Aid given to those eligible regardless of constituency: Minister

MR CHAN CHUN SING, Minister for Trade and Industry (left), responding to Nominated Member of Parliament Anthea Ong's concerns that the disbursement of public funds might be politicised.
MR CHAN CHUN SING, Minister for Trade and Industry (left), responding to Nominated Member of Parliament Anthea Ong's concerns that the disbursement of public funds might be politicised.

While grassroots advisers appointed by the People's Association (PA) should share the Government's "objectives and convictions", no eligible resident will be denied welfare assistance because of the constituency he is living in, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said in Parliament.

Mr Chan, deputy chairman of the PA, was responding to a series of questions by Nominated Member of Parliament Anthea Ong yesterday.

She had asked what percentage of grassroots advisers appointed by the PA are members of a political party, and if there were risks that the disbursement of public funds - such as the Community Development and Welfare Fund (CDWF) - might be seen as political in nature. The CDWF supports community bonding programmes and welfare assistance for needy residents.

Responding, Mr Chan said the role of the PA - a statutory board under the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) - is to promote social cohesion and act as a bridge between the Government and people.

"The PA appoints grassroots advisers to guide its grassroots organisations in communicating and implementing the policies and programmes of the Government of the day. Hence, in appointing grassroots advisers, the PA's principal consideration is that the adviser shares the Government's objectives and convictions, and can be relied upon to carry out his role faithfully. Membership of a political party is neither a qualification nor a disqualification for the purpose of being appointed a grassroots adviser," said Mr Chan.

Responding to Ms Ong's concerns that distribution of the CDWF might be politicised, he said it is the PA, not grassroots advisers, that appoints all of its grassroots leaders.

"I would like to assure Ms Ong and this House that no resident who meets the qualifying criteria will be denied welfare assistance, regardless of the constituency that he is residing in."

Ms Ong also asked if the ministry or the PA would consider having the CDWF managed by the relevant ministries, such as MCCY and the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), "so that these government funds are neutral in nature, and also, this adds the advantage of having these funds be better managed and coordinated in terms of support and assistance rendered to the citizens, especially the low-income ones".

CONSTITUENCY NOT A FACTOR

I would like to assure Ms Ong and this House that no resident who meets the qualifying criteria will be denied welfare assistance, regardless of the constituency that he is residing in.

MR CHAN CHUN SING, Minister for Trade and Industry, responding to Nominated Member of Parliament Anthea Ong's concerns that the disbursement of public funds might be politicised.

Responding, Mr Chan said this is already happening on the ground.

"All our schemes are administered... by MSF, MOH (Ministry of Health), all the respective schemes. They work with the grassroots organisations to reach out to the residents," he said.

"So the government agencies already do exactly what you described."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 19, 2020, with the headline 'Aid given to those eligible regardless of constituency: Minister'. Subscribe