Important to maintain trust during crises
Three Cabinet Ministers yesterday addressed questions posed to them on the haze. Below is an excerpt of their replies.
DEFENCE MINISTER NG ENG HEN
Will there be utility rebates for those who racked up electricity bills due to the haze?
Thankfully, the period of severe haze lasted only two days, and we already have in place various schemes that provide utility rebates.
For example, GST vouchers (GSTV) and U-Save payments will be disbursed this month to low- and middle-income households living in Housing Board flats.
The first half of the GSTV special payment announced during the Budget debates will also be disbursed this month.
Those living in smaller HDB flats will be able to offset between two and three months of utilities on average.
What is one lesson Singaporeans should learn from the haze?
If there is trust between the leadership and the people, you can do a lot... When trust breaks down, when people start disbelieving the leadership or each other, then you're fighting fires every day.
If, for instance, we had distributed one million masks, and there's suspicion that grassroots networks will not distribute them, but keep them for themselves...the announcement would have been met with suspicion and cynicism, as has happened in many other countries when you talk about a distribution exercise.
The day we lose that trust...the day we stop caring, then I say any crisis will be too big for us.
HEALTH MINISTER GAN KIM YONG
Why were there no one-hourly Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) readings?
The PSI system has been around since, I think, the 1990s...and we were actually in the process of updating it... (but) how about publishing real-time or raw data instantly?
I decided, after carefully thinking about it, not to do so at that point in time... The risks of confusion or, worse, publishing unverified or inaccurate data was too high... Publishing the 24-hour PSI, the 24-hour rolling average PM2.5 and the three-hour PSI gave us all the signals we needed.
In fact, when we plotted the shape of the graphs - for the three-hour and one-hour readings - they were virtually identical. It wouldn't have made a difference to our recommendations.
ENVIRONMENT AND WATER RESOURCES MINISTER VIVIAN BALAKRISHNAN
Will the Health Ministry replenish its stockpile of N95 masks since 4.15 million masks were released during the haze crisis?
At a national level, we are rebuilding our stockpile of N95 masks so that it will be ready should there be a disease outbreak during this period.
JOY FANG, ADRIAN LIM AND WINONA WEE