By Mary Lee
When Parliament sits on Jan 20, its members (PAP or Opposition) will be doing Singaporeans a real favour by asking questions concerning these highly relevant topics: The number of Singaporeans going abroad for tertiary education; the hospital bed crunch; the numerous education changes; the transport problem; Project Jewel and, of course, the Little India riot.
It is important that these questions be asked in Parliament, where the relevant authorities will have to respond. In the process, we the public will be informed.
Singapore’s university education is expanding. With some 91,000 places available and a few more planned, it begs the question: How many students are going overseas? Do we not have enough places in our six tertiary institutions to accommodate aspirations of our youth? If not, why not?
On the shortage of hospital beds, it must be asked: What is the shortage, in terms of staffing needs? What is being done to ensure that the new and expanded hospitals have enough doctors, nurses and support staff to man them? It already takes five hours for a person to see the specialists and collect one’s medication. This means a working person will have to take at least half a day off to see the specialist.
As for the education changes, which are raining down on parents and teachers, how will the product – a rounded student – be measured? The objective these days appears to be to reduce so-called pressure: what is the barometer that parents can use? And how should teachers measure reduced pressure on students? What feedback should students give to counsellors on whether pressure has been reduced?
And why are we building yet another super-mall at Changi? How many shops are there at the terminals to require the expenditure of $1.4 billion? Were alternative projects called for? What were some of these and why were they not viable?
Transport is a minefield: What is the government going to do about regulating taxi fares and the pressure to standardise these? Why are bus companies alone facing fines for delays? Why are private car drivers not fined for causing accidents that jam up traffic? What is being done to coordinate road works that also cause traffic jams?
Finally, when will the coroner’s inquest into the death of Indian worker Sakthivel Kumaravel be held? How did the authorities decide on who to deport? What are the bus arrangements to ferrying foreign workers to and from Little India? How many licences to sell alcohol are there in Little India? How does this compare with Holland Village?
With these questions Parliament would be a less sleep-inducing session.