Sunday , June 13 2021

Govt accelerates ministerial visits, aims to cover all districts by mid-2020

SINGAPORE: Education Minister Ong Ye Kung announced on Sunday (November 18) that Ministers will increase the frequency of visits to communities, from month to week.

The government intends to cover all districts by mid-2020.

Speaking on the margins of the housing and development commission's roadshow, Ong said: "Given the current momentum that we do almost every week, from one to one and a half years, we try to do everything.

"Thinking is really – that as political officials (POH) we spend a lot of time in our constituencies, but as junior ministers and POH, in reality there is a need to leave our electoral districts and meet with residents from outside our constituency.

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"Only then can we better understand how the rest of Singapore feels."

Professor of law at the University of Singapore, Eugene Tan, said that the increase in the number of visits is not "surprising" and shows that the People's Party (PAP) is changing tools and going into electoral mode.

He sees visits as a way in which the leaders of the fourth generation are increasingly involved in the affairs of residents.

During the election of the PAP Central Executive Committee last Sunday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that PAP has only two years to prepare for the next general election (GE) and suggested that it could even move forward.

Responding to the criticism that these community visits may be "on show", Ong said that skepticism is an inseparable part of politics and "can not be helped".

"Just go ahead, talk to the locals, continue to give feedback to residents," he said. "Try to act on it, solve problems, continue to do it, regardless of criticism."

He also said that visits gradually become more informal and ecological, instead of being exhibited and planned.

"Sometimes the inhabitants have even a shock", how come three of you (ministers) here? But in this way, I think that you have a much more authentic interaction, it is much more natural and what you hear is probably a more accurate reflection of how the ground works. "

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In 2016, Ong became the president of the People's Advocacy Chamber for Visits in ministerial communities. He also proposed a new format in which ministers and POH will work in teams in various constituencies.

Residents, with whom ChannelAsia talked, had mixed reactions.

Some have welcomed this move and have noticed that increased interaction is beneficial for residents.

30-year-old Sembawang resident, Kelvin Lee, said: "The main thing is that we will have more individual sessions with ministers and we will be able to express an opinion on how they can improve our area."

Woodlands resident Joseph Foo, 47, said: "At least they can represent us to make decisions about future events. By interacting with the inhabitants, they will know what's going on in the mouths of horses."

But others question the effectiveness of weekly visits and whether they can solve their problems.

Resident Sembawang Xavier Ang, 30, said: "Maybe some of the smaller problems can be solved, but what is the purpose of more visits if major problems, such as transport connectivity, are not resolved."

Resident Chong Pang, 32-year-old Lee Zhen Lin, agreed: "Intensification of visits can not be important, especially in such a short time, probably taking at least two years."

He added: "On the ground he shows you are listening to us, but to see changes, he will not be so fast."

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