On the (fish)ball

On the (fish)ball

"Only in Singapore," I thought to myself as I read reports about this year's National Day Rally.

Only in Singapore could an errant fishball stick trigger a multi-agency, mayor-led fact-finding mission to figure how it could possibly remain on the ground for two whole days.

And only in Singapore could this one fishball stick be used to provide some of the rationale behind a new government agency and future high-tech mission control centre that will coordinate all the country's municipal needs.

In that sense, perhaps we should be grateful to the inconsiderate fishball-on-a-stick eater, especially for disposing of his stick where he did.

It clearly would have been an entirely different story if he had dropped it in a bin or on a part of Singapore subject to less confusing jurisdictional issues.

I mean, think of the woman who was photographed squatting, pants down, while committing a very egregious act of littering outside Holland Village MRT station. Thus far, I have not heard of a new agency set up to deal with that.

But maybe the new pao kar liao government agency will be able to handle municipal problems of that nature as well. After all, there is still much we do not know about the new outfit.

It is easy enough to understand how officers sitting in a well-connected facility might be able to deal with problems such as traffic jams. However, it is not immediately obvious how they might deal with litter.

I do not know the answer to these questions. Perhaps it is too early in the game to understand how all the little kinks will be worked out.

Still, I think it might be worthwhile doing a little scenario planning to see how Singapore can better understand the challenges that lie ahead.

I would like to humbly present to you here just one completely made-up scenario of how I see the whole thing playing out:

Scene setter: Imagine you are in a large windowless room somewhere in, let's say, Jurong. There are rows of desks where about 50 officers are seated looking at feeds on their monitors in front of them. A supervisor, clearly the one running the whole thing, paces the room, occasionally looking up at the big video wall but mainly focusing on making sure his subordinates are not slacking or using the cameras to spy on their girlfriends. Suddenly, an alarm goes off. A man is about to cause a municipal problem.

Officer Lim: Jurong, we have a problem.

Municipal Services Administrative Officer (MSAO): What is it Officer Lim?

Lim: It appears as if a man in Toa Payoh is about to litter, sir. He is looking around furtively with potential litter in his hand.

MSAO: What is the payload?

Lim: (gulp) I'm afraid it is a fishball stick. He ate two of the three fishballs but he appears to be full and does not want to carry the uneaten fishball any further.

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