Why is there no existing crisis plan to manage haze crisis?

5711_10151488244217934_359180486_nOver the past week, everyone of us in Singapore has been suffering from the horrendous haze, the worst-ever, caused by the slash and burn fires in Indonesia. In addition, we have been frustrated and very disappointed by the lack of leadership shown by our government in putting in place measures that will calm, assure and help the people who are increasingly stressed out by the haze.

There have been numerous on and offline criticisms made about the ineptitude of our government. And lest I be accused of jumping on the bandwagon just to take pot shots at the ministers, let me explain very clearly what I am disappointed with and why I expect much more from them.

Companies that run a business know the necessity of crisis planning and of having business continuity plans. Not every one does it but the larger organisations like the MNCs would have planned for various crisis scenarios and have appointed committees to tackle those crises should they ever arise. This is called pro-active planning so that no one gets caught flat-footed when trouble erupts suddenly. Damage and losses are contained, reputations are preserved and employees, shareholders and consumers are comforted when management show that they have a good grip on the the crisis and are managing it well.

If crisis planning is important for those running businesses, it is even more imperative for governments that are responsible for the lives of millions.

But in the case of our government, what have they done instead? They have been ploddingly reactive and not proactive. Since the haze started about a week ago, they have held two press conferences, and the environment Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has gone on Talking Point TV program. Essentially, they talked a lot, to tell us this haze is not a problem they can really solve as it is not of their making, and that we have to “learn to adapt” to the conditions as it will last a long time. And they have issued advisories on official websites. More recently yesterday, several days after the haze started, they announced some piecemeal measures such as giving a discounted price of $10 to those who need to seek medical help for haze-related illnesses at certain clinics (but NOTE only if you are 18 or younger or older than 65. The rest of us are on our own).

In the second press conference held on Thursday, PM Lee said he had formed a Haze Inter-ministerial Comittee to review guidelines for protecting vulnerable groups, ensure continuity of society and businesses and issue clear guidance on the protective measures at each PSI threshold. This was a real shocker to me and many others.

Hello! You mean to tell us, our government has NO crisis plan in place to manage the haze which has been around since the early ’90s???

Only now are they forming an inter-ministerial committee. This explains why our various ministries had no answer for us when we asked them why haven’t they issued stop-work orders to construction companies where the workers are still slaving in the smog when the PSI has gone through the roof. It explains why our Manpower Minister Tan Chuan Jin and our Health Minister Gan Kim Yong have been strangely quiet when we are seeking answers on health and work guidelines.  It explains why Environment  Minister Vivian  Balakrishnan put up such a pathetic performance on the Talking Point TV discussion on the haze on Thursday.

The key points made by Vivian B on Talking Point pretty much sums up our government’s stance on the haze so far:

1. Sumatra is a very big island with many fires so we have a very big problem.

2. Indonesia is being very difficult about resolving the haze issue and has been uncooperative for many years (and still is).

3. Nothing much can be done as they are a sovereign country, just as Singapore is, but he will keep trying to “persuade them” said VB who practically implied that they hold all the cards while Little Red Dot has none (thanks for the reassurance Vivian).

4. No stop-work order will be issued to construction companies during extremely high PSI days (an irate caller to the program had asked why there was no stop-work order and if construction workers’ lives are worth less than hamsters). No order to shut preschools (even for those without air-con) in response to a distraught preschool teacher who called about her pitiful charges being stuck in a centre without air-con and with windows shut). Vivian’s response for not having a stop-work order had something to do with having to look at PSI which is different every hour and and having to think about “practical, tailored, customised” solutions (though now we know it is because they haven’t got a clue yet on how to go about doing this).

5. To a caller’s proposal for Singapore to use international environment agencies to pressure Indonesia since we are unable to do so, Vivian replied he will consider it when necessary (hello it is been many years since the haze problem started and you still haven’t considered it?).

6. Bottomline – This is a bad, bad haze and it will be here for weeks and may even reappear in one or two months, so Singaporeans had better learn to get used to it and adapt.

Wow, tell us something we don’t already know! It is not the first time that we have been inflicted by this haze which has become an annual curse since the ’90s. But this time, it has gotten really bad with the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) setting new records and hitting 400 today. Basically, the haze has reached very unhealthy and dangerous levels which can affect everyone’s health.  To make matters worse, Prime Minister Lee and various ministers have warned us that this haze will last for weeks!

This is a national crisis as it affects everyone from the young to the elderly, from the Singaporean to the foreign worker, from the MNC employers down to the poor hawkers and newspaper vendors who are suffering while working in the open.

In such a scenario, who are we supposed to turn to for comfort and help? Our highly-paid elected government officials of course. But we have not been getting this comfort as they have shown little leadership but a lack of foresight and planning and no real useful ideas. If anything, the community, fed-up with the government’s lack of  initiative, have taken things in their own hands. We have self-help groups going around handing out masks and water to construction workers and the needy. We have many people offering good ideas on how the community can help each other and several have also written to the government with ideas on how they can help us.

As we have been warned repeatedly that the haze will last for weeks, we need action now and not more official meetings and bureaucratic constipation. When we look out our windows, the scene looks apocolyptic and depressingly surreal. Everything looks murky brown and smoggy. The blue sky is missing from view and the birds have gone eerily silent. Outdoors, many are wearing masks and worried frowns as they scurry to the nearest shelter.

