Archive for the ‘Denise Phua Lay Peng says’ Category

Biggest environment challenge is “improving social responsibility”

   Denise Phua Lay Peng

Daniel Wang, a former Director-General for Public Health with the National Environment Agency, said: “I have not been successful in getting people to clear up the tables after a meal at hawker centres…”

I believe it can be done; many years ago when I was working in HP, it was expected that all of us from production operators to CEO return our trays to the cafe belt for collection and cleaning by our colleagues in the Cafe. These colleagues did not have to pick up after us and their jobs were less physically exhausting and more dignified.

But for this now to be common in Singapore, most of us must have the will to want it and then action ! ie

(a) the physical facilities have to be made right (belts and stations for returning)
(b) getting buy-in from the stakeholders including stall-holders
(c) education
(d) enforcement.
Would love to hear your views on this.


Biggest environment challenge is “improving social responsibility”

SINGAPORE: Key contributors to Singapore’s environment said the biggest challenge the country faces is improving its social responsibility. This was raised as part of a discussion between a panel of environment pioneers held by the Centre for Liveable Cities.Over the years Singapore has built up a reputation as having a clean environment. But Singapore’s environment pioneers said that more can be done on the individual level.

Daniel Wang, a former Director-General for Public Health with the National Environment Agency, said: “I have not been successful in getting people to clear up the tables after a meal at hawker centres.

“The reason why people are still reluctant is because they feel there are cleaners around, so there’s no need for them to clear up, which I say is a sign of not being self reliant. You want to see people clear up tables in hawker centres today, then unfortunately you need to have a law.”

These environment pioneers are hoping that won’t be the case, and that eventually Singaporeans will inculcate a sense of social responsibility when it comes to protecting the environment. This means more public education.

Joseph Hui, Deputy CEO of the National Environment Agency, said: “We will have to continue to do this until the day when Singaporeans are like a first world nation, where they are able to take ownership of the environment and do what is right, not because there is a law but because they believe that is the right thing to do.”

Besides developing social responsibility further, panellists also raised other factors that contribute to environmental sustainability. These include inter-agency cooperation, technology, infrastructure, and a strong political will.

Link :  Biggest environment challenge is “improving social responsibility”

Dirty tables littered with used plates and utensils at Chinatown Complex Hawker Centre.


Last week, I came across some news that left me a little perturbed.

First, yet another group of residents vehemently objected to the building of an elderly activity centre in their void deck.

Although I understand why the residents were angry at the commencement of building works without first being informed; the tone of some of the subsequent inputs gave the impression that even if informed, they would not have welcomed the centre.

In the second case, I was shown a letter written by a Singaporean to the authorities. The writer felt that his home value will drop because a centre for the disabled would be built below his flat. He also expressed concern that the children in the block will be frightened by the appearances of the disabled if the centre was located in such proximity.

Although I am not the MP in charge of these estates, my heart sank when I heard about what happened. 

My team and I have been strongly advocating for an inclusive society especially for those who are needy and/or disabled. We are currently helping one charity plan the construction of a badly needed Centre for Adults with special needs.

Ideally, centres such as these can be located within housing estates which are easily accessible by public transport and with nearby amenities. But with the rearing of the “NIMBY” (Not In My Back yard) syndrome, I now worry if these autistic adults would be further shunned and banished to a secluded location where they are less seen and heard by fellow Singaporeans?

I have 2 key reflections – one regarding the facilities; and one regarding our society’s value system.

I do not agree with some reasons why some people object to locating centres for either the elderly, children or disabled in their housing blocks; but I believe we should and can find more innovative and positive ways of including these special groups in our midst.

Why not proactively think of some positive to include these facilities within a community such that the users would be welcomed, instead of being shunned? 

I can think of several ways and I urge you to suggest others too:

  • 1. For current flats, invest in the proposed facilities to the extent that they are so well-designed and dignified that even the non-clients would admire them. I once had a personal experience building a special school with an excellent architect; the outcome was a facility that even some in mainstream schools looked at it with envy;
  • 2. Think of ways that might benefit the residents themselves such as :
  • a. Granting priority to any family in the same block who might need the service;
  • b. Offering programmes that other residents can join even if they are not clients of the centre. In one of my estates, the daily exercise programmes conducted by professional instructors are opened to all elderly residents in the estate. The centre also run great parties and gatherings which other residents look forward to joining.
  • 3. Think out of the box. Innovatively consider other ways of building the facilities without compromising the goal of being in a neighbourhood. This can especially happen in new estates where community facilities are tastefully constructed below the new flats. Why not, consider locations within a new hawker centre or a new community centre where residents congregate?

