The government can do no right, it seems.
The Internet is such a confusing and overwhelming platform at the moment (and I recognise the irony of penning this piece). Most are dismayed by the lack of decisive leadership, but I think the government has – finally – recognised the severity of this haze crisis. Many refuse to trust it, but do its job, it will. To contend that the agencies and their employees are lackadaisical, apathetic, or resting pedantically on their laurels would be grossly unfair. If you compare the actions taken by the military and the civil authorities, it boils down to the lack of contingency preparations and experience.
Who could have anticipated the severity of this phenomenon? We say “yes we should have seen this coming”, “we’ve been plagued by the haze since forever”, “the government should have engaged in more diplomatic overtures”, but hindsight’s 20/20.
Not that we should expect nothing, but the government can’t do everything. Some say a Stop Work Order should be issued, but what will the implications be? Or should the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) determine the outdoor industries most affected, before crafting solutions? Why shouldn’t employers shoulder some of the responsibilities (back to the idea that the government must do everything and anything)? I think they do, without having to wait for some enforcement order from MOM. Some say that we do not have the privilege of time, but I’d rather the government evaluate all the options in a more measured manner (which I trust it is doing), instead of making hasty decisions or announcements that might generate more panic and unease.
Complement these strategies with more communication and health advisories, remind us that we’re all in this together; yesterday’s press conference was a good start. This website too. We play our parts responsibly, and the government does what it can. Once we’ve survived the worst of this haze, we will rightly take the culprits to task (though easier said than done, with the plethora of interests, greed, and pragmatism intertwined), and consider broader, long-term regional recommendations. And the government agencies in Singapore will start to put proper protocols in place to deal with future occurrences.
Perhaps the only silver lining is that groups of spontaneous Singaporeans who have gathered to distribute face masks, to offer their accommodation, and to reach out to the needy or less-privileged. I suppose it’s a way of getting used to the notion that our government – any government – cannot do everything.
One last point (again, irony): how useful is it to have commentaries and posts floating around about the worsening haze conditions, and the purported incompetency of the government (important health advisories or critical announcements notwithstanding)? I can’t even ascertain the veracity of: whether animals – like pigeons – are genuinely dying because of the haze (doctored photographs? or taken out of date and context); or if the PSI-PMI figures are fudged (are we interpreting the data correctly? can we trust the “adjusted” readings? which indicator? everyone’s calculating averages? who’s right? why would the government agencies not report accurate ones? glitches on the website?) I blame this culture of sensationalism (and I concede my complicity).
Okay I will just shut up now. And mask up.