Even indoors with the air-con on, it is warmer than usual and we can still smell the acrid smoke which seeps in, those insidious, tiny microparticles filling our noses and lungs  and stinging our eyes. I am fortunate I have air-con at home, yet I feel miserable when I smell and see this brownish haze, morning, day and night.  I feel guilty as I wonder how much worse those living and working without air-con must be feeling. And I wonder how those staying in old-folks homes, community shelters and cramped dormitories are coping as they do not have air-con in their shared quarters.

It is a dire situation that we are all in currently. We need the government to get their act together Now! Use the PA grassroots organisations, get the volunteers and staff  to fan out to help the residents. Explain the hazards of the haze and meaning of the PSI, teach the people especially the elderly how to protect themselves and how to wear the N95 mask which is not easy for a first-time user (I have met elderly people who wore the soft surgical masks upside down and did not know how to tighten the wire around the nose bridge). Get the press, radio and TV to run public service announcements to explain relevant points on the haze and health tips.  Give out free masks to all especially the needy.  Check on the community hospitals and old folks homes to see what help they need be it masks or coolers or air-purifiers. Direct the employers of foreign workers to give them extra care, masks and sufficient ventilation and water.  Give guidelines on stop-work orders to employers (to avoid disrupting businesses completely, there can be plans for shorter hours, shift work, longer breaks or a day break on really bad haze days etc).

On the issue of face masks, our first line of defence, they appear to be sold out all over the island as at today, despite PM Lee personally assuring us we will not run out of the masks as they have stock. Well, where are these masks? Do people know that we can only wear the masks for limited periods only (assuming short-exposure each time). This means we are going to need millions more masks to meet the needs of a population of over 5 million. What if the haze lasts longer than a month? What if it gets worse? How many masks will be enough to last us through the crisis?  What is the long term effect of the haze on our mental and physical well-being? Can something be planned now to mitigate the negative effects? There are so many questions and so few answers are forthcoming.

Prime Minister, we desperately need your leadership. We need answers and action now as the people are all suffering now.

Footnote:When we first criticised the PAP-run Government for having no crisis plan to manage the haze problem, many of their supporters dashed to defend them by pointing to the stockpile of 9million N95 masks as proof that the G did prep for the haze. Well, the truth was finally revealed in Parliament on 8 July. The G disclosed that the 9 million mask stockpile was not meant for the public but for healthcare workers in case of an epidemic outbreak. Let’s just hope that they learn from this haze lesson to be more pro-active in planning ahead for various crisis scenarios.

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63 Responses to Why is there no existing crisis plan to manage haze crisis?

  1. sbksim says:

    Single word for it. Lapse. Why is the bigger question, which we may never know. More importantly, hope we are all helping each other out. Wish fresh air could be imported, but that’s not possible tor now.

  2. raytham says:

    “Don’t do extra” is a common refrain in civil service. It is in the culture, reinforced by an elite upper echelon that pays only token attention and reward to initiatives from the bottom, sadly.

  3. Kelvin says:

    Grace Fu said:” The 24-hour measurements are a better reflection of the total exposure…”. To this, I urge the cabinet to hold a meeting in the open for 1 hour when PSI hits 400; but the 24-hour PSI could well be in the 200 region. Is this safe? We need accurate, real time information so that we can adjust our activities accordingly n promptly.

    Dont assume that the public will get confused over more information available. We are better educated than you think.

    In this critical situation, we cannot afford to react slowly.

  4. ;Annonymous says:

    Where are all the masks? A good part of the answer is that the powers that be had appropriated a few million of them to be distributed by their “grassroots” and NS men. They just cannot help themselves, politicising in the midst of a national emergency. Their incompetence is there for all the world to see. They have had committee after committee for the las 20 years to tackle the haze problem. As somone said: If you do not want to do anything., set up a committee. The populace is fast losing their patience with this bunch whose super wages was defended by the PM at the BBC recently (but expunged by the sycophantic MSM) as being the best in the world.

  5. Mabel Yap says:

    well written. We are not a bunch of spoilt brats whining for attention. It’s your lack of pro-activeness that is most needed in this time of crisis that irks us. Something needs to happen before you go another step, can we be ahead of things situation, or at least try. Instead of talking, can we see do we have resources to help fire fighting, etc? More practical approach then theory please.

  6. Hazardous says:

    Singaporeans pay their ministers millions of dollars so that these leaders can tell them things that they already know about the haze and can do nothing.lol. What pathetic leaders they have chosen.

  7. yy says:

    Timw for change and PAP must no longer be the government in 2016.

  8. spy says:

    come 2016, we all know what to do

  9. Sadden says:

    Seriously, these anti-govt people just jump at everything to blame the govt.

    SInce years ago, the govt already modified the international standard of a 24-hr average PSI to 3hr average. If you look at our daily 24hr average, we are technically still below the hazardous range. and yes, the psi may spike, but anyone with proper vision can tell when the psi spikes via the ‘fog’ that can be seen no?

    And yes, the govt does have a plan in place, if not, how could the govt have pre-empted the N95 mask purchasal? If the govt havent done that, where would the stock come from for which the grassroots can start distributing to the needy people (old folks home, childrens home, etc)?

    In all honesty, IF individuals really wanna blame PAP or smth, look at the facts yourself. IF the situation is really due to mismanagement from the govt, would the opposition parties remain quiet? I highly doubt it. The opposition party remains in the parliament just for that purpose, as a checking mechanism no?

    Public service messages aside, there already are many more avenues of information distribution channels regarding the haze no? news reporters themselves are heading down to Riau to give live recounts of what is going on there no?

    And how can you expect the govt to spoonfeed everything to the citizens? singapore is already a very stable country to live in. Living in Beijing would warrant you a DAILY PSI of 100-200 when the pollution is good, let’s not talk about when the air isn’t that good.