When I heard the concern that children might be frightened if disabled people appear within the neighbourhood, I am reminded of the negative ways by which many disabled are perceived in society; and the critical need for more education and public acceptance.

It led me to be even more appreciative of the residents living above a Centre for Adults with Disability I supervise in Hougang. The centre has been in existence for more than 10 years. Not only were the residents accepting of the centre’s clients, some of the RC leaders there even embraced them, letting them grow vegetation outside the centre to pick up some landscaping skills.

In recent years, the Singapore government and civic societies have accorded much attention and resources to give a leg up to segments of society who are at risk of being left behind. These included the rapidly ageing population; those stuck in low-income jobs and those who are born or acquire some form of disabilities.

However, if the elderly, the needy and the disabled are still viewed by society as people who preferably should not be too close within our sight daily, then our value system clearly needs further sculpting.

  • No one can guarantee that one’s child or grandchild will be born “perfect”, with no physical or developmental problems.
  • No one can assure that no accident will befall upon himself that might render him disabled.
  • And most definitely, no one can escape the process of ageing which comes with the high possibility of eventually losing one’s physical and mental capacity.

The maturity and character of a people is reflected by the way it treats and includes those who are disadvantaged and who need a leg up.

Those of us who believe in these values must take off our cloak of indifference or fear. We should speak up for the disadvantaged and include them in our lives, not treat them as objects of pity to be seen and heard at our convenience. Let us innovatively propose ways to address the current and future needs of these groups who need our support.

Ex-American President, Dwight Eisenhower, once said “A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”

Whilst we hold tight to our privileges and rights as citizens, let us hold even tighter the principle to do unto others what we want others to do unto us.



“Student Council Investiture Ceremony” – by Denise Phua Lay peng

   Denise Phua Lay Peng

I witnessed again the appointment of student leaders at our special school this morning. We call it the “Student Council Investiture Ceremony”.

This is one of the many ways to ensure that special school setting is as dignified and normalised as far as possible; and not an option of “no-choice”.

My heart was deeply touched as I hear the students recite loudly their pledge to do their best to serve others.

May they carry this value and duty all the days of their lives.

Finding the Good in Others by Ms Denise Phua

Knowing how easy it is for most of us to find what is wrong in others, I decided this week to intentionally find the good in fellow Singaporeans.
The opportunity came unfortunately in the form of a fire that broke out in a rental flat in my estate.

Mr Gulam, my resident in his 60s was burnt to death because he was reportedly drunk and was trapped in his flat and could not locate his keys. At the time of his demise, he was estranged from his family. I will miss gentle-spirited Mr Gulam and my condolences go to his family.


By the time I arrived at the burnt flat, the fire had just been put out. Fumes and smell of burnt possessions still permeated the air. It was dark and hot. I witnessed busy, perspiring and diligent firemen; police, HDB and Town Council officers all hard at work – fully focusing on the tasks on hand, saving people and homes. As I looked at them from the side, I cannot but be filled with gratitude for them.
I thought of our Town Council cleaners, the food court cleaners, the nursing home aides, and others who hold service jobs that others often deem as too difficult and shun. Do they ever receive words of gratitude from any of their beneficiaries in their daily course of duty?
I doubt it.
That morning, I took care to thank these heroes profusely. But I know words can never express the significance of these frontline personnel and how they quietly contribute to the making of our country.

May we not take those who serve us for granted and remember to thank them for their contributions!


I met Mr Sim, the neighbour living next to the unit on fire.

Despite having to look after his own children, Sim personally banged on the doors of more than 10 households on the same floor to warn them of the fire. Sim even tried to save fire victim Gulam who was trapped in his own flat as he could not locate his keys. When the fumes became unbearable, Sim finally gave up the rescue mission.

While I was waiting with the residents for the electricity supply to be restored, I witnessed one scene that others did not see. When Sim met the estranged daughter of Mr Gulam, he choked in tears and even apologized to her for not being able to save her father. Although it was a brief moment, I was moved and touched by the goodness of this man. He deserves an Excellent Neighbour Award.

May we learn to love our neighbours as ourselves!


As a result of the fire, the electricity supply was disrupted. I met a number of residents downstairs who were waiting for the supply to be re-connected.

