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Parliamentary Replies

Plan to Shift Public Service's Operating Model

15 Feb 2022

Parliamentary Question by Mr Yip Hon Weng: 

To ask the Minister for Finance (a) whether the proposal in the Public Accounts Committee’s recent report to shift the Public Service’s operating models from “just in time” to “just in case” will be considered for implementation; and (b) if so, how will buffer and stockpiles become the new planning parameters while ensuring there will be no over-budgeting or compromising of the budgets of other important programmes. 

Parliamentary Reply by Minister for Finance, Mr Lawrence Wong:

In planning and building for the future, the Government assesses how much of our plans cater for some insurance or “just in case” provisions against shocks. In such assessments, we consider the nature of potential risks and appropriate models of insurance or resilience.

As it is not feasible to fully insure or protect against all possible risks, the Government continues to strike a judicious balance between resilience and efficiency. A “just in case” model will be more expensive because by definition, it caters for redundancy as insurance against a particular risk. This higher cost will ultimately be borne by our society, either in the form of higher prices or higher taxes. 

While it would not be practical or fiscally prudent to seek guarantees against all risks, we have actively ensured resilience in key areas, through both fiscal and non-fiscal measures. 

a. For example, to ensure water security, we have built a robust and diversified supply of water from four sources – our Four National Taps. Water is priced to incorporate the higher cost of producing water through desalination and reverse osmosis (NEWater). 

b. Our Rice Stockpile Scheme helped to ensure an adequate supply of rice in the market when COVID-19 first struck and there was significant uncertainty. We are taking further steps to diversify our import sources and grow local to strengthen food supply resilience. 

c. Another risk we have been actively preparing for is the impact of climate change. In 2020, we set up the Coastal and Flood Protection Fund, so that we invest sufficient resources whenever our fiscal situation allows, to protect Singapore against rising sea levels and more intense rainfalls. We are also taking active steps in infrastructure development to address this risk, such as to raise the minimum platform levels at new critical infrastructures such as Changi Airport Terminal 5 to higher levels. 

Amid tightening fiscal space, MOF carefully assesses resilience-related measures, to ensure sustainable outcomes and spending. MOF works with agencies to put in place cost-efficient ways to maintain resilience, such as through dual-purpose facilities with uses in both crises and peacetime. For example, MOH’s pandemic operational plan would include the ability to convert non-medical sites (such as carparks) quickly into medical facilities (such as COVID-19 isolation wards).

The Government will continue to look for new and better ways to secure resilience while taking into account fiscal sustainability.