    Come on guys, I’m sure you all can do better than name-calling and politicalizing everything that happens in Singapore, we should just work tgt and help those we can no?

    • you can defend them all you want with your fallacious arguments. The rest of us base our comments and criticisms on hard concrete results and by how llittle the government has done to help the people during this crisis. If you know where we can all buy the masks which are out of stock based on many people’s feedback, kindly tell us now as we certainly are not seeing them in the market,

      • sadden says:

        Actually I’m not really defending the govt, I’m merely stating points that u left out when stating out inept the sg govt is.
        Yes a haze contingency made not have been ironed out previously, but that’s also because after 1995 a intercountry committee has been set up and the trend has been that the haze issues were getting better.
        And with the govt trying to push for other economical and financial leverages, I really think it is amazing enough that our govt has the foresight to prepurchase the 1million over masks for the more needy.
        Hazardous levels as it maybe during the spikes, our 24PSI levels (international standard) still do not warrant the govt depleting their supply for the general public.
        Don’t u think the govt has to keep these supply for contingencies? In your case u mention mot having contingencies, but should the govt release these supplies to the public, who then will safeguard the masks for the pple who do not have the means of matching market prices? You?
        and in any case, it is always the people who don’t really need such masks now that buy up all the supplies, when the elderly actually go down and buy some, will u be there to share?
        The ans is obvious, and I really in all rationality can see why the govt don’t make these supplies available to the public don’t u think so?

      • You weren”t trying to defend the govt? It sure came across that way but you have every right to do as you believe. Now, on the govt’s stocks of the masks, those were acquired in anticipation of a virus outbreak according to an MP and not for the haze. Secondly, I do not buy your excuse that the govt’s late release of the masks is because they are holding back as an emergency contigency plan. For one, none of the ministers have said that so your excuse for them is not valid.

        Secondly, even if they were really holding back out of fear there would be a run on the masks once they release them, there is something called calibrated release. If they were efficient in planning they would have coordinated with the distributors and retailers on the supply and demand situation earlier in the week and released some supply of the govt’s stock. Instead, we havebeen having a short supply situation over the past 3 days where many people are suffering needlessly because they are unable to get hold of the masks. Masks are essential as it is about saving lives here. We are not dealing with some indulgent commodity like gold.

      • Thanks for sharing this artticle. I like it because it contains useful tips on coping with the haze. One thing is certain which you will agree too is that we certainly have to learn to cope with this better. This worst- ever haze came as a shock to many Sngapioreans who have never experienced such bad smog for an entire week and wirh more bad weeks predicted). We are all learning and I hope the govt will do more to educate the masses. I have met elderly people who wore the surgical mask upside down and who think it is enough to cover their nose with their hand! The media and the official advisrories are not reaching these people so more can be done by the grassroots organisations for example,

      • sporescores says:

        Good one, Jentrified Citizen. There are always some who choose to label all criticisms as political anti-government sentiments, instead of addressing the issues in a rational manner. It might be more comfortable to delude oneself and others into believing that everything has been done and everything is ok. Too painful to awaken to the problems pointed out by you.

    • Kelvin says:

      Hi Sadden,

      It was Ng Eng Hen that said they are drawing up plans now. This is not acceptable as the haze problem is not new. The govt only keeps stock of mask but they have failed to look at the logistical aspect of moving such stock to the general public. Acceptable? No.

      We cannot always subscribe to the argument that this govt brings stability so we shld b magnanimous in other issues. Especially so when the govt admits that haze is a very difficult issue to deal with that a detail, thought-out contingency plan should have been formulated long ago.

      • Agree that it is tough to stop the haze as therr is such too much corruption in Indonesia. However my post is dealing with the ineptitude of our govt in putting forth an internal crisis plan to help the people. At the very least surely they can do this even if they are unable yo deal with Indonesia.

      • Sadden says:

        HI Kelvin,

        On your point, what do you think the general public will feel if the govt announces that they will be distributing masks to everyone? relief? i don’t think so, in all sentient beings, panic will subscribe, especially given our unique socio-behaviour (kiasu & kiasi), people will most probably have OMG JIALAT, CHIONG, etc related feelings and actions, don’t you think so?

        Imo, if you relate to international response times, this is considered a moderation of timing, such that the GENERAL PUBLIC will not have resultant panicky behavior, as panicked citizens are not easy to control and subject the country to TONS of unpredictable behaviour.
        Simply look at Brazil now, just cux of a minor price increase in the transportation fees, it has spiralled out of control to a mass riot with chaotic protestors.

        Subject this to your imagination, probably easier if you think about the Hello Kitty event years back, IF the govt sets up locations distributing masks, what do you think will happen?

      • your comparisons are moving from amusing to ridiculous. To compare our situation to Brazil which has totally different politics and culture is rubbish. and you are being very insulting to Singaporeans if you think we are a bunch of irrational panicky idiots.

    • teadrinker says:

      24 or 3, either way, it’s strange that Singapore is so focused on PSI. International Standards is not PSI but AQI, which INCLUDES the dangerous PM2.5 particles:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pollutant_Standards_Index#PSI_in_Singapore

      This is a man made problem, and we _should_ push for change and action, both for all the people suffering the haze and for saving the rainforest from being killed by the palm oil Industry.

      some links:
      http://www.rainforest-rescue.org/topics/palm-oil
      http://aqicn.org/city/singapore/south/m/
      http://aqicn.org/city/singapore/north/m/

      • thanks for your links. It is the National Environment Agency that uses the PSI. we do not have a choice but to refer to the 3-hr average PSI figa released by them. In fact, they should release hourly figs but I guess they are not doing that in an attempt to manage the people again.

