As another session of Parliament begins this week, the Workers’ Party’s (WP) Leon Perera has filed a number of questions.
Most notably, Perera is set to ask the Minister of Culture, Community and Youth whether the Key Performance Indicators for mayors and Community Development Councils (CDCs) have been met. Further, Perera is also set to ask about the expenditure of each CDC.
For those unaware, the mayors and CDCs have faced controversy recently. Given that there appears to be overlap between duties undertaken by members of parliament (MPs) and the role played by mayors and the CDCs, queries have been raised over the necessity of mayoral offices. Attention has also been drawn to the high remuneration packages these mayors are paid.
Teo Soh Lung had previously pointed out that 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 only “takes care” of 1.14 million people.
To compound this, we already have 93 elected MPs to look after the needs of the people.
With that in mind, why do we need mayors or the CDCs? And, why are they paid so much?
While alternative media sites such as this have asked the pertinent questions, it is imperative to remember that the ruling Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) has never deigned to answer the questions raised by non mainstream media. It is also arguably true that the mainstream media hardly ever criticises the dominant PAP.
This means that without the presence of non PAP MPs in Parliament, there will be no one to raise these issues officially. How then will Singaporeans ensure accountability if there were no alternative MPs?
If anything, this is an example of how important it is for there to be adequate checks and balances in Parliament. How public money is spent is surely a public interest issue. Yet, without the WP, will such questions even be asked?
While we now have 10 alternative elected MPs in Parliament. This is a far cry from the overwhelming 83 seats that the PAP have. There are therefore limitations to what the WP can do.
While the WP must be commended for seeking to ask the difficult questions in order to ensure that public money is properly spent, it must be remembered that there is not much the WP can do if the PAP close ranks and refuse to answer adequately.
If people want to ensure accountability (especially on how public funds are utilised in a time of global economic downturn), our Parliament will need a lot more than 10 alternative MPs. This is something that Singaporeans really need to remember in the next general election.