At a People’s Association (PA) grassroots event celebrating senior citizens in the Aljunied cluster, comprising Aljunied GRC and Hougang SMC, former PAP chairman Lim Boon Heng said that the Workers’ Party owes residents an explanation for the state of its town council’s finances.
The event was attended by some 2,000 residents, grassroots leaders and PAP activists.
Mr Lim said that the WP-run town council’s (AHPETC) swing from an operating surplus to a deficit in the short span of 3 years is worrying. “It begs many questions,” he told reporters who were present.
The Aljunied Town Council had an operating surplus of $3.3 million in the 2010 financial year, when it was under PAP. In contrast, AHPETC had a deficit of $734,000 in the 2012 financial year. MND said that AHPETC had an S&CC arrears rate of 29.4% as of last year.
Mr Lim said, “I’m personally quite disturbed. To be in arrears by so much means that things are getting out of control. If it’s less than 10 per cent, you can probably manage. But once you go beyond that, you have to worry. And beyond 20 per cent, I think, is alarming.”
He said if arrears “go beyond a certain tipping point, you’ve lost control”.
“And when you’ve lost control, then things are going to be very difficult to manage,” he said.
“And if they can’t even manage a simple thing like a town council, then it begs the big question: If you put them in charge of the country, what will be the outcome?” he asked.
It is a mystery why Mr Lim did not address the question why Aljunied residents are owing their town council money in recent years. This is certainly preferable to attacking AHPETC for not being an effective “debt collector”.
One of the reasons why PAP town councils do not have much problem with arrears is they have no hesitation in issuing lawyer’s letters, demanding that their residents pay up. Otherwise, they may be sued bankrupt.
A letters such as this one was received by a resident in Punggol:
Another reason why PAP town councils do not have arrears problems is the close and warm relationship between PAP and the grassroots organizations. Residents who have problems paying S&CC charges are referred by the town councils to grassroots organizations for financial help.
For example, the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC) operates a “Hardship Assistance Fund”, which provides short-term hardship grants to individuals and families facing financial hardship.
CDAC, of course, is set up by the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations (SFCCA) and Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI). It was incorporated under the Companies Act and later granted the status of an Institution of Public Character by the government.
CDAC, in turn, gets its funding from the public. The prescribed amount of $0.50 or $1 is automatically deducted from the salaries of Chinese Singaporeans and PRs every month unless one opts out.
It is not known if AHPETC can just as easily refer cases to grassroots organizations for financial help.
In any case, it is not known why Mr Lim was attending yesterday’s grassroots event as a VIP since he no longer holds any political positions. Following his retirement from politics after 2011, he has been given a cushy job as the Chairman of Temasek Holdings.