    • nelson mandala says:

      “everything that happens in Singapore, we should just work tgt and help those we can no?”

      defined worked together? with patriach lee in an aircon room in istana with 24/7 on while his son is in a mindef bunker breathin with mineral water cleaned air?

  10. Bob Graf says:

    Not to defend PAP, who dithers and does nothing, but Indonesia is essentially a “failed state”, like Somalia, and that is a big problem. They are so corrupt, and their government officials are so indebted to and “owned” by the business interests who do all this illegal burning. The reason why their ministers make absurd statements about Singapore being “childish” is because they know they are powerless to stop illegal activity in their own country. That is truly pathetic. I don’t know how the Singapore government can ever cooperate with them, regardless of what political party is in power.

    Democracy has been a two edged sword for Indonesia. It opened up their society and reduced many of the abuses of the Suharto era but it also institutionalized the corruption. It was actually easier to cooperate with them under Suharto where all decision making was centralized and you knew who to deal with. Now, the corruption has been spread out over a large number of local officials so it is much harder to contain.

    Nobody speaks about this aspect of the crisis and it certainly won’t be mentioned by Singaporean politicians, but it is the main factor preventing action.

    • teadrinker says:

      Very relevant post, I totally agree. But both people and non-corrupted governments _can_ take action against the companies profiting from the burning.

  11. Ally says:

    Another keyboard warrior. If you think you can do a better job to run the country and manage this “crisis”, then please go run for election. No use sitting behind your desk and complaining.

    • I have news for you Ally. We are living in a democratic country where the citizens have every right to speak up and criticise when the government has gone wrong. So get used to it if you want to live in a democratic society.

  12. Ally says:

    Yes, we are a democratic society. That’s why if you have any unhappiness, you should be DEMONSTRATING to the government, and not just writing a post where those leaders up there will never ever see it. If you really want them to hear you, start a demonstration, a riot, a protest or whatever right in front of our Istana, like what those people in truly democratic countries did. I support you, go, go! =)

    • i am glad you wrote in as it shows the kind of extremist irrational views held by some die-hard supporters of the PAP.

    • Anonymous says:

      You are an idiot. Demonstrate with such PM 2.5 levels? Go for a jog now. You and all our ministers deserve it!

    • Kelvin says:

      Ally,

      Are you trying to incite social discourse by encouraging demonstration and/or riot and/or protest at the Istana? The PAP govt that you support clearly does not allow this. Pls clarify as someone may just send a screenshot of your reply to the police…

    • nelson mandala says:

      “and not just writing a post where those leaders up there will never ever see it. If you really want them to hear you”

      and when it come to voting time you still vote for the PAP party
      why? their carrot is longer than a donkey’s ears perhaps?

  13. Fab says:

    Very difficult for the government to react if indonesian stays uncooperative. Only things that they should do now is to inflict economical penalization by limiting Singapore business over there.

  14. Chua Richard says:

    PUT THE SAF CHIEF OF DEFENCE FORCE TO BE INCHARGE OF HIMC.
    HE KNOWS WHAT TO DO.

  15. Hi Jentrified

    Nice post. Similar to what we did but I think you did it much better

    our earlier post on this also Kena a lot of ridiculous comments. The PAP internet brigade is bloody sickening. I wish they’d all just follow their ministers for a long outdoor jog or something

  16. Sadden says:

    Hi Jentrified,

    I’m actually thankful that u found some of my examples ludicrious, haha, because actually, your comments in my perspective do borderline ludicriousity as well!

    In case you or your readers don’t know, the country is not made up of the govt alone, it needs the support of the citizens, and there really is no point politicising everything the govt does, bad also PAP, good also PAP. The opposition parties have made their stands yesterdays, satisfactory? Up to you i guess.

    What i really wish to say is there are lots of crowd-funding activities already going on, on facebookk, on google speadsheets (links provided on the social networking sites) on exampls being SG haze (for shelter for those needy people require aircon accommodation).

    You or a reader comment the govt just repeats whatever you guys already know, but do you realise that the response was set up in less than 48hrs? On the day itself when the PSI spiked, PM lee already had a press conference with the media on basic info and issues that the public should know for the media to release to the general public, and vivian had a talk show to reiterate certain stands the govt had (which u may disagree, but thats another point i guess). These response times are world class if u do a comparison with other countries crisis response time, katrina, aceh, etc etc.
    But do you realise that we are the internet savvy individuals who have the ability to self educate on necessary information, there are still many who dont know what is this haze, what to do, what is psi etc, and that is why the media seem (to you and many) to be repeating what we already know, but media releases have to be catered to the general public at large right? U mentioned elderly wearing the masks upside down, i can tell u that i see adults sweeping up n95 mask and letting their children wear but did u out of your own initiative walk over to the old person and tell him/her? Well i did tell the parent in simple terms that hey, n95 has two sizes, big and small, u let your child wear big on cannot, all the gaps also no use.
    There are many little little things that people can do for each other, blaming the govt isnt helpful as they handle the macro level! Well i can blame the grassroots for being a little slow but that would be the grassroots management’s problem right? And they could possibly be facing a shortage of volunteers willing to go on the ground and educate the senior populated residential areas for all we know.

