Parliament in brief: 4 things you should know
- To deal with a surge in passport applications, ICA redeployed officers from other work units to process passports on a 24/7 basis
- More children aged three to four were enrolled in preschools in the last five years, but the preschool participation rate of children from lower-income families was lower than the national average
- The number of fire cases in public housing estates has been steadily declining over the past five years, from 1,260 cases in 2017 to 898 cases last year
SINGAPORE — Officers from the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) have been working on a 24/7 basis in order to deal with the surge in passport applications. This include manpower that has been redeployed from other units.
The information was given in reply to a question filed for a Parliament session on Monday (July 4), on the average waiting time needed for Singaporeans who have applied for international passports.
Other questions that Members of Parliament (MPs) filed included topics related to the preschool enrolment of children, the recent spate of fires in residential homes here, as well as the increase in littering offences in the first half of the year compared to the same period the year before.
The following are some extracts of the written answers for these questions.
1. Average waiting time for Singapore passports
Questions by Bukit Batok MP Murali Pillai
- What is the average waiting time for those who have applied for their passports in April, May and June? How many Singaporeans had gone to the ICA Building to ask for faster processing of their passport?
Reply by Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam
ICA received more than 500,000 passport applications since April 2022 — this is an average of about 6,000 applications a day compared to the 2,000 a day in 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Eligible Singaporeans may collect their passport at any of the 27 designated post offices, while two more post offices will offer passport collection services from this month.
To deal with the surge in passport applications, ICA has also redeployed officers from other work units to process passports on a 24/7 basis.
These officers have been working extended hours. Those who had days off have been recalled, while applications for block leave have not been allowed.
2. Preschool enrolment of children
Questions by Mr Leon Perera, MP for Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC)
- What is the annual preschool enrolment of children aged three as a percentage of each cohort size in the last five years?
- What are the socio-economic profiles of children aged three to four in the preschools?
- Will the Government review its stance on making preschool education mandatory for children?
Reply by Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for Social and Family Development
More children aged three to four had enrolled in preschool over the past five years.
Last year, about nine in 10 Singaporean children aged three to four were enrolled in preschools, up from around eight in 10 in 2017.
However, the preschool participation rate of children aged three to four years from lower-income families was lower than the national average. Among those children residing in public rental flats, the preschool participation rate was about eight in 10, compared to nine in 10 nationally.
The Early Childhood Development Agency works closely with the community to help lower-income families through KidStart and the Preschool Outreach Programme.
KidStart is a dedicated agency that provides upstream support to eligible pregnant mothers and children up to six years old from low-income families.
For the Preschool Outreach Programme, low-income families are encouraged to enrol their children in preschool. Outreach workers help families to search for an affordable preschool and assist in the preschool enrolment process.
These resources help to guide families through the registration process, prepare supporting documents for subsidy applications, and address other needs the family may have with regards to preschool enrolment.
Rather than having a broad policy of compulsory education at the preschool years, the Government’s approach is to ensure the provision of accessible, affordable and good quality preschool services across the board.
3. Recent spate of fires at residential places
Questions by Ms Foo Mee Har, MP for West Coast GRC
- What was the number of fire cases in Housing and Development Board (HDB) estates in the last three years?
- What were the top three reasons for these fire incidents?
- Are cluttered homes filled with combustible materials a key risk factor in these fire incidents?
Reply by Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam
The number of fire cases in HDB estates has been steadily declining over the past five years, from 1,260 cases in 2017 to 898 cases last year.
In the past five years, the main causes of fires in HDB estates were unattended cooking, indiscriminate disposal of lighted materials such as cigarette butts, and fires of electrical origin that could be caused by faulty wirings and electrical appliances.
Cluttered homes have not been a key fire risk.
Flammable materials are more tightly regulated by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), with the most common flammable material found in residential units to be liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in cylinders, which are mainly used for domestic cooking.
However, based on past records, LPG has not been a common cause of residential fires.
The storage of regulated flammable materials beyond the allowable quantities without a valid licence is an offence under the Fire Safety Act, and SCDF will issue a Notice of Offence for such cases.
On average, 11 of such notices were issued yearly to occupiers or owners of residential premises used for housing workers over the last five years. There was no infringement observed for other residential types, including HDB flats, over the same period.
4. Littering offences in first 5 months of 2022
Questions by Radin Mas MP Melvin Yong
- What is the number of littering offences in the first half of the year?
- Has there been an increase in the number of such offences compared to the first half of 2021?
Reply by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment
From Jan 1 to May 31 last year, the National Environment Agency carried out enforcement actions on around 7,400 cases of littering.
In the same period this year, there were around 7,800 cases.