How about segregating local and national govt?

Published May 18, 2013

By Mak Yuen Teen

First published in Today, 18 May 2013

The review of town councils is welcomed. However, merely tweaking the Town Councils Act and Town Councils Financial Rules, or adding rules to handle specific issues which have arisen, may only address the symptoms of the problems with town councils.

The underlying cause of the problems is this: Town councils, headed by Members of Parliament, are overseen by the Ministry of National Development (MND), aided by the Housing and Development Board, which are themselves accountable to Parliament, made up of the individuals in charge of town councils.

At the local level, the MND is supposed to oversee the town councils, but at the national level, the role is reversed. There are examples of such role reversals in the corporate sector which have created problems for companies.

Many countries with such local government have local elections, and elected local officials are different from those in national government.

Our current system is like having Michael Bloomberg wear the hats of mayor of New York City, governor of New York State and senator in Washington at the same time.

There are cities larger than ours, in both size and population, that are run by one mayor and a group of councillors. Do we need to have so many town councils here?

And should we not better segregate local and national government to avoid convoluted public governance, if we want to maintain the political nature of town councils? Or must town councils be political in nature?

The review of town councils should take a helicopter approach and look at the bigger picture first, rather than accept the status quo and only do patchwork fixes of specific problems.


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