    And well, if you may accept my analogy, people who just complain and complain about everything the govt does really sound like this: a child who wants the new iphone wants it to magically appear, but the child doesnt realise that the parents have to knock off from work, look around to see which outlets have stock, see if their contract allows for a new mobile if not whether they can recontract, which subscribers have discounts or freebies etc.
    There are tons of considerations especially on the macro level. And yesterday, as what i believed, the govt didnt release the 1million masks to the public, instead they mobilized the army to distribute them to 88 locations around singapore. Why? I think i already mentioned the rationale previously.

    And sorry if i sound offensive with that analogy, by no means are you a child, i’m just trying to reiterate my point as to sometimes we dont know what other considerations there are unless we are in that position ourselves, and i’m sure if you are a parent yourself you will realise that my analogy stands.

    And i would like to say, i’m neither a pap supporter or opposition supporter, i just dont like to see criticism on the govt as a whole, yes sadly if u generalise all ministers are pap members and thus very easily pap can be criticised, and yes if i want to be an opposition supporter i can easily say that oh look the oppo parties also never do anything what (apart from sdp who gave out masks, possibly to network with the ground?) !

    So yeah, to sum up, lets just help each other as a citizen of the country, because if you really look at the hard facts, our govt as a whole is doing well in the globalised world, nitpicking on everything doesnt really seem right, and also, not to ask u being magnanimous to the pap just because sg was set up by them but to look at things and results from the global point of view if there really is a need to criticise the govt.

    • Maykwok says:

      Oops…. you mean our gov ONLY use military trucks to distribute mask YESTERDAY…..
      Great decision but isnt it a bit too late and slow.
      It is not the Singapore citizens do not want to help or volunteer, it is because those who are compassionate enough to help and volunteer for FREE (most of whom have no millionaire salaries) are already on the ground helping the old and needy and they are even busier during this crisis. Anyway Compassionate ppl will only work for Compassionate government…. and ours has definitely failed the the word Compassionate by letting manual workers toil in PSI above 250.
      Only the greedy and nonchalant will feel glamour about globalisation and economical growth and indifferent to the sufferings of others because through their quest for gains, their hearts have hardened.
      Compassionate ppl derive happiness from the number of ppl they have helped and not the amount of money or status they hold. They speak for the less fortunate because they feel ashamed and guilty to see others suffering. If our gov can show compassion by just simply announcing no outdoor manual work when PSI hits 250, they will receive a nationwide of praises.

      • LOL says:

        HAHAHA i loled. Sorry.
        Are you one of those who expects a stop work order? Well with a case like muar today, would u really want a state of emergency to be called for a psi of 250?

        People like u talk about expectations without knowing the consequences eh.

        Laughable.

        And to be honest, can i educate you on the fact that lets say construction workers, the amt of dust and sand particulates they come into contact DAILY can hit a psi of 600+? Please dont make yourself so benevolent and say compassionate people this and that. If they really stop work, will u go and clear ur trash yourself to the nearest rubbish disposal point? Do you know how much garbage a hdb block generates in a day?

        Laughable. Really.

    • Mary Clarke says:

      I fully agreed with you. I can see you have a good government – not clowns. Good leaders are difficult to come by. I wish we have your quality of leaders. I have gone through disastrous floods, fires and cyclones. I know what it is like to be in a disaster.

      Community help is most important. That is how people get through big disasters. I hope Singaporeans together with their leaders come through this more united as a country.

      • Hi Mary Clarke, thank you for your concern for our people. We are certainly working with the government to try to ride out this crisis as best as we can. As for the quality of our government, that is debatable as there are many issues beyond what others see on the surface. But that’s a topic for another day. Meantime, we just want to get through this haze which unfortunately is expected to continue for weeks.

  17. Maykwok says:

    Comparing Beijing to SG, our Red Dot is not even as big as MegaMall. Sg has so many government officials ( held by some of the best scholars on this land) overseeing only 5 million people. Look at China, the Government officials per citizen is much much lower but yet when crisis occurs we can see so many military ppl working on the ground. This is not only because China has many military ppl, it is also about great decision-making and speedy deployment.
    This smog is a man-made crisis and it is coming along slowly but surely (given the increase in hot spots that are only monitored by NEA and not empowered to do anything) and yet we are almost strangled by it. It is a real natural disaster that comes swift , I cant imagine if half of us can survive.
    The disappointing thing about our government is allowing manual workers to work even when the PSI exceeds 250. All construction or contract works have to be fulfilled within a timeframe and delay will cause employers to fork out monetary compensation. If it is not gov’s decision to order stop work, do you think any employers( since they are not the one working in the smog) will want those poor manual workers to stop work.
    The next disappointment is about how soft our gov has become when they are in face of crisis. So pathetic and lost!!! Although we have so many government officials regulating this small island, it seems that when crisis comes, our gov is only those few faces on the TV. When the smog is at its worst, there is no mask on sale and no distribution of mask to needy, homes, etc. What are the other government officials in other department doing? Cant they do distribution of masks? Why must wait for suppliers to distribute? How can suppliers have so many trucks to deliver masks nationwide? Use army trucks as well. This has caused delay in masks to reach the retailers just because of lousy decision-makers.
    I just cant imagine what will happen if a nationwide crisis happens when our population is 6-7million. All of us will die from hunger as sg is not self-sustainable at all. Yesterday when I go to NTUC, I saw the vegetable shelves are 90% empty. How can our gov distribute vegetables, canned food and rice to NTUC when they already have problem distributing masks. Sigh……
    If we have fire drill, shouldnt we have crisis drill as well……
    Unlike big countries, sg cant move their citizens from disaster zone to non-disaster zones and this makes it even more important to have crisis alert drills.
    We are so vulnerable despite being a first world country governed by top scholars.

