People's Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament (MP) Denise Phua hit back at Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh, after the latter questioned the relevance of the CDC in Parliament.
Singh, the Leader of the Opposition, previously claimed that many Singaporeans are of the opinion that salaries of mayors are "outrageous" and are not commensurate with their roles and functions today.
Singh's comment came after Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced in his Budget speech that every Singaporean household will receive S$100 worth of vouchers to support neighbourhood shops and hawker centres.
"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," he said.
Exercise in relevance
In response on Feb. 25, Phua claimed that Singh's accusation "belittles" the CDCs and their partners, saying, "There is nothing to be ashamed about making sure one is always relevant."
Phua is the current Mayor of Central Singapore CDC.
Phua countered that Singh's acceptance of the role of the Leader of Opposition was very much an exercise in trying to stay relevant:
"Singaporeans too ask what the role of the Leader of Opposition in our Parliament is — under the circumstances that all nine of the elected Opposition MPs are from one single Opposition Party."
However, she also said that Singh's comment about CDCs' relative absence in the public mindshare has prompted some reflections on whether CDCs in general could have done more to promote its work, and how much publicity is needed to justify their existence and prove their value.
"Do not politicise the good work of the CDCs and our partners," she added.
CDCs respond faster than government machinery: Phua
In her speech, Phua also elaborated on how the CDCs continue to work at the district level, doing work that "grassroots or government ministries are not quite set up to do", including supporting free SkillsFuture Advice workshops, and rolling out district-wide initiatives like the CDC Students Meals quickly.
The CDCs' strength is their "relative agility and ability", which helps them to respond and develop programmes in the district faster than a "bigger government machinery", according to Phua.
Phua is the only full time mayor out of the five CDC mayors. The other mayors are:
- Low Yen Ling (South West CDC)
- Desmond Choo (North East CDC)
- Alex Yam (North West CDC)
- Fahmi Aliman (South East CDC)
Pritam Singh: Should CDC Mayor be a full-time job today?
In response, Singh said that his comments were not meant as a personal indictment against the mayors or the programmes run by the CDCs. He suggested that perhaps these "worthy initiatives" could done by charities instead.
However, he pointed out that as the role of the CDCs were diminished over time, portioning out responsibilities to various ministries, the budget for CDCs went down as well.
Hence, the question is whether it is viable for the role of the CDC mayor to be a full-time job.
"It's for the government now to determine whether the approach that they want to take in terms of whether mayor should be a full time or part time appointment, given the comments I've made about the scope of responsibility is something that the government wants to take forward."
Top images from Denise Phua/PAP, Pritam Singh/WP