Singapore politics seemed to have crossed a milestone last week. Town council (mis)management may no longer be such a convenient red flag to wave off voters from supporting the Opposition.

The People’s Action Party will have to think of better ways of painting the Workers’ Party – between now and GE2025.

According to CNA: “For the first time, all town councils have scored ‘green’ – the highest of three ratings – for all indicators in the latest estate management report released by the Ministry of National Development on June 27.

The report, covering the financial year from April 2023 to March 2024, assesses town councils across four indicators – estate cleanliness, estate maintenance, lift performance, as well as service and conservancy charges (S&CC) arrears management.

Assessments are given using three colour bands – green, amber and red.”

CNA added: “Sengkang Town Council made improvements this time in the area of S&CC arrears management, having been the only one among 17 town councils to be rated amber in the previous report for 2022.

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For 2021, Sengkang Town Council, Chua Chu Kang TC and Jurong-Clementi TC were marked down for their performance in S&CC arrears management.”

Looks like He Ting Rhu, Louis Chua and Jamus Lim, plus whoever stepped in to help cover for Raeesah Khan, have done a good job. Khan resigned her seat in November 2021 after making unsubstantiated allegations in Parliament on three occasions.

Aljunied-Hougang Town Council, the other WP cluster, is also in the green for operational management. So far, so good.

The second part of the Town Council Management Report (TCMR) will come in December. This will be on corporate governance. While the just-released report is about the nuts and bolts, the year-end one is on control, decision-making and accountability.

Now, if the overall governance rules for town council management are clear and established, with excellent examples and precedents to follow aided by a competent public service, I do not see how competent politicians on both sides of the Parliamentary divide can go far wrong.

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The TCMR’s all-green flag is yet another sign that the Opposition can only get better and has a big part to play in moving Singapore forward.

Let it be routine. Let red be the exception. If not, it will be more of a reflection of the performance of the National Development Ministry, which ultimately oversees the management of Singapore’s town councils.

It also means that we are not progressing and that our elected leaders are stuck in this bizarre drama of competing for a pat on the back from the MND for a job that the MND should itself be doing!

If at all this is going to be an issue in the coming general election, the points to be put across to the voters should be:

If the Workers’ Party gets TCMR greens for corporate governance, we should say that Opposition parties can do as good a job as anyone.

If the WP gets whacked with amber, pass the amber back to the MND, where it should truly land.

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Win-win for the WP.


Tan Bah Bah is a former senior leader writer with the Straits Times. He was also managing editor of a magazine publishing company