by Yee Jenn Jong
As a former Non-Constituency Member of Parliament, it feels kinda surreal to have a PAP politician 'envy' the position and allowance of a NCMP.
Perhaps more information is needed about life on the other side in case one thinks the grass is greener there...
The allowance (about $2,000 monthly) is set at about 15% of a MP's allowance. It is meant to cover expenses for parliamentary work, which a losing PAP candidate will not have to do. Parliament sits for 40-60 times a year. Usually, it is 1-3 times a month but during the Budget period, there will be about 2 continuous weeks of sittings commencing from around 11am till 7pm. When there are special bills or motions, there will be additional sittings, each of which can go on for several days.
My fellow NCMP colleagues and I, past and present, have taken pride to have good attendance and participation records. Usually, during the intensive budget sitting days, I absent myself nearly completely from my regular work as I make it a point to participate as much as I can in as many of the Committee of Supplies' (i.e. various ministries) debates. There is also much to research on and we have to be resourceful as access to non-public information of the government is not available to us.
I do not believe the allowance for NCMP was designed by the PAP government to cover grassroots activities; hence NCMP gets 15% of a MP's allowance. In addition, NCMPs do NOT get any access to facilities in the constituency he/she contested in previously, unlike that of losing PAP candidates.
I have continued my work on the ground even though I am no longer a NCMP, Many of my Party's colleagues have continued their work on the ground. We do not get the support of the People's Association, which gets some $1 billion annual allocation from the government's budget for their work. PA will work only with PAP MPs and grassroots advisors appointed by the government, which include the losing candidates for the PAP in an opposition ward (But hey, it's non-partisan, as someone famously said). Any expenses for our work, including food distribution projects for the needier families, have to be raised through our resourcefulness. Thankfully, there are Singaporeans and organisations willing to support, though some do come from our own pockets too. Work is organised by volunteers.
The Elections Department reports to the Prime Minister's Office. It is fond of giving surprises to the opposition, with short notices for elections and sudden change of boundaries just before elections. Before GE2015, about 6 weeks' notice was given. Many constituencies had changes, and that which I contested in previously was merged into something much larger. I am not sure what uncertainties PAP candidates have to deal with.
Sometimes it is better to count one's blessings and then we will realise that there are actually much to be thankful for.
This post was first published on Mr Yee's Facebook page and reproduced with permission