SINGAPORE: The Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, Ms Grace Fu, has received widespread criticism online after her recent assertion in a parliamentary reply that “table cleanliness” at coffee shops has not deteriorated following the implementation of the tray return scheme.

Her remarks came in a written reply to a question posed by Sengkang GRC MP Jamus Lim, who inquired about any potential reduction in cleanliness standards at coffee shops since the requirement for diners to return their used trays and tableware was introduced.

Ms Fu replied, “The rate of feedback received on table cleanliness in coffee shops has decreased.”

This statement has sparked outrage and scepticism across various local forums and social media platforms, with many questioning the validity of using feedback as the sole metric to assess table cleanliness and whether the ministry conducted a comprehensive study to gauge the real situation on the ground.

Online commentators have expressed doubt about whether Ms Fu truly frequents hawker centres and coffee shops, as her assertion seems disconnected from the observations of everyday Singaporeans.

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Comments on platforms like Reddit have been scathing. One redditor, u/zmng, expressed disbelief and said: “Really?!! My neighborhood one looks like the birds took over already – become the kingdom of the flying rats lor.”

Others expressed similar sentiments. u/Bitter-Ratata asked, “Haha. Where did she get the information from? The tables have become much dirtier.” u/fakeprofileseth added, “Are you kidding me? Anyone on the ground that visits different coffee shops and hawker centers REGULARLY can see that there is a significant standard drop.”

u/Cashflow202 compared Singapore unfavorably to other places, saying, “The cleanliness of tables at hawkers these days is deplorable. It’s dirty, with stains and litters. Even rundown mamak shops in JB have cleaner tables honestly.”

Some, like u/Seewhy3160 questioned the metrics of the survey, saying: “From what I see is people return the tray but no one cleans spillages, etc. So if you ask me, it is less clean now. I don’t know how they ask for a survey and what they’re smoking. They think we’re stupid; the coffee shop we go to every day, we never see it?”

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Many questioned Ms Fu’s use of the rate of feedback to justify her response. u/healingadept said, “I don’t get what she is smoking. If a large part of the role of cleaners has been done (people clearing their tables), then the standards should improve. Why is she using the same baseline as a basis for comparison? That is illogical.”

u/uinpt questioned the Minister’s credibility and asked, “I wonder what’s her source and which coffee shops she visited. Or is she just making up nonsense with such a jlb (jobless) response?”

u/DuePomegranate raised an important point, pointing out: “It’s very shifty to restrict this to table cleanliness. Ok, the table has been cleared, but there’s a huge mess at the tray return place.”

Some hit out at the authorities, suggesting that they are out of touch with ground realities. u/Crunchyleave00 said, “Just another example of our million-dollar ministers living in their ivory towers, totally out of touch with what is going on the ground.” u/schzimmydeenie implied a lack of firsthand experience and said: “Spoken like someone who hasn’t eaten at coffee shops/hawker centers.”