To gain greater insight into a Mayor’s role in Singapore, CNA documented a day in the life of South West District Mayor Low Yen Ling, as seen in an article published on Wednesday (25 November).
Mayors run Community Development Councils (CDCs).
Among the CDCs’ purpose are supporting national policies and engaging with residents, doing so in collaboration with government agencies, grassroots organisations, voluntary welfare organisations and partners from the public and private sectors.
There are five Community Development Councils (CDCs) in total. Other than Ms Low’s South West CDC, the other four are:
- North East CDC, run by Desmond Choo;
- Central CDC, run by Denise Phua;
- North West CDC, run by Alex Yam; and
- South East CDC, run by Fahmi Aliman.
Ms Low chairs the Mayor’s Committee.
Speaking on a Mayor’s role, Ms Low said that it is similar to “leading a middle office where crucial goals and plans are set to meet the needs on the frontline, and also having to ensure all the back-end processes are in place too”.
Apart from being a Mayor, Ms Low is also a Member of Parliament (MP) for Chua Chu Kang GRC.
She also holds the Minister of State position in two ministries, namely the Ministry for Trade and Industry (MTI) and the Ministry for Culture, Community and Youth.
Ms Low’s day began with a visit to Lianhua Primary School in Bukit Batok at 8.30am, where she talked to staff members of the school and students.
She also had her pictures taken for a handwashing event and a shoe donation drive with a long-time partner from South West CDC.
Later, they went to NTUC Health’s Boon Lay Senior Activity Centre where she witnessed elderly people in an art class.
They also visited Keat Hong Community Club, where Ms Low was given a tour of a job discovery fair for the sustainability sector, before taking a short lunch break.
Later, Ms Low distributed care packs to residents of several flats at Bukit Batok and took a visit at a community garden to “harvest greens” from several gardening lots until 2.30pm.
She spoke to CNA journalist Cindy Co on certain lesser-known aspects of the mayor’s role such as needing to build relationships with the community, having “pulse checks” and an “intimate understanding” of the community’s needs.
Ms Low explained the CDC’s duties are based on two sets of “ABCs”: Firstly, “Assist the needy, Bond the people and Connect the community”. Secondly, “Aggregate resources, Build capabilities, and again Connect the community”.
“A lot of our work takes place behind the scenes, like aggregating, convening and putting together of resources to meet needs, and while this is not highly visible, it is important because it shapes the output and the co-creation of solutions,” she told CNA.
Ms Low added that the CDC also identifies families in need of help and requests the number of products needed. It also connects organisations with the demographic of people they want to help.
“When an MNC [Multi-National Company] or local company says, ‘I only want to work with children’, immediately we know where to go.
“We know where to go because we know the demographic of our 770,000 residents, we know where the rental block that has a higher proportion of school-going children [are],” she said.
Ms Low noted that the most difficult part of the job is seeing a child’s progress being set back.
“As a working mum, what breaks my heart is as we make good progress to uplift the lives of some of these families and to ensure that [the children] stay in school, sometimes an incident in the family may step the child back,” she said.
“And it’s very heartbreaking to see it because I could witness the good progress the child has made because of the collective efforts of volunteers from the community, from the VWOs, from the school – and because of an unfortunate incident, suddenly there’s long-term absenteeism,” she remarked.
Netizens compare Mayor and MP roles, brand Mayor position a “waste of taxpayers’ money”
However, netizens commenting on the CNA Facebook post on the article pointed out the redundant nature of the Mayor’s role, seeing how similar their duties are to that of some of the roles of elected MPs.
They questioned the purpose of having five Mayors in Singapore, considering that the MPs are already carrying out the activities and responsibilities mentioned in the article.
Others wrote that they still confused with Mayors’ roles in Singapore, with some even calling such positions a “waste of taxpayers’ money”.