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My MP, the fix-it man

SINGAPORE — What do Singaporeans want most from their Members of Parliament (MPs)? Take care of their day-to-day problems and concerns, keep their neighbourhoods clean, and fix any problems that arise.

Singapore parliament in session. TODAY file photo

Singapore parliament in session. TODAY file photo

SINGAPORE — What do Singaporeans want most from their Members of Parliament (MPs)? Take care of their day-to-day problems and concerns, keep their neighbourhoods clean, and fix any problems that arise.

These were the most frequently cited responses from those surveyed* on the question of what they think MPs should pay the most attention to.

Close to half (46 per cent) of respondents said the ability to solve problems and concerns they raise was their top demand of their MPs, far ahead of five other attributes. Coming in second is whether an MP takes care of important municipal issues (22 per cent), followed by whether an MP takes their concerns to the relevant ministers (18 per cent).

In contrast, the more national-level core duties of MPs flashed by respondents’ consciousness. Languishing far behind, with single-digit percentages of votes gathered, were the roles of explaining the Government’s policies and helping to govern the country. The cellar-dweller, ironically, was contributing to parliamentary debates.

Political scientist Bilveer Singh said the findings reflect the utilitarian political culture in Singapore. “Voters want to see an MP doing things and not talking,” he said. “If an MP keeps quiet in Parliament, it will not hurt him, but if an MP was delinquent or short of performance on the ground, he or she will pay dearly.”

Former Nominated MP Siew Kum Hong was not surprised by the results either, noting that MPs and town councils can have a very direct impact on the daily standard of living for most Singaporeans. “It sends a strong reminder to all political aspirants that being an MP is much more than just making speeches in Parliament,” he added.

For law don Eugene Tan, also a former NMP, the finding suggests a limited understanding of the role of MPs, although he was quick to add that “it should not be surprising since the ruling People’s Action Party has always circumscribed the key role of MPs to municipal functions”.

“This was aided by the formation of Town Councils starting in 1991 and the abiding concern with housing prices and asset enhancement, and how a poorly maintained estate undermines those concerns,” said Associate Professor Tan, who is from Singapore Management University. “It reflects the relatively marginal understanding that respondents have of the parliamentary process. In a long-depoliticised society, such a response should not be surprising but, at the same time, worrying.”

*A face-to-face survey commissioned by MediaCorp polled 2,000 eligible voters from July 11 to Aug 6.

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