Singapore—Former journalist turned professor Bertha Henson on Facebook questions the role of mayors and the Community Development Councils (CDC) they chair.
Her comments came amid recent reports in The Straits Times about the endeavours and initiative of the mayors.
The ST article also triggered online discussions on whether a country the size of Singapore needs mayors.
Commenting on the issue, Ms Henson writes that she is “not convinced about the importance of their work and terribly annoyed by the lack of hard questions.”
She then begins to ask the ‘hard questions’ herself, including the sizes of CDCs and what resources they’re given.
She asks if they can pick up on “emerging needs” and find solutions faster than “CCC or those managing community centres, or GRC MPs.”
Regarding Ms Phua’s assertion that Mayors are like an “invisible hand,” Ms Henson had a lot to say.
“Ahah! But has the article said why no replacement? Is it merely because CDCs have a pot of money to play with?
“Can Social Service Offices and CCCs do the same? Or the MPs getting together under town council? Or as part of a GRC. And why do you need MPs to head CDCs then? It’s a $660,000 a year job! Why not get someone who specialises in such work rather than politicians?
“Why not making it a gigantic subset of the PA – which it is actually. And do Opp MPs ever get to serve as Mayors? What if they win a few more adjacent constituencies?,” she wrote in a lengthy parenthetical remark.
On September 23 Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong presented People’s Action Party (PAP) Members of Parliament Low Yen Ling, Denise Phua Lay Peng, Desmond Choo 朱倍庆, Alex Yam and Fahmi Aliman with their Certificates of Appointment and Mayoral Badges at the Mayors’ swearing-in ceremony.
In a Facebook post PM Lee wrote, “Our Mayors are chairpersons of the Community Development Councils (CDCs) for the five respective districts. The CDCs play an important role in our social support system.
“They not only implement government programmes, but also serve as eyes and ears on the ground. They connect with communities, and identify emerging needs and gaps in social support. CDCs deliver services with a human touch, in a way that government agencies that operate on a national scale find harder to do.”
Presented Low Yen Ling, Denise Phua Lay Peng, Desmond Choo 朱倍庆, Alex Yam and Fahmi Aliman with their Certificates of…
On Monday (Sept 28), The Straits Times (ST), in its print and online editions, featured the five mayors speaking about the roles they play, revolving around the needs of residents.
It also wrote how the mayors make sure these needs are met through such programmes as the North East CDC’s Tertiary Student Transport Scheme, the CDC Vouchers Scheme and Student Meal Scheme and others.
ST quotes Ms Phua as saying that CDCs function is similar to an “invisible hand”, play a supporting and connecting role, and do not serve as a replacement for MPs, grassroots advisers, ministries and other organizations that offer on-ground assistance.
On social media, Singaporeans have been discussing the roles of mayors as well. Commenting on the issue on the Wake Up, Singapore page, here is what some Singaporeans had to say.