Friday, June 11, 2010

Pay First, Maintenance Later

The first inaugural Town Council Management Report (TCMR) of 16 town councils has the best performers ranked to be Ang Mo Kio-Yio Chu Kang led by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Tanjong Pagar run by his father Lee Kuan Yew. With the frequent flyer miles these two have been chalking up, it makes you wonder how often they show up at meet-the-people-sessions or town council meetings. The two worst performers are, predictably, the opposition wards: Hougang of Workers' Party's Low Thia Khiang and Potong Pasir of Singapore People's Party's Chiam See Tong.

The rub is this: their low grades have to do with collecting of arrears in S&CC (service and conservancy charges). Penalised for being sympathetic to the financial pain of the residents in their ward. The big "winners", by comparison, are living up to their party efficacy of "pay and pay". Even Dr Lim Lan Yuan from the National University of Singapore spotted the irony in the priority report: "They may not be chasing residents as much as the others, because when you chase too much, residents may not be happy."

Low Thia Khiang has always been skeptical of the undertaking from day one, "Such an exercise.. which inevitably requires much resources put in by the town councils, would translate into higher operating costs, and residents will eventually end up paying higher service and conservancy charges". Opposition town councils are perpetually placed at the bottom of the queue for estate upgrading. Nevertheless, the Hougang Town Council was given a ranking of 4 for maintenance, against the "3 and below" grade received by a PAP town council, inspite of all the upgrading priority afforded them by the party controlled HDB. "It is an accomplishment," Low was proud to announce.

Chiam See Tong decided to call a spade a spade, and dismissed the report outright as a ploy to discredit his town council. "They want to thump Potong Pasir down, " a combative Chiam declared. "Potong Pasir is the best town council in Singapore, what do you expect me to say?" Agreeing, residents in Potong Pasir paid no heed to the poor assessment. "It's okay because at least they clean it every day. And I see the person cleaning the lift and sweeping the corridors," said one resident. "I see a big improvement from previous years, such as the roadside, the gardens, the walkways," said another.

With electioneering so close, some town council chairmen were quick to assure residents they would not have to pay more for improvements. Ms Indranee Rajah, chairman for Tanjong Pagar Town Council, said it seeks to work within its budget so residents would not pay more (Tanjong Pagar scored a banding of level 1 for all the indicators, except for maintenance, for which they were banded level 3.) The spoiler came from Cynthia Phua, chairman for Aljunied Town Council, who cautioned that if residents do not cooperate, more home visits by town council staff could lead to higher manpower costs.


  1. Are we a country or are we living in a penal colony?

  2. The report card is supposed to address the shocking discovery in 2008 that some PAP town councils had lost $16 million in toxic financial products. So how come no performance index for investment of funds in the report? Why pay the S&CC if they are not used for maintaining and cleaning the estates? They want to pile up 5 years of reserves like NKF did?