Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh on Wednesday (24 Feb) questioned Singapore’s need for mayors and the role of the Community Development Councils (CDCs) run by them.
Speaking in Parliament today during the debate on the Emerging Stronger Together Budget, the Workers’ Party chief highlighted that many Singaporeans are of the view that the salaries of mayors are “outrageous”, given how they do not appear to “commensurate with the mayor’s roles and functions today”.
“Other Singaporeans are of the view that the CDCs’ functions can be carried out by other existing entities, or by ministries and statutory boards, including other organisations under the People’s Association,” he said.
This is particularly as “the social footprint of each CDC is uneven, and can differ greatly compared to another,” the Aljunied GRC MP told the House, adding that “others simply don’t know what the CDCs do”.
The need for full-time mayors continues to be called into question and thus “there is scope for a serious review” of such roles, said Mr Singh.
The issue of mayors’ roles was thrust into the spotlight after CNA in November last year documented a day in the life of South West District Mayor Low Yen Ling.
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.
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 CDCs in total at present. 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 Mayors’ Committee.
Netizens commenting on the CNA Facebook post on the article pointed out the redundant nature of the mayors’ role, seeing how similar their duties are to those 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.
According to the 2012 White Paper on government salaries, mayors earn an annual salary of S$660,000, on top of their annual MP allowance of S$192,500, excluding bonuses.
Mr Singh noted that the Government allocated S$20 million to the CDCs in the Unity Budget last year, with the amount increased to S$75 million dollars a month later in the Resilience Budget.
“This injection is equal to all the reserves of the CDCs put together according to the CDC’s FY 2018 annual report,” he stressed.
Mr Singh said that bodies such as the Citizens’ Consultative Committees (CCC) are more closely connected to the ground.
He observed that representatives of market and merchants’ associations are commonly present on the CCCs and that CCCs are more targeted, as there are such committees for each ward or constituency.
“So it would appear to me as if the Government is trying to find some way to make the CDCs relevant, in view of their relative absence in the public mindshare,” said Mr Singh.