SINGAPORE - While grassroots advisers appointed by the People's Association should share the Government's "objectives and convictions", no eligible resident will be denied welfare assistance because of the constituency he is living in, said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing in Parliament.
Mr Chan, the deputy chairman of the People's Association (PA), was responding to a series of questions by Nominated Member of Parliament Anthea Ong on Tuesday (Feb 18).
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 Community, Culture 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."
Responding to Ms Ong's concerns that the distribution of the CDWF might be politicised, Mr Chan said it is the PA, not the 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 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".
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."