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The Straits Times

Increasing Depth And Breadth Of Government Polls And Reviews

Six in 10 Singaporeans agree with all the measures in this year’s Budget, down from seven in 10 last year” (60% Support All Budget Measures, Miss Tessa Wong).

The news report “60% Support All Budget Measures” (March 13, 2011) by Miss Tessa Wong presents key summarised findings from the annual Budget poll conducted by the Government’s feedback agency, Reaching Everyone for Active Citizenry @ Home (REACH). Such studies and reviews are naturally useful for relevant agencies and their subsidiary administrators to gauge ground sentiments, and assess the receptivity and efficacy of their policies or recommendations. However, beyond the simplified observations and generalised statistics, REACH and the corresponding ministries should seek to inject greater depth and breadth significantly in their polls and reviews.

First, given that it is a study on the reception towards the financial Budget, the collated responses should be premised upon varying income groups, since respective components are catered to different strata households and individuals. General feedback would definitely compromise details and in-depth analysis of the Budget’s receptivity: for instance, middle-income families have anecdotally commented on them being the “sandwiched” class, and consequently missing out on monetary assistance or handouts. Second, the figures and data should be categorised in accordance to professions, employment statuses – whether they are employers or employees – and in terms of various age-groups as well. Based on the current circumstances, employers – particularly in the construction sector – would be unhappier with the increase in foreign worker levies; while elderly citizens might be dissatisfied with rebates or healthcare focuses.

These specifications are important because policy recommendations can be – and should be – tailored on a case-by-case basis for the target group. Understanding individual concerns would definitely empower policy-makers to make more informed decisions in the future, and value-add such government polls and reviews. Otherwise, the static facts and figures would yield negligible takeaways for future consideration.

Tremendous resources, finances and manpower have been dedicated for these studies; therefore, more effort should be dedicated to improve and refine the execution. Additional methodologies can include qualitative studies with on-the-ground Singaporeans, through the execution of a series of interviews or focus group discussions. Policy study workgroups can be instituted to complement existing quantitative strategies, such that usage of the data is not limited to year-on-year comparisons per se.

If the government agencies persist in continuing pedantic pedagogies to gather and use feedback surveys, the public would simply lose attention and not give future awareness to these endeavours. Unless the stakeholders are more cognisant of these elements, and shape their feedback polls to be more relevant and constructive, they will remain mere cogs in the bureaucratic machinery.

About guanyinmiao

A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting. Carlos Castaneda.

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