Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has, at the swearing in ceremony of mayors on 23 September, praised the contributions of the Community Development Councils (CDC) and their respective mayors stating that while they “often keep a low profile“, “their contributions are vital during times of crisis.”
While I don’t doubt that CDCs have made contributions to public life, the perennial questions of whether their roles are truly essential or whether they are too highly remunerated remain.
Teo Soh Lung raised this issue in an earlier article where she identified that there are five mayors in our little island of 721.5 sq kilometres with a population of 5.7 million in comparison with huge cities like London and New York where there is only one mayor.
A mayor’s minimum annual salary is $660,000. If the salary of a member of parliament which is $192,500 per annum is added, the mayor gets a minimum of about $71,000. This is near twice the salary of New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern who earns just $35,800 a month. And New Zealand has a population of 4.886 million. If Singapore’s 5.7 million population is divided by 5, each mayor “takes care” of 1.14 million people.
To compound this, we already have 93 elected members of parliament (MPs) to look after the needs of the people.
Surely, MPs can do the work that these mayors do? Why do we need so many people in the employ of the public purse strings? This is especially so as global economic downturns loom in the wake of COVID-19?
Perhaps it is because the MPs in Singapore are permitted to still have their careers while also serving as MP which gives them less time to do the work that the mayors and the CDCs are doing. Indeed, many of the Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) MPs have full time careers on top of being MPs.
The question therefore is: if MPs are not permitted to have other jobs apart from being MP, do we still need the mayors and the CDCs?
Elected MPs are very well remunerated so with that in mind, why do they need two jobs? Especially if the CDC and mayoral positions could be written off (and the money for salaries saved) if the elected MPs performed these roles?
Teo also identified that a mayor’s minimum annual salary is $660,000. On top of that, each of the mayors are also elected PAP MPs) Ms Low Yen Ling (Chua Chu Kang GRC) , Ms Denise Phua (Jalan Besar GRC) and Mr Desmond Choo (Tampines GRC) have been reappointed mayors of South West CDC, Central CDC and North East CDC respectively while Mr Alex Yam (Marsiling–Yew Tee Group Representation Constituency) and Mr Fahmi Aliman (Marine Parade GRC) are new mayors.
This means that they are getting their MP salaries plus their mayoral salaries to do a role that is arguably an MP’s role anyway! Is this a justifiable way to spend tax monies?
As Teo says:
“According to Community Development Council (CDC), “The Office of the Mayors in Singapore serves the residents in the five districts. Each district is helmed by a mayor, each of whom also serves as a Chairman of the Community Development Council (CDC) in a particular district.
Isn’t this a duplication of the work of a member of parliament who has to look after his constituents? And isn’t every mayor already a member of parliament? Why do we need to create this glorious title of Mayor with no additional duties but at humongous costs?”
Do we really need five mayors in addition to 93 members of parliament? And, do we need to pay them so much?
On top of the above, it has recently come to light that the DPP who prosecuted Parti Liyani is the daughter of civil servant, Tan Yong Soon, who served as the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources and who had come under fire some years back for contributing to an article in the Straits Times (‘Cooking up the holiday spirit‘, 6 Jan 2009). In that article, Tan revealed that the 5-week course for his wife, son and himself at Le Cordon Bleu cost more than S$46,000 which did not even include air fares, meals at restaurants and others.
Aside from being totally clueless and tone deaf, it raises the issue of the remuneration package our civil servants make?
Looking at Tan’s boo boo together with the mayoral salaries, are our civil servants paid far too much arguably for job duplication too!