By sharing the fishball stick story and announcing the new Municipal Services Office in his National Day Rally speech, is Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong pretty much conceding that the "no wrong door" policy introduced 10 years ago is a failure?
Introducing the new policy on Aug 12, 2004, then Senior Minister of State for Health and Information, Communications and the Arts Balaji Sadasivan said:
"Many a time, when faced with an issue that did not belong to an agency's purview, the agency would simply tell the citizen that he was knocking on the wrong door, and the poor citizen might have to go from door to door until he found the right one.With the new policy, in cases where the feedback applies to several ministries, the recipient civil servant has to contact all the relevant parties and come up with their concerted response.
"It can be extremely frustrating. And we want to cut that out."
Unfortunately, judging by these subsequent newspaper reports in 2007 and 2011, the policy didn't quite take.
So it took a stray fishball stick and a frustrated mayor for the PM to create a new agency to fix the problem – but only for "municipal" issues.
I suspect this reflects a wider problem in the government bureacracy, which the would-be "no wrong door" policy failed to solve, and it needs to be addressed.
We need more fishball sticks.
COLUMN: Otak man was my wife's fishball stick