(From left) Central Singapore CDC Mayor Denise Phua, South East CDC Mayor Fahmi Aliman, Mayors’ Committee Chairman and South West CDC Mayor Low Yen Ling, North West CDC Mayor Alex Yam and North East CDC Mayor Desmond Choo.
PM Lee Hsien Loong (fourth from left) and PA Deputy Chairman Chan Chun Sing (far right) with mayors (from left) Fahmi Aliman, Alex Yam, Denise Phua, Low Yen Ling and Desmond Choo, at their swearing-in ceremony on Sept 23, 2020.
SINGAPORE – The five Community Development Councils (CDC) rolled out over 70 initiatives between February and June to help Singaporeans cope with Covid-19, including a student meal plan and a $20 million voucher scheme for 400,000 families.
The CDC Vouchers Scheme eased the cost of living for middle-income families and the vouchers are meant to be spent at heartland businesses, thus giving a boost to hawkers and small businesses, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
He said: “CDCs often take a low profile, working quietly but steadily to fulfil their mission. But in times of crisis, their contributions are vital and become more apparent.”
PM Lee was speaking on Wednesday (Sept 23) at the swearing-in ceremony of five mayors at the People’s Association (PA) headquarters in Jalan Besar. Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, who is also People’s Association deputy chairman, attended the ceremony as well.
The CDC Student Meals scheme helps children from needy homes continue getting their meals and focus on their education. Another initiative, the SkillsFuture @ CDC 2020, was an online event to help residents learn more about job search strategies and the skills needed to succeed in the future economy.
Said PM Lee: “CDCs illustrate how we have structured our social support system in a thoughtful and creative way.” They bridge residents and the Government, and function not just as hands and legs to implement the programmes, but also eyes and ears to identify emerging needs and gaps in social support, he added.
When a resident is in need and does not know where to get help, he can turn to the CDC, which can assist or redirect him to the right agencies, and lift some of the burden of navigating the bureaucracy, he said.
“Most importantly, you can deliver services with a human touch in a way that government agencies that operate on a national scale try very hard to do but will find it harder to do,” Mr Lee added.
The Government, he said, fully supports the mission of the CDCs and that is why in this year’s Budget, the Government provided CDCs with an additional $75 million grant.
On Wednesday, three mayors were reappointed – Ms Denise Phua, Ms Low Yen Ling and Mr Desmond Choo. Ms Low remains chairman of the Mayors’ Committee, with a focus on coordinating the work of the CDCs.
Newly elected Marine Parade GRC MP Fahmi Aliman will be mayor of the South East district, replacing Dr Maliki Osman, who has been promoted to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, and Second Minister for Education as well as Foreign Affairs.
For North West CDC, Mr Alex Yam, an MP for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, takes over from Dr Teo Ho Pin, who held the job for 19 years, and is Singapore’s longest-serving mayor. He stepped down from politics at the July 10 general election.
The new appointments were first announced at the end of July by the Prime Minister’s Office and took effect on July 27.
PM Lee thanked the two former mayors for their contributions, highlighting Dr Teo’s efforts in making the North West a vibrant, active and green district, and Dr Maliki’s work in strengthening the community spirit and supporting active ageing.
The new mayors are equally passionate, he added.
Mr Yam has served in the grassroots for many years and was previously a district councillor in the North West, while Mr Fahmi has been involved in public service for a long time, and is now working in the National Trades Union Congress, Mr Lee said.
Referring to Mr Fahmi, PM Lee said: “Everyone who knows him describes him as a gentle soul with a big heart. These are precisely the kind of qualities he will need and all our mayors need.”
The mayors are in charge of five CDCs and also play a key role in helping to implement government policies.
CDCs were started in 1997 to get more Singaporeans involved in the community. Over time, they have also become a touch point for Singaporeans to get access to social and community assistance.
Mr Lee, who is also PA chairman, said: “To fulfil their duties well, CDCs must be led by strong leaders who are familiar with the local community and can mobilise and motivate their councillors, volunteers and partners.”
He added that he was confident the mayors would be able to build on the work of their predecessors and their own work in previous terms and add to Singapore’s social capital.