The National Day Parade (NDP) executive committee will produce packs for about 80 per cent of all Singaporean and permanent resident households, after taking into account those who said they do not need one.
From prior experience, this should be adequate, and people who want the packs can collect them from community centres for National Day, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen told Parliament on Friday (June 5).
The plan to distribute funpacks to every Singaporean and permanent resident household for National Day sparked a debate and an online petition that has garnered some 110,000 signatures so far.
Some argued that resources could be better diverted to other causes - especially in the light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr Ng noted that the NDP executive committee aims to be inclusive for every NDP, and will take in views and accommodate different interests where possible.
But he cautioned that "if every interest group pushes for its own agenda, especially during NDP, then our common ground to celebrate this national event shrinks because the exco will simply never be able to satisfy every request adequately".
Responding to Workers' Party Non-constituency MP Leon Perera, Ms Cheng Li Hui (Tampines GRC) and Ms Denise Phua (Jalan Besar GRC), Dr Ng acknowledged that there were some who felt the celebrations were wasteful and that the resources ought to be spent elsewhere, especially given the impact of Covid-19 on the economy and jobs.
"I appreciate their point of view and agree fully with them that we ought to be prudent," he said, adding that this year's NDP should cost at least a third less than usual, with savings from infrastructure costs had the parade been held at the Padang or The Float @ Marina Bay.
However, Singapore should guard against a mood of despondency and not allow individual preferences to divide the country, said Dr Ng.
"If we allow despair to prevail in our national psyche, particularly during this Covid-19 pandemic, then I say that will be the greatest harm to the future of Singapore - much more devastating than the economic impact, the loss of jobs and businesses."
He made the point that Singaporeans have always chosen to celebrate NDP and rally together, even in troubled periods of the nation's history, such as the British withdrawal in 1971, the recession of 1985, the Asian financial crisis in 1998, Sars in 2003, the global financial crisis in 2008 and the H1N1 epidemic in 2009.
"Because of that hope and optimism, Singapore emerged stronger," he said.
"So I say, despite the difficulties, and indeed because of the more challenging times that are ahead, we should celebrate this year's NDP as we have done before and just as our founding generation did during the first NDP."
Ms Cheng had also asked whether the funpacks would include essential and care items.
Dr Ng said the packs - dubbed Singapore Together Packs - will include hand sanitisers, among other celebratory items like a full-sized national flag, iron-on patches for masks, face tattoos and a pledge card.
The bag itself is a foldable and reusable grocery bag, and there will be no single-use water bottles, plastic clappers or packaging, as families will be at home, said Dr Ng.
Each pack will cost around $2.40 to produce, and corporations will contribute other items like snacks and drinks, he said, in response to Mr Perera. The usual discount booklets will come in the form of e-booklets, he added.
Collection of the packs will start from July 20 at community clubs and residents' committee centres.
The exercise is expected to be completed by Aug 2. Volunteers will distribute the packs to vulnerable groups.PHOTO: MINDEF
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.