More booths to gather views in the heartland

More booths to gather views in the heartland
MORE pop-up booths and outdoor sessions for residents to give policy feedback will take place in the heartland.

MORE pop-up booths and outdoor sessions for residents to give policy feedback will take place in the heartland, Reach chairman Amy Khor said yesterday.

The dialogues will also be in Mandarin, Malay and Tamil, as opposed to the first one in August when only English was used.

Dialects may be used by residents at pop-up booths - usually manned by officials and volunteers - as these are more informal settings, she added.

Speaking at the annual get-together of the government feedback unit's active contributors, she noted the popularity of the 19 temporary feedback booths set up this year for issues such as the MediShield Life health insurance scheme. In all, they drew 11,000 visitors, who gave close to 7,000 comments and suggestions.

But it was online where Reach had the widest appeal. The most popular platform was its Facebook page, which received 45 per cent of all feedback, said Dr Khor, who is Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower.

The Facebook page had over 17,000 comments and suggestions from January to October this year. This compares with 11,000 in the same period last year.

Given its popularity, she said Reach will have more online chats next year so netizens can put questions directly to policymakers.

"Today, it's Facebook. Tomorrow, it might be something else," she told reporters, adding that Reach is looking into WhatsApp and Twitter as platforms. "But we cannot do away with face-to-face interaction either."

The hottest topics this year were: retirement adequacy, MediShield Life, and public transport standards and fares. The feedback helped shape policy, both Dr Khor and Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim told 120 contributors at the event.

Feedback on simplifying communications about the Pioneer Generation Package, for instance, led to the Government sharpening and tailoring its message on health-care benefits for pioneers.

The move to have a panel look into making the CPF system more flexible was another example.

Dr Yaacob also said the Government will ensure Singaporeans have a fair chance to air their views. For one thing, it will use technology to engage people.

It will also need to understand and empathise with citizens' concerns to better respond to their feedback, he said.

And it will be open to the views and opinions of others, and balance different considerations before making decisions, he added.

charyong@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Rachel Au-Yong


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