SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Education Minister Ong Ye Kung announced on Sunday (Nov. 18) that ministers will intensify the frequency of their community visits, from monthly to weekly.
The government plans to cover all districts by the middle of 2020.
Speaking on the sidelines of a Housing and Development Council roadshow, Mr. Ong said: "Given the current momentum we are doing almost every week now, in a year and a half, we intend to complete all constituencies.
"The thinking is really this – that as POHs we spend a lot of time in our constituencies, but as younger ministers and POHs, there is actually a need to get out of our constituencies and find residents outside our constituency. .
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"Only then can we have a greater understanding of how the rest of Singapore feels."
Singaporean law professor Eugene Tan said the increase in visits "is not surprising" and shows that the Popular Action Party (PAP) is changing course and entering the electoral mode.
He sees the visits as the way of the fourth generation leaders to increase involvement with the villagers.
During the election of the Central Committee of the PAP 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 be anticipated.
Responding to criticism that such community visits might be "to show," Ong said skepticism is an integral part of politics and "can not be helped."
"Keep going, keep talking to the locals, keep letting the residents comment," he said. "Try to act, solve the problems, keep doing, regardless of criticism."
He also said that the visits became progressively more informal and organic, rather than being staged and planned.
"Sometimes the residents have a shock:" How do you three (ministers) are here? But that way I think you have a much more authentic interaction, it's much more natural and what you hear is probably a more accurate reflection of how the floor works. "
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In 2016, Mr. Ong was appointed Chairman of the People's Association Consultative Panel for ministerial community visits. He also proposed a new format in which ministers and POHs will work in teams in constituencies.
The residents that Channel NewsAsia spoke of had mixed reactions.
Some hailed the movement and saw the growing interaction as beneficial to residents.
Kelvin Lee, 30, said: "More importantly, we will have more individual sessions with ministers and we can give feedback on how they can improve our area."
Woodlands resident Joseph Foo, 47, said, "At least they can represent us to make decisions on future developments. By interacting with the villagers, from the horses' mouths, they will know what is happening. "
But others have questioned the effectiveness of weekly visits and whether they can solve their problems.
Xavier Ang, 30, of Sembawang, said: "Maybe some of the minor problems can be solved, but what is the purpose of more visits if the biggest problems like transport connectivity are not resolved."
Chong Pang resident Lee Zhen Lin, 32, agreed: "Intensifying visits can make no difference, especially in a short period of time. It will probably take at least two years to see the results.
He added, "On the ground, it shows that you are listening. But to see the changes, it will not be so fast.