    • LOL says:

      Hi i only need one point to blow off ur ‘argument’. China is a communist country.

      Nuff said.

      If u really wanna rebutt, u had better lived in china for awhile and have experienced their culture. It is ridiculous.

      • Is China truly communist? People have said they are more capitalist than other capitalist countries while Singapore is more communist in its control of the people than China. Interesting isn’t it?

      • LOL says:

        Yeah I have heard of that before!

        But truly, all countries need to be capitalistic (if there is such a word, but u get my point right) in nature, if not where does the moolah come from?

        Communism comes from the way the govt manages the people, and is totally different from what democracy is in the way Singapore is I guess.

        Well to be honest, the early days of Singapore don’t even qualify for communism, imo its a dictatorship (BUT! A dictorship of 4, not only lky, a common misconception that most have just cux his son is pm now, if you know ur history well enough).

        And if u really wanna compare, sg now seriously cannot be compared to China’s management of citizens EVEN WITH the exclusion of their corruption, censorship problems. And these two, are major problems.

      • Maykwok says:

        If only China top 10 leaders are to govern SG, I believe they will do a much more excellent job than PAP. The top leaders are not corruptive, it is only the lower ranks that are corruptive. The current China top leader ( in his intro speech when he just step in) said that once you are in civil service, you have to rid yourself of the thought of becoming rich. What a sound and good advice for all leaders around the world. Because all evils stem from greed.
        Everywhere on Earth, there are good beings and bad ones. Bad ones are always displaying bad characters in public while the good ones are believers of setting good examples through actions. As this world becomes more and more commercialised, I plead all good ppl not to just set examples but also be outspoken to uphold human integrity and let all good wise words be heard everywhere.

  18. Hi, thanks everyone for your comments as this adds to the discourse of the haze issue, out of which comes good ideas on how to deal with the haze problems and how the government can do better. To those who criticise Singaporeans as just “complaining and compaining” about the govt, I wish to ask why is complain a dirty word only in Singapore? Is this a result of political conditioning that to criticise our government is being anti-social and anti-establishment? In any country, citizens will have right to express their thoughts and feelings be it to praise or criticise anyone including the government. So let us respect that right.

    My blog post here simply voices out the shared views of many Singaporeans – that our government has been slow to react to the crisis and has failed to show decisive leadership in managing it. It is a fact that they did not come out with any concrete suggestions on how to help the people during the first press conference at a critical time when all of us were feeling overwhelmed and worried by the haze onslaught. A good government, especially one that boasts of efficiency in a developed nation, must be able to show it can calm and protect the people in times of crisis. Moreover, as my blog questioned – this haze has been recurring since the early 90s so why was there still no crisis planning done until now? Yes, I appreciate that they are trying and that they are doing something now like giving out masks to the needy even if it is a full week after the haze started. But they could have been faster and done much more as many people, till today, still suffering from having no face masks and slogging outdoors when the PSI is over 300.

    Be it complaints or criticisms, be it critical or supportive of the government, I hope all our feedback will spur the govt to learn from them and to improve their handling of crises. There is great value in social discourse of all forms. Praise alone simply breeds a complacent and arrogant government.

    Let’s agree to disagree where the govt is concerned but for the sake of our survival, let us all pull together to help each other to ride out this haze crisis.

    • LOL says:

      Do read this, i thing it really debunks your thoughts. :/
      http://sgthinker.wordpress.com/2013/06/23/dumb-and-dumber-singaporean-reactions-to-the-haze/

      If u really expect a national mobilisation with a high PSI over three days, i guess u really should find another country that runs like that, if u can.

      Furthermore, Singapore is already a high standing developing country where many do not have to worry about housing and other problems, thus when a crisis happens, i guess people then to overreact and not realise that 3 days, 72 hours of bad air is not a very big matter as the air really isnt that ‘dangerous’ or ‘unbreatheable’ with most healthy human beings being able to survive this fluke of a natural and man-made crisis.

      Even now, u do realise that businesses, big ones like harvey norman best denki courts, dont wish to stock up on air purifiers even though EVERYONE is looking for them, why? Because they dont dare to commit. With singaporeans rushing to buy up eveerything when something happens, and jsut decide not to when it disappears, for a unpredictable thing like haze, who dares to stock up? Should this haze disappear now due to a sudden air current change, who will dare to take up that risk of say (underestimated) 500 air purifiers in the warehouse?

      I mean as a singaporean, im sure we all know, growing up in a kiasu kiasi environment, the mentalities of singaporeans usually tend towards being self protective and inconsiderate to others right?

      Hai i just feel sad, although people say 商人不奸就不是商人, but if u look at other countries with real more serious crisises, japan’s nuclear leakage or us bombings etc, their people actually band tgt and help out one another, but u see singaporeans actually trying to make a profit from a crisis.

      • I have read it and that blogger, like you, is entitled to his opinion. From what I read, several of Sgthinker’s claims have been rejected by many people who posted comments on his post. As for your comment, I disagree with you that his views debunk my post criticising the govt for lack of a proper haze crisis plan despite the haze being an annual problem since the early 1990s. This lack of leadership was evident in the PM and Vivian’s official announcements in the initial days. If you can be objective and not be so quick to defend the govt, you would have understood my points that I wasn’t asking for a national mobilisation within 48 hrs nor even 3 days. I was asking for the govt to announce some concrete plans and measures at least in the first press conference to reassure the people they are supposed to protect. What they failed to do also showed their lack of planning.

