Former GIC Chief Economist: MPs Running Town Councils is a Terrible Idea that Stifles Opposition Politics

Posted on Jul 27 2017 - 5:47pm by Redwire Singapore

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Former GIC chief economist Yeoh Lam Keong has said in a Facebook post that making MPs run town councils is a “terrible idea” which “stifles” opposition politic.

Mr Yeoh said that Singapore residents deserve the “expertise and economies of scale possessed by HDB and public agencies” in the running of their precints and that the value of their homes should not be “held hostage to voting in a “powerful incumbent government” that controls the agencies responsible for such activities.

Speaking in the light of the latest AHTC salvo, in which the town council’s independent panel is taking AHTC MPs to court for alleged mismanagement of funds, Mr Yeoh said that “to make relatively inexperienced opposition MPs financially liable for any mismanagement in spite of best intentions is to effectively raise the bar for an opposition politician that would otherwise be effective in questioning policies way too high to be of any real benefit to citizens.”

This is Mr Yeoh’s post, reproduced in full:

“MPs running town councils is a terrible idea that largely only serves to effectively stifle opposition politics in Singapore by raising near impossible barriers to entry.

The skill set of a good town council manager is entirely different from that of an MP. The council manager is a real estate manager of a massive public cum private housing estate and infrastructure. This requires specialist skills and experience and is rightfully the work of a well resourced public stat board like the HDB who used to manage all estates before MPs ran town councils or mayoralties.

Singapore HDB and housing residents deserve the expertise and economies of scale possessed by HDB and public agencies in running their precincts rather than have such management and investment in needed infrastructure improvements be held hostage to shorter term political manoevering or lack of experience or resources over electioneering cycles.

An MPs job on the other hand is to primarily question policies and legislation in parliament on behalf of the electorate. This requires a total different skill set and the substantial time and resources needed to do this effectively.

He or she also to see that the needs of his constituents are met efficiently and adequately by relevant agencies not to be bogged down by the Augean task of managing huge hosing estates him or herself. Especially if they have to duplicate management systems that previous incumbents refuse to share.

Not to mention the duplication of administrative resources by different electoral precincts.

Finally and equally importantly, the provision of estate management services and allocation infrastructure is a public good and should never be used as a political tool.

The bulk of most citizens net worth or life savings is in their home. To have its value held hostage to voting in a powerful incumbent government that controls the agencies responsible for such activities is both a breach of citizens rights as well as a recipe for authoritarian rule.

And to make relatively inexperienced opposition MPs financially liable for any mismanagement in spite of best intentions is to effectively raise the bar for an opposition politician that would otherwise be effective in questioning policies way too high to be of any real benefit to citizens.

The public is thus short changed both ways in terms of optimal public housing management as well as political representation.

Please note that all this cuts institutionally both ways. If the PAP ever found itself in minority opposition again , it may never be able to return from the political wilderness beyond the impregnable walls of their own creation.”

 

 

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