As I interacted with them, I once again witnessed the goodness and tenacity of humankind.
None of the residents I met blamed the unit. Many were in fact patient and understood that the electricians were under tremendous stress to restore the utilities. Two elderly aunties I was chatting with surprised me when they apologized for making me lose sleep.

May we be the kind of people who encourage others in unexpected moments!


I cannot complete this story without thanking my beloved husband who, never once grumbled when I needed him to support me in my community work.

When I woke him at 4am to ask if he could drive me to the fire scene to see what we can do to help, he willingly did so.

Despite his long hours as a social entrepreneur who creates jobs for people with special needs, he made our marriage vow a reality and loved and supported me “for better, for worse, for richer, for oorer, in sickness and in health”.  His humility and readiness to do mundane tasks like driving me to unfamiliar venues to bigger tasks like critiquing my parliamentary speeches, is the good that I was reminded of this week.

May we appreciate the little acts of love by those we sometimes forget because they are so much a part of our lives!


This week, as I make a special effort to find the good in others, I am reminded of the wisdom of not writing off too quickly what I often consider as “bad” in life. These may include not only individuals I know but also others whom I may not personally and only heard about them from third parties.
But most people come in packages, comprising both good and areas that need to be improved.

It is so easy to look for what is bad.

Some days, it is refreshing and therapeutic simply to find and appreciate the good in others.

What good in others have you found and appreciated this week?

MY PAPER COLUMN, 2 May 2012 from Ms Denise Phua
Source : Finding the Good in Others by Ms Denise Phua



YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIFE (on Dennis Tan and Joe Dominiguez). One of the favourite mantras of some Singaporeans is “Money No Enough (钱不够用).

True, there is a minority of Singaporeans who are barely surviving and do not even have a roof over their heads. For them, money is indeed not enough. And support from the state and others is much needed.

However, many other Singaporeans have an acceptable standard of living. They hold jobs and live in at least an HDB flat. Yet, “money-not- enough” remains a source of unhappiness to them.

From observing the lives of people in my life and learning from experts in financial freedom, I believe part of the answer lies in the need for us to build a healthier relationship with money.

DENNIS TAN KIM SENG is a friend of mine and is one of the happiest and most contented people I know.

Kim Seng worked his way from a Personnel Executive to become an excellent Head of an Enrichment Programme for special-needs youths.

Although he can well afford a much bigger home, he has decided that he is happy with his 4-room flat. His wife is a housewife and together they raised 2 children. One of the children is now a teacher-in-training.

As part of Kim Seng’s daily routine, he either rides a bicycle or he jogs to work.

In all the years I know him, Kim Seng has never complained about “money-not- enough”.

On the contrary, I know of people who enjoy a high standard of living but still feel they do not have enough. I once had a friend who vowed he will not stop earning till he buys one apartment for each of his 4 children. His life is highly stressed and he is constantly unhappy.

Looking at the examples, it appears true that, “the happiest man is not the one who has the most but the one who needs the least.”

Let me share with you some ideas I found useful in transforming our relationship with money.

1. Decide what is ‘Enough’

A very important word is the word, “enough”.

Wealth is a moving target even for some who are wealthy.

John D. Rockefeller, an American oil tycoon who founded Standard Oil, is considered to be the richest men in the world in the 20th century. It was reported that when he was asked, “How much money is enough?” Rockefeller replied, “Just a little bit more!”.

But ‘enough’ need not be linked to one’s income. Depending on each us determine what is ‘enough’, we can choose one of 3 lifestyles:
– To live above one’s means (or income)
– To live according to one’s means
– To live below one’s means

Kim Seng, my friend, has decided on his own definition of ‘enough’ and as a result, selected a lifestyle that allows him to live below his income.

No one can or should tell another what ‘enough’ should be.

I learn, however, that the lower ‘enough’ is, the faster we can reach the point of freedom when we do not have to make life choices based on money.

2. Develop a Mindset of ‘Contentment’

Contentment is not always good especially in instances when it is an excuse for low or unacceptable standards of work or service.
However, when it comes to money and other possessions, there is some merit to being contented.

The Christian Apostle Paul, for instance, shared this enviable mindset when he spoke about how he has learnt to be content in whatever life circumstances he was in.

Paul said he knew how to get along with humble means and also know how to live in prosperity.

Paul’s mindset is based on a set of values that does not equate contentment and happiness to the amount of worldly possessions he has.

He has successfully learnt to adopt the mindset of contentment, whether he has abundance or is suffering.

