SINGAPORE — This year’s National Day Parade (NDP) funpack, which will be produced for some 80 per cent of Singapore households, costs around $2.40 each, revealed Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen in Parliament on Friday (5 June).
Items in the funpack, designed by aspiring artists with disabilities and Primary 5 pupils, include national flags – a full-sized cloth flag and a handheld one – and iron-on patches for masks, a pledge card, and face tattoos.
Each funpack will also contain two hand sanitisers and a snack and drink item from local F&B companies, as well as vouchers in an e-discount booklet. The bag for the pack is meant to serve as a reusable grocery bag and is foldable into a small pouch.
All those who want the funpack can collect them from community centres, said Dr Ng. He noted that as families will be watching the parade at home, there is no need for single-use water bottles, plastic clappers nor packaging.
According to the NDP ExCo, the funpacks will be available for collection from 20 July at community clubs and residents’ committee centres. Each Singaporean and permanent resident household will be able to collect one. Collection is expected to be completed by 2 August.
The minister was responding to a parliamentary query by Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leon Perera on the projected total cost of producing, packing and distributing the NDP Funpacks to each citizen and permanent resident household. A recent petition to opt out of receiving the funpack garnered more than 112,000 signatures, amid concerns about wastage and directing resources towards the ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response, the NDP executive committee had said that it is exploring the option of letting people opt out of receiving NDP funpacks. However, the minister did not respond to Perera’s question on whether the government will consider creating an option for those who would like to donate the expense required for their funpack back to the state or to charities.
Addressing concerns about wastage, Dr Ng told the House that fewer funpacks are being produced this year, taking into account those who have said that they do not need one. And while the NDP ExCo aims to be inclusive and accommodate different interests where possible, he noted, “But if every interest group pushes for its own agenda during NDP, then our common ground to celebrate this national event shrinks.”
Nee Soon MP Louis Ng also asked Dr Ng why the government did not ask Singaporeans if they wanted to opt out of receiving the funpacks so as to get an accurate figure to reduce wastage. In his reply Ng said, “Because in terms of - I cite this but I’m not telling you to make this an issue - but in terms of carbon expenditure, my fighter planes probably use up more. And we rah rah to the zoom of it. But that’s petrol being burnt up there, or diesel, or refined diesel or whatever you call it. Why just the funpacks? It could be many other things.”
Asked by Ng what will be done with excess funpacks, Dr Ng replied, “I don’t know that there will be excess.”
A scaled down NDP
This year’s annual parade will be scaled down, with far fewer performers and participants, amid the need for safe distancing. For the first time, it will not have mass performances, even though old favourites like the mobile column and the state flag flown across Singapore are all present and accounted for.
Compared to the 1,800 participants in the parade in 2019, this year’s edition will only have about 200 personnel from the Singapore Armed Forces.
Dr Ng also responded to concerns by some Singaporeans that the celebrations are wasteful and that the same resources ought to be spent elsewhere, especially in light of the economic impact of COVID-19. He concurred that organisers of this year’s NDP ought to be “prudent”.
“The final cost figures are not yet in but at the very least, this year’s NDP should be able to reduce the usual budget by a third, with savings from the cost of infrastructure had the NDP been held in the usual style at the Padang or The Float @ Marina Bay.”
But the minister also warned against falling into a “mood of despondency” or allowing individual preferences to divide the country. “If we allow despair to prevail in our national psyche particularly during this COVID-19 pandemic, then that will be the greatest harm to the future of Singapore – much worse than the economic devastation, the loss of jobs and businesses.”
He noted that the NDP has always been held through every “troubled period” of Singapore’s history, be it the British withdrawal in 1971, the Asian financial crisis of 1998 or the H1N1 epidemic in 2009.
“Even in those difficult years, Singaporeans chose to celebrate NDP as we have always done and rallied together. Because of that hope and optimism, Singapore emerged stronger,” said Dr Ng.
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