Singapore—On Monday (March 8), the final day of the 2021 Budget Debate, Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leong Mun Wai asked why the budget for the People’s Association is so “huge”.
As Parliament debated the budget for the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), Mr Leong, from the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), noted that the PA has a staff of 2,565 and its operational expenditure for the financial year 2021 is S$589 million.
In contrast, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, with a staff of 2,050, runs at a budget of S$432 million, while the Government Technology Agency, with a staff of 3,610, has a budget of S$403 million.
Mr Leong pointed out that the PA’s cost per staff member is higher than the other two agencies’. He added that last year, the PA spent only S$199 million, or 30 per cent of its budget, on projects and activities, while S$441 million was spent on administrative costs.
The PSP NCMP asked why such an expensive administrative structure is needed when the primary function of the PA is to be a “bridge between the government and citizens”.
Furthermore, he said, much of the work the PA does is done by grassroots volunteers and volunteer organisations.
He said, “We wholeheartedly support work by volunteer staff of the PA to strengthen the social fabric of Singapore.” He also asked if it is possible “to ensure that funds are deployed to help needy Singaporeans the most.”
Mr Leong then asked what proportion of PA leaders, staff, and volunteers are members of any particular political party.
“If it is so heavily funded by taxpayers’ money, we wish that the PA is a real organisation for the people, with its leadership and membership not skewed toward any political party,” he added.
The NCMP was answered by Mr Eric Chua, the Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community, and Youth.
He said that the pandemic has brought the PA’s “critical role” to the forefront, and its many years of work in Singapore’s society allowed the country’s cohesive response to the crisis.
“A year ago, I am not sure any of us had ‘pandemic response’ written in our work plans,” he said.
“But the networks, trust, and bonds painstakingly built by PA and its volunteers over the years have allowed us to respond cohesively, quickly and as one community, during the pandemic. That is the critical difference between our response here and the response elsewhere,” said Mr Chua.
Of the PA’s S$796 million budget for the financial year 2021, S$207 million is for building and upgrading community clubs (CCs) and S$589 million for operating expenses, Mr Chua explained.
This budget allows the PA to provide Singaporeans with enjoyable and enriching activities and builds networks, communities, and relationships of trust.
“PA’s roles in peacetime and in crisis are inseparable,” Mr Chua said.
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