Ms Anthea Ong: To ask the Ministry for Culture, Community and Youth (a) what percentage of Grassroots Advisors (GRAs) appointed by the PA are members of a political party; (b) since GRAs are empowered to appoint members of the Citizens’ Consultative Committees (CCC) and the Community Development and Welfare Fund (CDWF) Committees, whether there are risks that the disbursement of these public funds may be considered political in nature; (c) what are the measures to ensure that GRAs who are political party members are not associated in the distribution of these funds; (d) whether civil servants will be allowed to administer these funds; and (e) what are the policies to ensure that all elected MPs can tap on these funds to serve their residents.
Minister Chan Chun Sing, Deputy Chairman of People's Association (PA), on behalf of the Ministry for Culture, Community and Youth:
- The PA is a statutory board under MCCY. Its role is to promote social cohesion, and to act as a bridge between the Government and the people. The PA appoints GRAs to guide its grassroots organisations (GROs) in communicating and implementing the policies and programmes of the Government of the day. These include difficult and unpopular policies which are necessary for the good of Singapore, such as CPF cuts during the 1986 recession, the increase in retirement age and the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA). Hence in appointing GRAs, the PA’s principal consideration is that the Advisor shares the government’s objectives and convictions, and can be relied upon to carry out his role faithfully. Membership of a political party is neither a qualification nor a disqualification for the purpose of being appointed as a GRA.
- I would like to clarify that it is the PA, not the GRAs, that appoints all of its grassroots leaders, including volunteers who serve on the Citizens’ Consultative Committees (CCC). Among other things, the CCCs help to administer government and local schemes such as the Community Development and Welfare Fund (CDWF).
- The CDWF supports community bonding programmes and welfare assistance for needy residents. The CDWF Committee manages and oversees the disbursement of funds, according to established criteria. In addition to receiving some funding from PA, the CDWF Committee also raises funds to supplement ground efforts.
- Ms Anthea Ong appears concerned whether the disbursement of CDWF may be politicised, and perhaps whether any resident might be denied access to welfare assistance under the CDWF. I would like to assure Ms Ong and this House that no resident who meets the qualifying criteria will be denied welfare assistance, regardless of the constituency that they may be residing in.
- In addition to the CDWF, there are also other government assistance schemes to help Singaporeans, such as the CCC ComCare Fund and various localised assistance schemes. Anyone who needs help and meets the eligibility criteria may apply for assistance. Members of this House can also apply for assistance on behalf of their eligible constituents.