Tuesday 10 September 2013

S’poreans must develop spirit of taking care of one another: Chan Chun Sing

By S Ramesh, Channel NewsAsia, 8 Sep 2013

Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing said on Sunday the challenge for the nation is to find a way to have consensus on the various policy initiatives which the government has outlined.

Mr Chan said one way to achieve this is for Singaporeans to develop the spirit of taking care of one another.

He said this at a dialogue session as part of his ministerial community visit to the Bukit Batok Division.

The concept of sharing in the community comes in many forms and Mr Chan said cooking is one way to achieve it.

He recalled the days when families in kampongs would share food with their neighbours.

Mr Chan stressed as Singapore evolves, the principle of sharing becomes more important to narrow the gap between the haves and have-nots.

He explained: "When it comes to sharing, we must also as a society agree amongst ourselves that for those who have less, we should help them more... If everybody in society demands the same amount, then there is no sharing… We must agree that for those who have less, we must try to do more to uplift them… (And) more importantly, our focus must be to uplift them so that their children have a better chance to get out of the situation that they may be in. This is key and fundamental to how we have come about with our policies all these years."

The Our Singapore Conversation process may be over but the ministerial community visit in Bukit Batok decided to continue with the process whereby different groups were formed to discuss key challenges in the areas of education, housing and healthcare.

Residents wanted to know more details about MediShield Life, which is undergoing a revamp to offer universal coverage.

Janet Lee, a kidney transplant patient, said: "I am… on long term medication and... I notice it (medical cost) is climbing up and up all the while and so with this new scheme, especially the MediShield (Life) and CHAS (Community Health Assist Scheme) -- can it include blood test?”

Mr Chan gave the assurance that the Health Ministry would need some time to work out the details of MediShield Life -- especially the premium amounts -- and more details are expected in a year's time.

He said: "We know the health care costs are (increasing), the drugs are getting more expensive (and) some of the procedures are getting more complicated. This government will endeavour to do what we can to make sure that all the basic needs of our people are taken care of in terms of housing, health care. This has been the promise for the last 40-50 years and this will continue to be our promise.

“But this government cannot do this alone. We need everybody to work with us. We cannot manage health care costs unless people all keep themselves healthy to the best of their ability...

"This is why the most important word in (Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s) National Day Rally speech is the word 'together'. There is nothing we cannot achieve as fellow Singaporeans if we stay together.”

Mr Chan also emphasised that achieving the vision of a better Singapore for all cannot be done with just the government playing its part.

He added that those who have more will also have to contribute much more back to society.

Asked by reporters about his recent promotion to full Minister in the Cabinet, Mr Chan said there is a lot of work to be done as a team as the challenges which Singapore has to overcome are tremendous.

Prime Minister Lee promoted Mr Chan to Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for Defence from 1 September.

Mr Chan said: "We need teamwork and we will continue to attract good people to come in and strengthen the team, because to lay out a vision that is 20-30 years, he will require many more people to come forth and join the team so that we have the best ideas and people with the correct values to come forth and serve." 

Govt to give poor a bigger hand in health care
It will do what it can to take care of basic needs of people: Chan Chun Sing
By Toh Yong Chuan, The Straits Times, 9 Sep 2013

THE Government will do more to help Singaporeans cope with their medical bills, but those who are better off should not expect to receive the same degree of help as those who are poorer.

Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing spelt out the Government's approach to health-care financing yesterday, even as he sought to allay residents' worries about rising medical costs at a community dialogue.

"If each and every one of us just wants to take the maximum for ourselves, then we become a very selfish society," said Mr Chan, who is also the Second Minister for Defence.

"Those who have less, we should help them more," he said in reply to a resident's questions about how to cope with rising health-care costs.

At last month's National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the Government will play a bigger role to build a fair society and will spend more to subsidise housing and health-care costs. Among the changes is the introduction of MediShield Life health insurance, which will cover all Singaporeans for life.

But while it is expected to fund a higher proportion of their hospital bills, it has also raised concerns as premiums that Singaporeans pay are expected to go up.

Health-care issues dominated the community dialogue at Bukit Batok yesterday, which was attended by nearly 100 residents.

Ms Janet Lee, 43, a kidney transplant patient, is worried about her long-term medical bill, and materials planning manager Mohamad Jasmani, 46, asked if he would be able to afford the higher MediShield Life premiums.

While business owner Lim Su Wee, 36, suggested more publicity be given to the newly expanded Community Health Assist Scheme card, which lets low-income patients get subsidised treatment at private medical and dental clinics.

Responding to their worries, Mr Chan pledged: "This Government will endeavour to do what we can to make sure that all the basic needs of our people are taken care of, in terms of housing, health care."

He added that the Ministry of Health will discuss with Singaporeans over the next year some of the "difficult details" of the new MediShield Life's coverage and premiums, and asked for time to work through the process.

Besides health care, the residents also raised questions on the stress students face in schools and the housing needs of singles.

Mr Chan told reporters later that one of the challenges for the Government going forward is to help Singaporeans achieve consensus on government policies, including the principles of how the policies are made.

That is why he decided to hold the dialogue in the style of the Our Singapore Conversation, so that residents could also discuss the issues among themselves.

The minister spent the morning visiting the Bukit Batok ward in Jurong GRC with its MP David Ong.

They were accompanied by the constituency's other MPs Halimah Yacob, Desmond Lee and Ang Wei Neng, as well as Yuhua SMC MP Grace Fu.

Mr Chan visited a coffee shop, flagged off a mass walk, watched residents take part in various sports activities, and also launched a cookbook compiling residents' recipes.

At the book launch, Mr Chan gamely tried one of the recipes by cooking a plate of sesame oil chicken. He then served it to a group of residents at a block party.

Mr Ong said the cookbook promotes community spirit by encouraging residents to cook for one another.

Resident P.S. Sekar, a 47-year-old permanent resident from India, agreed. "I have been in Singapore for 17 years and this is my way of getting to know my neighbours."

Mr Sekar contributed a dessert recipe to the book and prepared the dish for residents at the block party. "Cooking can also help foreigners and locals understand one another better," he added.


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