Chan Chun Sing: 'I will not allow PA to be politicised'
Aljunied MP and Workers' Party Chairman Sylvia Lim raised her concerns about the role of the People's Association (PA) during MCCY's Committee of Supply debate on Wednesday.
Labour chief and Deputy Chairman of the PA Chan Chun Sing addressed her concerns in a speech yesterday...
Ms Sylvia Lim (above ):
While we understand that the 2015 budget was much larger than usual due to the SG50 activities and building residents' facilities, the 2016 budget is still very high at nearly $900 million. This is a significant 34 per cent increase from 2014. How is the high expenditure justified?
Mr Chan Chun Sing (above) :
The budget in 2016 is about five per cent lower than 2015. This is not exactly because of the SG50 celebrations.
The SG50 expenditure only increased the PA's budget by $4 million. Most of the SG50 activities ride on existing programmes that had already been planned by the community.
The first significant increase in 2015 was due to the start-up of the Pioneer Generation office to reach out to the Pioneer Generation elders.
This accounted for the bulk of the increase in PA's operating expenditure.
The bigger bulk of the increase in budget was due to the capital expenditure.
There are two projects which contributed to the significant increase - Tampines Hub and Wisma Geylang Serai Civic Centre.
This year, we are embarking on a programme to upgrade 24 community clubs.
On the timing of the upgrade - during the current economic slowdown, if there are opportunities for us to lock in good prices to do our routine projects, I think we should do it.
It doesn't do us good to have a feast and famine strategy in our capital expenditure.
An unhealthy culture seems to have developed within some quarters of the PA who see its role to include advancing the ruling party politically, and undermining the work of opposition MPs.
The PA participants are average Singaporeans from all walks of life. The PA does not check on the political allegiance of the participants of our activities.
We do not know their voting preference.
The PA is a statutory board. The PA does not allow any political activity or canvassing on our premises or in our activities. We certainly do not mobilise anyone for any political party.
If Ms Lim has any such evidence of wrongdoing, you can let me know and I will follow up.
I will be the last person to allow the PA to be politicised.
When I tried to simply get information from Ministry of National Development on the plans for private estate upgrading projects within Aljunied GRC, the Ministry referred me to the Citizens' Consultative Committees (CCC). I then wrote several times to the CCC, but it seems that my letters do not even merit a reply.
I don't have the details of the incident you raised. I have heard from both sides on the ground, accusing each other of being uncooperative.
I urge both sides - town council and CCC - to put interests of the residents first.
Budget 2016 'slayed two sacred cows'
Madam Halimah Yacob, (above) Speaker of Parliament at the closing debate on Budget 2016 and Committee of Supply.
On slaying sacred cows
"This Budget is also special and will be remembered as one that slayed not one but two sacred cows that members have been raising in this Chamber for a long time: the PSLE grading system and extended maternity leave for unwed mums. It reflects a transformational shift in policy."
On Singaporeans' interest in the debates
"Our debates may not be filled with the sound and fury found in some Parliaments, but it is nevertheless of a high quality.
"My only regret is that not many Singaporeans follow the debate, which is a rich source of information and provides good insights into our policies."
On catching that rainbow
"The schemes are there, grants provided, support given, but will that move individuals, companies and our society forward to embrace the challenges of transformation?
"What can we, as citizens, do for ourselves and our family to ride this period and emerge stronger?
"The Government can only do so much. It can act as a catalyst, it can prod, nudge, persuade and influence, but beyond that, it really depends on all of us - how fast we want to run and how much of that rainbow we want to catch."
Ms Grace Fu, (above) Leader of the House and Minister of Culture, Community and Youth, in her round-up remarks on Budget 2016.
On Singapore's future
"With this Budget passed, we are one step closer towards SG100. We have a full agenda ahead of us and much work to do. Will we still be a shiny red dot in the next 50 years? This will depend not just on this House, or the government, but the whole of Singapore.
By the numbers $50m
The amount of direct assistance given by National Arts Council to local artists and arts groups last year. This is on top of the $200m Cultural Matching Fund that arts group can apply to.
90 Percentage of those surveyed who say they feel a strong sense of identity as Singaporeans
45 Percentage of the 30,000 couples who reconciled after going through the Syariah Court's Marriage Counselling Programme
>400 Number of activities organised by the Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles each year
$2.66m The amount disbursed by the Progress Fund Madrasah Assistance Scheme since 2010. The fund helps madrasah students from lower-income families
700,000 The number of visitors to the National Gallery since it opened late last year
Boost for pre-school arts
ARTS FOR PRE-SCHOOLERS
The pre-school Arts Education Programme will be expanded to 55 centres this year, said Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) Mr Baey Yam Keng.
There will also be better training for educators and centre leaders to make the arts a bigger part of the pre-school curriculum.
The National Arts Council will also pilot a whole-centre arts-based approach with anchor operator NTUC My First Skool and dedicate a space within Goodman Arts Centre for children's arts activities.
A new online heritage portal, Roots.sg, will be launched to complement museum visits and reach out to more people, said Mr Baey.
The portal will provide online access to the entire national collection, including more than 120,000 cultural treasures and historical artefacts.
Teachers taking students on heritage trails can download worksheets and students can watch heritage-related videos on the website.
MUSEUM CONCESSIONS FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
The disabled will be eligible for concessions at National Heritage Board museums, the Singapore Art Museum and National Gallery of Singapore, said Senior Minister of State for MCCY Ms Sim Ann.
Ms Sim was addressing Marsiling-Yew Tee MP Mr Alex Yam's query on how the ministry is making arts and heritage spaces more accessible to those with disabilities.
The disabled will be charged the lowest concession price for permanent and special exhibitions and one accompanying caregiver will have free access.