“PMD ban evidences poor policy planning model” – SPP’s Jose Raymond

On Tuesday (19 November), the newly-elected chairman of Singapore People’s Party (SPP) Jose Raymond took to his Facebook to conclude that the sudden ban of personal mobility devices (PMDs) earlier this month shows that the Government failed to look at “stakeholder engagement and consensus building in policy making”.

This is because nearly 7000 food delivery riders were not aware of the ban, which was in effect 24 hours upon announcement, suggest that these riders whose livelihoods would be affected with the ban were not “engaged or consulted on the matter prior to the policy announcement”, Mr Raymond stated.

On Tuesday (5 November), PMDs were banned from all footpaths in Singapore, after Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min announced it a day earlier in Parliament.

Dr Lam said on Monday that it was a “difficult decision” to prohibit PMDs which include e-scooters and unicycles, from being used on footpaths, but “it is a necessary step for pedestrians to feel safe again on public paths, while still allowing e-scooters to grow in tandem with cycling path infrastructure”.

Although Mr Raymond understands that the Government were left in an “unenviable position” as they need to take swift action due to the rising concerns over pedestrians’ safety, but it’s also important that they communicate with all parties before implementing the policy.

“But in policy making, communicating with parties who will be directly or indirectly affected by the policy change is also as critical in the implementation plan. Particularly prior to the policy intervention, where worries would be most heightened at the ground level, as seen during the PMD ban,” the chairman wrote.

He added, “This is all the more important as livelihoods are at stake, and ostensibly among Singapore’s lower income earners, who would be hard done by a sudden shift in policy. For people in this bracket, a loss of income – amounts which may seem trivial to the more affluent – will lead to severe consequences on how they manage their household costs.”

As such, Mr Raymond noted that the Government should perhaps “reflect on improving the engagement and consultation process leading up to the announcement”.

Questions raised

Based on this policy implementation, the politician listed down a number of questions that need to be addressed by the Government:

Did the Government try to reach out to a portion of these riders to share the possible changes to the policy and to hear their grouses and thoughts prior?

Did the Government engage the three major companies involved in the food delivery business prior to the announcement to better understand the impact?

Instead of readily issuing out conversion grants to existing PMD users, has the Government considered working with the key major food delivery companies, and restricting the use of PMDs to the following classes of users:

1. Licenced Food Delivery Services Riders;
2. Elderly residents aged 55 and above who are licenced
3. Introduction of Insurance Coverage for Food Delivery Services Riders

Mr Raymond went on to raise more questions:

In addition to working with food delivery companies, has the Government also taken into consideration the introduction of a Qualified Riding Licence and age limits to help reduce instances of accidents involving PMD riders? Are these still on the cards, as we head towards a car-lite society with emphasis on active mobility?

Did the Government engage its Workers’ Party counterparts and the Nominated MPs in Parliament leading up to the announcement, to hear its views on the matter?

Traditionally, in the public policy process, stakeholder engagement is primarily done through focus group sessions or surveys. Should the government be looking to revamp this process and make it more digital/reliable?

As the Singapore government declares the inevitable switch to a digitised society, are there better ways for the government/civil sector to gather citizen inputs during the policy process – The South Korean blockchain model of digitising citizen feedback is a worthy reference point

Government policy needs remodelling

Given that the world has now changed, this has now placed more demand and need for “consultation and consensus building” before any major policy change or announcement is made, especially for those that affect the livelihoods of Singaporeans, Mr Raymond stated.

He also went on to quote Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong who said in a speech to civil service leaders in 2013 that “the Government must change its approach to policymaking” as the environment has tremendously changed today. PM Lee also stated that the Government’s “policy process must adapt to this new landscape” and policies must undergo market-test and be adjusted if needed, as well as “acquire a better feel of how our (Government) policies impact different groups, and what their likely reactions and concerns will be”.

Therefore, Mr Raymond concluded: “The Government should recognise that its policy formulation and implementation model is in need of some remodelling itself”.

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