The proliferation of feedback on anything and everything, as well as the corresponding channels for communication, should come as little surprise following the conclusion of the General Elections and the increased accessibility of web-based platforms. Inspired by grassroots and community governance displayed overseas, Singapore’s parliamentarians – as shared in the commentary “Getting To Know You And How It Can Make A Difference” (July 23, 2011) by Miss Tessa Wong – are eager to capitalise on the assortment of opinions held by their residents. To facilitate this process of on-the-ground interactions, the politicians – with related organisations – should complement municipal discussions with policy discourse, cater individual activities and issues for respective target audiences, and substantially provide follow-ups to suggestions put forth.
Disinterest in mundane management or administrative issues expressed by residents is perfectly understandable; given the demands of their jobs, limited time and a slew of other personal commitments, who would have the energy to involve themselves in these roles? Most are more than comfortable to leave these day-to-day responsibilities to the employed staff or managers, and will only be assertive when the matters are more significant. Therefore, by having engaging agendas premised upon neighbourhood concerns together with national socio-economic issues, it could appeal to a wider audience, and get more people interested before delving into the specifics. Indirectly, these mass get-together sessions will not only facilitate interactions and heighten levels of understanding, but also strengthen the formation of separate interest groups.
Thereafter, the members of parliament (MP) – together with their committee staff or volunteers – can spearhead focus group discussions to explore the joint supervision of estate matters with identified residents. These residents, interested to serve and enthusiastic in rendering change, would be able to reach out to their neighbours for perspectives on a more intimate level. These divisional engagements on a smaller scale would personalise approaches, and subsequently achieve the desired outcomes.
The low participation and perceived lack of interest in existing programmes can be attributed to the belief that proposed recommendations are treated with laissez-faire attitudes, and are hardly taken into consideration. After meeting or discussions sessions, thoughts are rarely consolidated and published for future reference. These problems of sensitivity can be addressed if the representatives are more proactive in the acknowledgements of the views and proposals – even if they may not be workable or unfeasible at the moment – such that the contributors feel constructively influential.
Lethargy and apathy can be overcome if the administrators are more intricate and ambitious with their endeavours; otherwise, the dedicated resources and manpower would come to naught if no resident-participants are willing to be involved.
A version of this article was published in The Straits Times.