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Charissa Yong
Sunday, Jun 1, 2014

Singapore

Call to make policies more in tune with human behaviour

The Straits Times | Charissa Yong | Sunday, Jun 1, 2014

Policies will go further if they can be more easily understood by people on the ground, said Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC) yesterday.

The Government should craft policies which are more in tune with human behaviour and psychology, he urged in Parliament.

For example, although the Pioneer Generation Package had been widely lauded at first, "it did not take long before the feeling of confusion cast its shadow over their initial elation", he said. This eroded some of its initial goodwill.

It subsidises MediShield Life premiums and tops up Medisave accounts but this may not be used by healthy seniors.

Instead, the package could have given pioneers free treatment for common chronic diseases in Class C or B2 wards, he said.

This might cost the Government the same as what the actual package did, but would better reassure the 450,000 pioneer Singaporeans as it is easier to understand.

This is an example of how policies may lose some of their effectiveness if they are too precisely engineered to maximise the benefits and minimise wastage and abuses, he said.

Many times, Singapore's policies are water-tight to prevent a small minority of people from taking advantage of the system, he added. "However, by doing so, we are also passing on the onerous requirements to the vast majority."

Moreover, Singapore's tendency to "attach monetary values to activities" is ineffective because it ignores other perspectives, he added. For example, financial incentives have not raised Singapore's total fertility rate.

He suggested that experts in psychology and human behaviour be permanently incorporated into the civil service and agencies. "We have good policies with good intentions," he said. "With more attention paid to psychology and how people and society think, perceive and behave, we will achieve far great mileage that the Government duly deserves."

charyong@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on May 30, 2014.
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