SINGAPORE — Central Singapore District Mayor Denise Phua on Thursday (25 February) criticised Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh in Parliament for his “belittling” remarks that the government is trying to find ways to make Community Development Councils (CDCs) relevant through the management of the CDC voucher scheme.
Phua said there is “nothing to be ashamed” about making sure that one stays relevant and can add value as times change. The Jalan Besar Member of Parliament (MP) drew the comparison of the appointment of CDC mayors with the recent offer extended by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to Singh to become Leader of the Opposition.
“When Prime Minister Lee graciously created the role of the Leader of the Opposition, much to Mr. Singh’s surprise himself, did Mr. Singh not accept the role when he was asked, and the office and the research assistant and the salary, and try to do his best to be relevant too?” Phua asked. She added that Singaporeans had also asked about the role of the Leader of the Opposition.
Under the $900 million Household Support package for families unveiled at the Budget 2021 announcement last week, about 1.3 million households will be given $100 CDC vouchers, with an additional $150 million grant provided to the CDC for this. Recipients can use the vouchers at heartland shops and hawker centres.
On Wednesday in Parliament, Singh called for a "serious review" of the necessity of having full-time CDC mayors, suggesting that bodies such as the Citizens Consultative Committees (CCC) are more closely connected to the ground. He noted, for example, that representatives of market and merchant associations are commonly represented on the CCCs, and there is one CCC for each ward or constituency.
It would follow that the CDCs' role in the CDC voucher scheme is potentially "superfluous", said Singh. The Aljunied MP also asked how much of the $150 million has been allocated for the scheme.
In response to Phua, Singh asked her if it was still viable for CDC mayors to be full-time.
Phua replied, “I have to say that I am probably the only full-time mayor. And that's I think because the Prime Minister feels that I am running the largest district here. My fellow mayors are all double-hatting or triple-hatting sometimes. And so I don't know whether you consider them full-time mayors or not, but I do know that they only get one pay.”
Apart from Phua, the other four mayors are Low Yen Ling (South West), Fahmi Aliman (South East), Alex Yam (North West) and Desmond Choo (North East).
On Wednesday, Singh also said that many Singaporeans consider the salaries of CDC mayors as "outrageous", mainly because they are not perceived to commensurate with the mayor's roles and functions today.
According to the 2012 White Paper on government salaries, mayors are paid an annual salary of $660,000. This is in addition to their annual MP allowance of $192,500. The salaries were last reviewed in 2017.
Phua did not address Singh's comment about the salary level of CDC mayors in her rebuttal to him on Thursday.
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