        As for the 9 million masks stocked by the govt, the truth is they were not acquired for the haze. Indranee Rajah had said those masks were stocked in preparation for potential H7N9 outbreaks. As for the other blogger’s claim of people asking for stop work order across all sectors in the country, that is wrong and unfair to those who showed concern for construction workers by asking for stopwork order for them when the PSI and PM2.5 is at dangerous level. Your claim that the haze isn’t that dangerous is also very misleading as the haze is expected to last for weeks which means prolonged exposure at dangerous levels can be harmful to our health. Please do not downplay the health hazards just to defend the PAP-govt as it really doesn’t help anyone by doing so.

      • LOL says:

        Huh where did pap come in. I’m sure u read my other replies mentioning working environments of say construction workers.

        If u wanna compare, lets talk about the sweepers then. EVERYDAY they are exposed to tons of bacteria viruses from waste pple just throw down the chute.

        HAS ANYONE EVER CONSIDERED THEIR WELFARE BEFORE?

        Points people raise just to make a fuss is laughable you know.

        And well tbh haze or not, the n95 stockpile is already a prepared govt’s action in my opinion. U could Google and check, with the virus is middle east, which govt ON EARTH has stockpiled masks for their citizens? Lucky that the mask matches a haze crisis, but imo the govt EVEN NOW is keeping 8million masks why? My guess is the virus that is currently spreading around though not (yet) rampant.

        And plans aside, one of the first things to do for the few days of a haze psi spike, or in all crisis management plans, the first thing to do is educate and notify. People or managements do not throw out plans in the workers faces at the first sign of something to happen, and why? Panic or irrationality tend to appear! I noted someone mentioned that though a little exaggerated, but yes, you do not want your staff or workers panicking, because then before and education on the crisis, hearsay is a very dangerous thing! (I heard this works ar, I heard that works, I heard this cannot I heard that cannot. very unpredictable and unreliable! And people get easily swayed and motivated negatively too, a very well studied social behavioral aspect).

        and lastly I just wanna reiterate, I’m nor saying the haze is all sunshinee and happiness, I’m just trying to say, lets not nitpick on things when we have never shown concern or (in one of the readers comments) compassion to said groups before. It is blatantly hypocritical and a reason purely there to incite more empathetic responses from those who are now easily swayed.

      • Hi,

        If I may – I do believe that the point that this article is trying to make is that there should be a broad-based plan in place to manage the haze, and this didn’t seem to be forthcoming.

        Understandably, there are subjective interpretations as to whether the government had responded to the haze as swiftly and there isn’t a common consensus on this.

        Personally, I believe that what we can take away from the articles is that moving forward, the task force should look into having a more structured and tighter crisis plan in place to manage future events of haze, and that the government should communicate its plans for clearly.

        The concern that some people have is – will this task force be able to develop long term plans to manage the haze, as they had noted that the outcomes from the task force set up in 1997 was unclear.

        Perhaps what underlies how the government might have perceived the haze as not being as severe is because this is an environmental crisis, and Singapore isn’t used to environmental crises.

        Perhaps in order to tackle other environmental occurrences more effectively, our government would need to have a mindset shift to also appreciate non-human and non-financial causes of crises which can hit Singapore. This will ensure that there is better preparedness across the board.

        Roy

  19. Ken says:

    There is only one person I see in Singapore that has what it takes to lead the crisis well. Her name is Kelly KC. She is the only one to come out to the open to tell people that aromatic essential oils (100% no other chemicals added) kill super-bugs and germs that the N95 mask can’t; N95 masks only traps or filter dust. How many of your friends or doctors tell you this? She has been sharing life-saving tips for Singaporeans publicly for past 3 years, and if only people listened, may be lesser people will need to commit suicide.

    If the government gets conned into believing lies, those who follow the government will also get conned.

    • LOL says:

      LOL are u serious.
      The haze is just dust and particulates. Where are your bugs and germs coming from. Seriously, if you want to market something, please do it properly.

  20. LOL says:

    Haha actually I’m not here to argue or what. Just saw ur blog being shared and decided to comment on some laughable replies u have. :/

    And please, even if your blog is anti pap, not all who comment ‘against’ you are for the pap or defending the pap, there are still the apathetic bunch of youngsters like ask laughing are you guys trying to politicize things when all a govt is supposed to do is govern.

    And my main discontent was due to the hypocrisy amongst people who say hey look at those workers so poor thing. I mean I would really never see myself working in their place, but hey, they are exposed to such stuff daily (dust particulates, dangerous diseases inducing or virus bringing pathogens) but I still see and greet my very friendly worker every morning along my corridor! So who are these people to ‘help’ them complain?

    And after u noted some mask thingy, to be honest, I was surprised u can mention indra smth saying its for a chance of a virulent epidemic but not realise thus planning is mths ahead of an actual crisis and yet u say the govt is unplanned or unprepared for a haze crisis just because the things they mentioned was not what u expect or felt as reassuring.

    If I can note, the fact that information was first distributed is already with the intention to reassure! Without knowledge of what is going on, that is the worrying part! When you suspect you are sick and the blood test result is out, wouldn’t a doctor first say what is wrong with you AND THEN say the things that can be done? Well, the first few days in my opinion is for the govt to do that blood test, and only when there was a real spike did the ministers start to appear and reiterate points for people to know and understand.

    Well, If u really want my political stand I just hope Singapore has a political diversity but not to the point of a parliament like UK or TW. Those are just plain ridiculous.

    • LOL says:

      Gosh the typos.
      Apathetic bunch of youngsters like us laughing at you guys trying to politicize things.

      K I guess that was disrespectful, I meant being amused at you guys? Haha. No offense intended.

