Tuesday, 3 October 2023

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Efficiency doesn’t mean do things fast for the sake of it – it means doing things in a proper, effective and organised manner. 

There seems to be a trigger happy trend in Singapore. Act first and think later seems to be the order of the day. While this is all done in the name of efficiency, I wonder if the notion of efficiency has taken precedence over careful planning.

The most recent example of this foolhardy approach is the announcement of the Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (VERS) at the National Day rally by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (PM Lee). While this was done in part to reassure worried Singaporeans on the future of their Housing Development Board (HDB) flats.

While the optimistic gesture may have temporarily lifted the mood of Singaporeans, it has since become apparent that the precise details of VERS have not been worked out and no one really knows what the deal is. In National Development Minister Lawrence Wong’s subsequent words: “let’s not get too excited” about VERS. A bit of a U-turn no?

Not to mention VERS does not address the problem to begin with, which is the depletion of one’s retirement funds used for one’s HDB flat. VERs “promises” to buy back one’s flat at market price, but as reported, HDB flats that are over 40 years old drastically drop in value in the resale market due to the 60-year limitation set by the credit institutions, so what kind of problem does VERs solve?

I would love to say that this is once off but in reality, many examples have displayed a rather cavalier attitude towards thorough planning. Take the rapid smash and rebuild method of so many of our historically significant buildings which has contributed to the demise of many cultural icons and memories. This has affected the heritage of the island. Why did the government act so impulsively? The decisions it has taken in the name of efficiency has richly cost us in the long term. Was it efficiency or was it frenzy brought on by a zombie like lack of long term consequences?

What about the recent hack of SingHealth? In our rush to be “smart”, have we instead been very stupid. I note also that the pause on new information and communications technology (ICT) systems that had been put in place following the SingHealth hack was lifted barely 2 weeks after the data breach! Have we really thoroughly investigated all the possible weaknesses in the system? Or, are we jumping the gun just to say that we have met a deadline. What is the point of doing something haphazardly just to say that we have done it? It will only backfire in the end. It is scary that despite the hacking incident, this lesson of prioritising thoroughness over efficiency still has not been learnt.

Without clear objective long term goals and being more detail oriented, the government cannot properly manage the expectations of Singaporeans. Stop gap measures are just that – a temporary solution. We have misunderstood the meaning of efficiency. It doesn’t mean do things fast for the sake of it – it means doing things in a proper, effective and organised manner.

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