Saturday 25 April 2020

COVID-19 armchair critics: There is always time for fair criticism

Mr Lee Teck Chuan's view is not uncommon (Now's not the time to play armchair critic, April 22), but it is terribly unhelpful for three main reasons.

First, although the call for Singaporeans to unite is well intentioned, it divides people into those who "play armchair critic" and those who do not. This labelling of people portrays those who criticise the task force dealing with the outbreak as being difficult for the sake of it, and equates "critical" with "uncooperative".

People can be both critical and cooperative at the same time. Rather than tell people not to be "armchair critics", a much better way forward would be to focus on whether the criticisms are fair.

Second, the view that "now's not the time". There is always time for fair criticism, especially in areas that we tend to ignore in more halcyon days. More people are now suddenly sympathetic to migrant workers' living conditions, even though advocacy groups have been highlighting the issue for almost a decade now.

It has become much clearer how important social connections are for the mental health of our seniors, and how adverse events can exacerbate inequalities and place disproportionately huge burdens on the vulnerable.

These are not issues we will necessarily remember or pay attention to when things eventually return to normalcy.

Furthermore, some criticisms cannot, and must not, wait. For instance, xenophobia and racism are issues that we must address immediately. We cannot allow them to fester.

Third, "hindsight is 20/20" cannot be the excuse for all our failures. We must be able to discern between hindsight and oversight, and this can happen only if we discuss issues fairly.

Even if we think our Government has done well, we must continue to hold it accountable for its actions. Singapore needs good faith critics to push us forward.

Shannon Ang
ST Forum, 25 Apr 2020

Now's not the time to play armchair critic

Count On Me, Singapore is not just a song we sing every August. Now is the time for each and every Singaporean to live up to it.

The coronavirus pandemic has revealed the state of the country's social cohesion.

This is not the time to play armchair critic. Hindsight is 20/20.

Once a decision has been made based on the available information, we have to face the outcome as one people. Perhaps we should be more restrained in commenting on the task force dealing with the outbreak.

We should seek to be more understanding.

If the authorities had imposed restrictive measures close to a lockdown at the outset, many would have bemoaned them as premature and harsh. Well, given the facts at that time, that might have been so.

But who knew how events would turn out? Now that a second wave of infections is upon us, some decry the tightening of measures as "too little, too late". Given that even scientists are not unanimous in their assessments of the virus, decision-makers are hard put to institute appropriate measures.

There is also the question of implementation. Sure, it is easy to think of ways to address the outbreaks at workers' dormitories. But finding alternative accommodation and providing food for the workers may require time.

All lives are precious and we have shown great compassion towards anyone who has needed medical attention, even foreigners. We should be lauded for this humanitarian side of us.

Now that tightening of control is necessary, we still find uncooperative people in our midst.

Some have defied safe distancing measures and even insulted enforcement officers.

Suddenly, physical exercise becomes urgent to some, while many have ignored the call to wear a mask. These callous acts may be life-threatening to others. We may be asymptomatic carriers of the infectious virus. This is not the time to put personal liberties above the collective good.

It is still too early to know how events will play out. The circuit breaker has been extended by another month.

No one is spared. We just have to adjust our routines and take things in our stride. Let us not take potshots at ourselves.

Lee Teck Chuan
ST Forum, 22 Apr 2020

Singapore Government's fiscal, economic strategies show foresight

Singaporeans' three pet peeves when it comes to questioning the Government's overall fiscal and economic strategies over the years have seemed to be:

• Why does Singapore need to maintain such high reserves? Shouldn't the Government slow down and share the fruits from the hard work of past generations?

• Why are there so many government-linked companies (GLCs)? They are crowding out smaller local companies and preventing them from gaining a foothold and developing.

• Why does the Government allow the National Trades Union Congress to venture into so many different businesses?

These questions have all seemed valid to different degrees.

But the COVID-19 crisis has shown that the Government has been wise and that these strategies have been very important in helping Singapore tackle the economic fallout and will likely position it well in the post-crisis recovery.

First, without sizeable reserves, or if the Government had not used the reserves wisely in the past, Singapore would not have been able to come up with three rescue packages totalling more than $60 billion within a few months, and pledging to do more if necessary.

Second, without the GLCs, the Government would not have as much leverage to get the relevant industries to support the various initiatives it has put together during the crisis to help smaller businesses and Singaporeans. These include the Temporary Bridging Loan programme and the Enterprise Financing Scheme.

Third, if not for FairPrice, we would likely have become short of some daily necessities and groceries, and prices for some supplies might have gone up significantly if the market had been left to natural market forces.

In hindsight, while the Government's handling of the COVID-19 crisis may not have been perfect in some areas, I think it deserves credit for doing a remarkable job so far, whether it has been in tackling the economy or directly addressing the health challenges brought about by the coronavirus.

More than ever, we need all Singaporeans to be united in fighting our common enemy. It is unfortunate that there are some residents who continue to disregard the circuit breaker rules or who complain about the inconvenience.

Many healthcare workers have made personal sacrifices to keep Singapore safe, and I urge all Singaporeans to do their small part to overcome the crisis together.

Luo Siao Ping
ST Forum, 23 Apr 2020

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