    • I welcome all comments as I think it is good that many Singaporeans are now more active in speaking up and discussing “sensitive” national issues compared to the unhealthy silence in the past before the advent of Internet and social media. But as you mentioned, you are a “youngster”, and as such perhaps you are not as aware of our nation’s socio-political history and its nuances, and why so many Singaporeans are upset by the government’s lack of leadership in managing the haze crisis.

      Sure there will be some people both pro and anti-PAP and even the govt who may politicise all kinds of situations. But that said, there are also many Singaporeans and bloggers who write with a genuine intention of raising and discuss problems and solutions and this should not be confused with politicising.

      I detect cynicism in your tone as you dismiss many good intentions as hypocritical. Do keep an open mind and don’t be too harsh on our fellowmen and women as there are many many good people in Singapore who do care for others. But often their acts of kindness are not reported by the MSM as it is more ‘fashionable” to mock Singaporeans as being kiasu and kiasi.

      I disagree that it is hypocritical to show concern for construction workers and the like during the haze. Let me use an analogy. Just because you have never interacted with your neighbours, it doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t show concern for them if you should see them in a situation that needs your help. Are you being hypocritical if you suddenly go and help them? No because it is your innate compassion at work. As you pointed out, these workers are already having a hard life daily, hence, when we see them slogging even more when PSI is at 400 in air that is barely breatheable, how can anyone not feel sorry and want to do something to help ease their suffering?

      On the mask question you raised, do you not see the irony? The irony that the govt stocked up for a virus situation which may or may not happen whilst they did not have a haze crisis plan when the haze curse keeps happening every year.

      Anyway, I sincerely hope discussions like what we are having here will help add a different perspective to your views. Keep reading and keep an open mind 🙂

  21. Maykwok says:

    To LOL , LOL is just a laughable character himself. This is the type of character that is speaking without a soul. Hopefully in person, he is not so.
    I am just too happy as my prayers are heard and I believe all singaporeans prayed for the smog to clear. When good ppl pray in unison, God will answer to their prayers. So good guys please continue to pray and keep up with all your good deeds.
    God ( regardless of religions) is always watching us. The more we help and speak up for the less fortunate, the more we will be blessed.
    Bravo to all good and compassionate ppl in SG.

    • Hi May, I am sure LOL has a soul:) We all have different views and it is good to bring them out in the open to share and discuss. This is how we all learn. Meantime let’s focus on pulliing together through this haze. And yes, let’s keep praying.

  22. Pingback: Daily SG: 24 Jun 2013 | The Singapore Daily

  23. Maykwok says:

    Hi everyone,

    This haze is just a small crisis that lasted 4 days at its most serious condition. This is a warning to us that our SG crisis alert or management system has lots and lots of improvement to be made. Personally, for all comments and suggestions that i post online, I make sure I email a copy to the PM office. Regardless, they act or dont act on it, my responsibility as a citizen is fulfilled towards the gov. So ppl with a responsible and compassionate heart should do likewise. Below is their email:

    PMO_HQ@pmo.gov.sg

    We should not be just commenting online and expect gov to pick them up. Email them to voice out for the less fortunate.
    Remember about the Tsunami that caused many disasters to coastal areas when the warning systems were not installed because so many countries are not concern at all as it is costly to install. But after the disaster, every gov act together to get the system right. Is this Man’s nature to only do the right thing under the threat of disaster. Definitely no. It is just because Man likes to derive immediate gains from investment….Money driven=Greed.

    However, Earth is full of unpredictable forces and can come in any form. So Man has to set up a crisis alert and management system that has almost zero defect as this system will definitely become imperfect when the real crisis strikes. Hopefully, our gov will learn a hard lesson from this mini-Smog Crisis and put time, effort and money to put up a crisis management system in place.

    I hope it rains as heavily over in Indonesia and Malaysia as well. Everyone deserves a second chance.

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  25. Dayat says:

    Give guidelines on stop-work orders to employers (to avoid disrupting businesses completely, there can be plans for shorter hours, shift work, longer breaks or a day break on really bad haze days etc).

  26. Mohamed haniff says:

    Why the spore government is not doing anything to resolve this haze on going problem for the past years and ongoing. We the citizens of spore are suffering from haze and yet there is no realistic action by spore government in regards to this matter.

  27. Jonathan says:

    One thing for sure. this Henry is a very corrupt person that take bribes for allowing these burning to take place and to say that it is Singapore and Malaysia that should be responsible for it. He did this in agreement with the plantations owners to allow them to continue to do this every year. It is reported that he collected about USD 5 million a year for this. So if Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia government can give them USD10 billion a year to do the proper clearing of land, he could still pocket at least USD 5 million and maybe more. But please note that not all the USD 5 million goes to him but also to the rest of some of the ministers themselves that also support the current President. So that is why the President is only saying to do something about it not actually, he could not do anything about it just like the economy he has been saying to do this and that but nothing got done. All this are happening because of the rampant corruption in Indonesia society from top man to the field civil officers on the ground. There is nothing that can be done about it as they mismanagement the country and only think for themselves leaving the common people to suffer and they do not care about it. That is also why they do not want Singapore to send people to help. If Singapore firemen went to help, they will see on the ground who are the actual companies and the deals they are making there. So in order to hide these information, they do not want Singapore to help. They may ask Malaysia to help as they are as corrupt as they are and may even conspire together to say the same thing or blame Singapore totally for it. So unless Indonesia become may separate states to complete with each other, they will never improve themselves as long as they stay as one big country, they can do what they like and blame others for it. It is therefore better that they become at least three or four separate states / countries or things will carry on as usual.

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