It is reasonable that the National Day Parade (NDP) executive committee is taking on board feedback that people should be able to opt out of receiving the NDP funpacks. This after a petition was launched in the wake of the committee’s announcement that 1.2 million funpacks would be distributed to all Singaporean and permanent resident households this year. The petition garnered a considerable number of signatures. Supporters cited reasons ranging from poor economic conditions because of the coronavirus pandemic, to the need to make better use of resources – including using the savings for the needy, and environmental considerations. These are understandable arguments. It shows Singaporeans reflecting their concerns, whether economic, environmental, or both. Even in good times, many have wondered about the utility of the funpacks beyond the NDP.

The calamitous economic and social repercussions of the pandemic have sharpened public consciousness. Hence the heightened awareness about the funpacks. But past experience has shown that many are happy to receive them – children in particular – ahead of the most significant day on the national calendar. So perhaps more important than the issue of funpacks is how the NDP itself is being reorganised this year. The parade will enable Singaporeans to celebrate in their homes, instead of at a central location like the Marina Bay floating platform. Many segments will also move to the heartland.

That is precisely why there is still merit in having funpacks. It will draw in Singaporeans to participate; and it can lift spirits. The funpacks also have symbolic value: as a reminder of a significant event, and as a token of appreciation to people from the parade organisers, and the nation, especially at this time. But whatever the decision, it is important to bear in mind the spirit of what National Day is all about.