed or their products boycotted. Does Singapore have any interests in any of these companies?

Whatever the government intends to do, it should discard all the tried-but-failed approaches. The government could invite public feedback but, hopefully, don’t tell us you have run out of ideas and don’t throw the question back at us as we are not J C students.

Haze from Indonesia has continued to choke Singaporeans for almost 2 decades. If the government is serious, its about time the person in charge is also held accountable.

Regards

Phillip Ang

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