3. Take Action towards Liberty and Financial Freedom

The dream of liberty and financial freedom remains a dream unless action is taken to translate it to reality.

One guru whom I have learnt much from is Joe Dominguez. Together with Vicki Robin, Joe wrote the boo ,“Your Money or Your Life” which I read many years ago.

The ideas in the book transformed the way I view money and other possessions and gave me the tools to work towards contentment and financial liberty.

Joe was a financial analyst on Wall Street who after carefully managing his lifestyle and money, retired when he was 31. He carried on working and serving others but never again to take money for his labour.

Joe died in 1997 and today, his work and message in helping others achieve financial freedom, still lives on. He is my role model in taking action towards liberty and financial freedom.

Some of the steps Joe recommended involved:

– Observing and tracking one’s current spending habits

– How to set goals of what is ‘enough’

– Planning for one’s early retirement from working for the sake of money

– Deciding the ‘cross-over’ point at which you stop working for money and start working for your dream

Talking about taking action, one of the biggest fears Singaporeans have is not having enough to retire after they stop income-generating work.

However, under the new CPF Life Scheme, if action is taken to constantly top up one’s Minimum CPF Sum, many retirees canl receive a monthly retirement income of about $1,000/- for the rest of their lives.

This is one key action Singaporeans can easily take towards greater financial freedom.


Every one of us deserves to spend our limited life energy on life pursuits of our choice.

We should not have to live in the fear of ‘money-not-enough’.

Don’t wait till it is too late to develop the mindsets and take action to develop a healthy relationship with money!

Denise Phua/文/潘丽萍


富足人生 :





1 自己为“足够”下一个定义

财富是一个移动中的目标,即使是拥有最多财富的人,也认为自己还没有达到“足够”的目标。洛克菲勒(John D. Rockefeller)美国美孚石油公司(标准石油)的创办人,他堪称20世纪世界上最有钱的人之一。


2 要有一颗知足的心


3 晋升“财务自由”的境界

华尔街投资理财专家乔•杜明戈斯(Joe Dominguez)在他工作的10年中,对金钱与自己的生活方式都经营得很好,在他31岁那年,存够了钱维持下半生后,他便辞去了华尔街的工作。从那时起, 虽然他继续工作,当义工,但他已不再接受薪水。他与薇琪•鲁宾(Vicki Robin)合著了一本书,叫《富足人生》(Your Money or Your Life)。



新加坡人最大的担忧就是在停止工作、没有收入后,没有足够的钱退休。按照新的2013年公积金终身入息计划(CPF Life),只要国人继续填补公积金最低存款,很多人在退休后,每个月可以领取1000元左右的退休收入。要达到“财务自由”的境界,我们必须有所行动,否则,它永远都只是一个梦想。




  Denise Phua Lay Peng



Autism Awareness by Denise Phua Lay Peng

Dear friends, pls SHARE this with folks who care for the AUTISM community. I write this as a full-time volunteer who serves in the sector daily. Recently I read an appeal for signatures to Government for more services for persons with autism especially for the adult space. Indeed this space needs attention, as the authorities have heeded and done much more for the younger ones in recent years.

However, it would be good to be updated first on what’s happening on the ground, then make an informed appeal if that’s the way to go. I urge you to find out more first so together we can be effective in advocating not for those with autism but other special-needs folks who similarly need support.

Apologies for insufficient updates. Things happen so fast and there is just so much to do on the ground. Those of us serving the kids and adults directly need help from passionate writers-communicators who can help give regular updates on the landscape to interested parties.

The landscape changes rather rapidly these days. 

For example, an autism Employability and Employment Centre will be officially launched soon. There is plan for another (Eden) Day Activity Centre by AAS. Both receive or will receive subsidy support from the relevant agencies.

Honestly, the bottleneck to services is not simply lack of voice or simply money – speed is hampered by lack of enough skilled manpower who wants to work in our sector, esp for our more severe special ones.

Friends of Autism, come get an updated “state of the union” progress report from the several autism charities in Singapore on 31 March 2012. (ARC, AAS, St Andrews, Rainbow).

More details will be shared by the organising committee in mid-March.

World Autism Awareness Day 1 April is coming up. Some exciting things happening with the help of some really kind n diligent young people from NTU and NUS-Duke Medical School.

Need your partnership to further brighten the future of our special ones.

Have a great day all! Off to writing my budget speeches now.

  Denise Phua Lay Peng

%d bloggers like this: