During the budget debate in Parliament last month (24 Feb), Aljunied GRC MP and Workers’ Party Chief Pritam Singh questioned the government on the roles of mayors and Community Development Councils (CDCs).
He noted that the roles of CDCs can be done by government agencies or other statutory boards. He also noted that the S$75 million allocated during the Budget last year was equal to the CDCs’ reserves for the 2018 financial year.
He said that it may be time to re-look the highly paid roles of mayors in Singapore, seeing there has been public criticism that a mayor’s job scope does not warrant a high pay.
In response, People’s Action Party (PAP) MP and Mayor Denise Phua accused Mr Singh of belittling the CDCs. She said Mr Singh’s idea for other organizations to handle, for example, the voucher scheme, showed that he did not know the realities on the ground.
She went on to list many CDC’s initiatives in a lengthy defence of CDCs and the mayors’ roles. Mr Singh, however, stood by his query that there is scope for a serious review of the need to have full-time mayors.
The role of CDCs has come into the spotlight after last year’s GE because many Singaporeans feel that the salaries of mayors are “outrageous” and they think that the pay does not commensurate with the mayors’ roles and functions, Mr Singh told the Parliament earlier.
“I’ve made my point and I think it’s now really in the Government’s hands,” he said.
5 mayors earn S$660,000 to oversee less than 1m residents each
There are currently 5 mayors in Singapore each earning at least S$660,000 a year.
In all, the five – Low Yen Ling, Denise Phua, Desmond Choo, Alex Yam and Mohd Fahmi bin Aliman – earn a total of S$3.3 million a year overseeing less than 1 million residents each (‘Five S’pore Mayors earn S$660,000 to oversee less than 1m residents each – Comparison to Mayors in other countries‘).
- Mayor of New York City earns US258,750 (S$348,106) to oversee 8.3 million residents
- Mayor of London earns £152,734 (S$285,576) to oversee 9 million residents
- Mayor of Toronto earns $197,316 (S$212,620) to oversee 6 million residents
- Mayor of Sydney earns $176,615 (S$184,072) to oversee almost 5 million residents
- Mayor of Seoul earns ₩102 million (S$121,213) to oversee nearly 10 million residents
- Governor of Tokyo earns ¥17,472,000 (S$215,115) to oversee 37 million residents
Chan: CDCs play unique roles in mobilizing volunteers, resources to help community
Yesterday (19 Mar), Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing stepped into the fray further defending the need for CDCs.
The Deputy Chairman of People’s Association told everyone at a community event that CDCs play “unique roles” in Singapore’s ecosystem of mobilizing volunteers and resources for various causes.
The CDCs allow initiatives to be customized at the regional level while still achieving economies of scale, he said.
“Why do we run a system with national, regional and local schemes? Is it not overlapping and confusing?” he asked.
Chan then explained that broad-based national schemes are efficient and achieve economies of scale, but may not easily cater to the unique needs of individuals and families, noting that “local schemes allow us to narrow-cast and they can be customized to be more effective, but it is not easy to achieve economies of scale if the schemes are too small”.
Within the spectrum of national and local schemes lie regional efforts led by agencies like the CDCs, Chan added.
“Given the diversity of needs and scale needed for different operating service models for various causes, it should not surprise us to see a diversity of models, practices for experimentation and execution.”
He said, “This spirit of customization and using different models to bring out the dynamism of the local and regional level is something that is dear to us, something we should keep and continue to refine as we go forward.”
In any case, former editor Bertha Henson who is no longer with the Straits Times found Chan’s explanation confusing.
“CCS (Chan Chun Sing) trying to explain CDCs’ existence. With words like unique roles (plural?), initiatives and mobilizing resources and economies of scale. I don’t think he even answered his own question about whether it’s ‘overlapping and confusing’,” noted Ms Henson.