Sunday 16 November 2014

Have Singaporeans grown too soft?

THE lament by Public Hygiene Council chairman Liak Teng Lit, that it will take some time to persuade "spoilt" Singaporeans to clean up after themselves, could be solved if more daring rules were implemented and enforced ("Pick up after yourself, create more bright spots"; Sunday).

Town councils, foodcourt owners and petrol station operators have been using the provision of unnecessary services as a selling point, to get support from pampered, maid-raised Singaporeans.

Politicians say their opponents lack the skills to keep constituencies clean. Foodcourt operators, when criticised about the slow clearing of tables, promise to hire more cleaners. And the drive to encourage motorists to serve themselves went into reverse gear when oil companies discovered that stations with pump attendants sold more petrol than those without, despite charging slightly higher prices.

Dining in public fast-food restaurants and the factory canteens of my business suppliers in Japan, South Korea and Italy, I saw that everybody, from top managers to low-level technicians, cleared their tables and returned their trays.

Driving the length and breadth of the United States, Australia and New Zealand, I noted that people in these countries returned their trays at foodcourts and motorists pumped their own petrol.

What happened to the rugged society of my youth? Have Singaporeans grown so soft that they need everything done for them?

Today, no town council, foodcourt operator or oil company would take the lead in withdrawing services, because the first to do so would be the first to go out of business.

The playing field can be levelled only by those at the top. The Government has to take the initiative to discourage the offering of unnecessary services as a selling point.

Town councils should clean estates at most once a week. At foodcourts, cleaners should clear only major spills. And the only employee necessary at petrol station forecourts should be the one trained in fire safety, required by law, and who is currently pressed into service as a pump attendant.

By mandating the reduction of such services, the public would be forced to take personal responsibility for cleanliness. And we would also hear fewer complaints about there being too many foreign workers here.

Lee Chiu San
ST Forum, 12 Nov 2014

Long way to go in building gracious society

WITH regard to Mr Lee Chiu San's question ("Have S'poreans grown too soft?"; Wednesday), my answer is "yes"; many Singaporeans have indeed grown very soft compared to the rugged pioneer generation.

They depend too much on the Government to solve their problems. Many have become moaners and groaners; they are unable to postpone gratification or endure some temporary inconvenience, and have a "not in my backyard" mentality.

Mr Lee quoted Public Hygiene Council chairman Liak Teng Lit, who said it will take time to persuade "spoilt" Singaporeans to clean up after themselves.

How much more time do we need?

Our first Keep Singapore Clean campaign was in 1968. Even earlier, in 1958, an anti-littering campaign was organised by the City Council. The following year, we had Gerakkan Pembersehan Bandar Raya Singapura (movement to clean the city of Singapore). Since then, we have had Clean and Green campaigns year after year.

Which brings me to the question of the effectiveness of such campaigns; the results have been marginal but the cost and manpower involved have been very significant. Today, we brag about Singapore being a clean and green city, but can we, the ordinary citizens, claim the credit for this?

Something is wrong with the character of many of the "pampered, maid-raised" Singaporeans described by Mr Lee. They are anti-social, self-centred and irresponsible.

I often find empty drink cans, paper cups and other rubbish left on the stone tables and benches at HDB void decks and stairways, when garbage bins are just metres away. Campaigns will not change the behaviour of these litterbugs.

Younger Singaporeans have received better education than those who lived in the early years of nation building, but I find it hard to call all of them "better educated"; education entails much more than literacy and numeracy, and textbook knowledge.

Truly educated people have strong characters and know right from wrong. The true test of a person's character lies in whether he would commit anti-social acts if he knew he would not be found out.

Instilling the right values in our young and developing their character are the only ways to bring about a rugged yet gracious society.

Tan Kim Hock
ST Forum, 15 Nov 2014

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