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Govt must improve how it communicates policies: Heng

While policies may be complicated by nature, the Government must do its best to make them easy to understand and provide helplines for the community, said the Education Minister.

SINGAPOREL Policies are by design complicated, making it impossible to understand every facet, but it is important for the Government to step up on how it communicates them, said Education Minister Heng Swee Keat on Sunday (July 6).

Speaking after a dialogue with residents during a ministerial community visit to the Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng Division, Mr Heng, referring to policies such as the Pioneer Generation Package and MediShield Life, said the details can be complicated, but the Government must do its best to make them easy to understand and provide helplines.

He said: “I don’t think it is possible for everyone to know the full details of every policy, because the design of policies is by its nature complicated, but we have to simplify the communication so that the residents, whom we want these policies to benefit, can avail themselves of these changes.”

During the dialogue, a resident had raised concerns about rising medical costs and medical insurance premiums faced by middle-income and young families with the introduction of MediShield Life, due to take effect at the end of next year.

In response, Mr Heng said the scheme was introduced precisely to address the concerns about medical costs and is about saving up to meet long-term needs. It is also a way of sharing risks through “risk-pooling”, he added, urging residents to adopt an active lifestyle to continue to contain healthcare costs.

Mr Heng also spoke of the importance of caring at the community level, saying that the kampung spirit has been eroded over the years and ground-up initiatives must be implemented to bring it back.

“That sense of togetherness is somewhat lost and sometimes neighbours don’t even know one another,” he said, adding that as local communities have different needs, they can be met more efficiently and meaningfully at the community level.

"MODERN VILLAGE HEADS"

One such initiative is the C.A.R.E Ambassadors programme by Tanjong Pagar GRC Member of Parliament Lily Neo, which was launched yesterday for the division. Almost half the residents there are aged 50 and above and half of the units are rental flats.

The ambassadors will assume the role of “modern village heads”, or block representatives, and will greet neighbours with a smile, organise bonding activities and encourage them to help one another.

There are now seven ambassadors, each representing one Residents’ Committee, but the aim is to have at least one ambassador per block.

One ambassador, Mr Ang Ghee Seng, 51, hopes to take care of the residents, such as by looking after estate cleanliness and residents’ safety. For example, he has begun greeting neighbours and reported issues such as a beehive and faulty drain cover to the town council, he said.

At the dialogue, another resident voiced concerns that lower primary school sessions are too long. Mr Heng agreed that school hours here are “by international standards slightly longer, partly because we try to do so much for our children”.

When he was in Europe recently, his guide told him she had to pay for after-school activities such as chess and tennis lessons for her two children. “In Singapore, we provide many of these things in our schools ... so I do hope that parents appreciate this range of activities that we offer to our children,” he said.

He added that children in Singapore are among the world’s top problem-solvers, “not because they are just studying with books”, but because these activities are important ways of teaching values, problem-solving skills and life skills.

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