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NCMP Leong Mun Wai questions PA’s S$796 million budget, role of organisation

SINGAPORE — The S$796 million budget allotted to the People’s Association (PA) was called into question in Parliament on Monday (March 8), with Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Leong Mun Wai asking why the bulk of the organisation’s budget is used for administrative purposes. This is while its actual spending made up just 30 per cent of its allocated funds in the 2020 financial year.

NCMP Leong Mun Wai questions PA’s S$796 million budget, role of organisation

A resident making enquiries at Kampong Chai Chee Community Club, which is run by the People's Association.

  • NCMP Leong Mun Wai brought up the budget for the People’s Association (PA) in Parliament
  • Parliamentary Secretary Eric Chua said PA’s role as a bridge between the Government and the people requires it to be “properly resourced”
  • PA is playing a big role during the Covid-19 pandemic, he added
  • It will have a S$796 million budget for the 2021 financial year

 

SINGAPORE — The S$796 million budget allotted to the People’s Association (PA) was called into question in Parliament on Monday (March 8), with Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Leong Mun Wai asking why the bulk of the organisation’s budget is used for administrative purposes. This is while its actual spending made up just 30 per cent of its allocated funds in the 2020 financial year.

Mr Leong, who is from the Progress Singapore Party, also pointed out that PA’s cost for each staff member is higher than that of government agencies such as the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore and the Government Technology Agency.

Mr Leong raised the question when the House was debating the budget for the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY). He also highlighted that previous questions raised in Parliament on PA’s budget have not been fully addressed.

The statutory board, which was set up in 1960, oversees neighbourhood grassroots communities and organises social activities for Singaporeans.

This is not the first time that PA’s budget has been put under the spotlight in Parliament. 

During the debate on MCCY’s budget in 2016, Workers’ Party chairman Sylvia Lim had questioned the statutory board’s “ever-increasing” budget and asked if the organisation had drifted from its intended objective.

In his reply at the time, Mr Chan Chun Sing, then-Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, explained that PA had to cater to an “increasingly sophisticated” population.

He added that PA was allocated more funds for the 2016 financial year because it had plans to upgrade 24 community clubs. The sum apportioned to PA that year was S$900 million.

Responding to Mr Leong on Monday, Mr Eric Chua, who is the Parliamentary Secretary for MCCY, said that the organisation’s role as a bridge between the Government and the people requires it to be “properly resourced”.

For example, during this Covid-19 pandemic, PA played a big role in initiatives such as the four nationwide mask collection exercises, the distribution of the TraceTogether contact-tracing token, and in operating the community centres to serve as community vaccination centres while Singapore rolls out its vaccination exercise to the population.

Furthermore, PA also helps the Government to explain complex, and sometimes unpopular, policies to the wider population, as well as getting feedback on the policies from the residents.

Mr Chua, who is also the Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar Group Representation Constituency, said that out of PA’s S$796 million budget for the 2021 financial year, a total of S$207 million will be spent on building and upgrading community clubs. 

The bulk of the remaining S$589 million will be used for PA’s operating expenditure.

“PA’s role in peacetime and in crisis are inseparable. In many countries, people are divorced from the political and administrative machinery. They have difficulties knowing and understanding what goes on. Government is a distant, sometimes even alien, entity,” Mr Chua said. 

In Singapore, however, the Government wants to explain policies and provide channels for communication between the Government and the people, Mr Chua added, reinforcing the point that PA plays a vital role in crisis. 

“The proof of the pudding is in the eating and there is no doubt that PA has proven its worth in the past year,” he said.

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Budget 2021 People's Association Leong Mun Wai

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