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CDCs: eyes and ears on the ground, hands and legs to implement programmes

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CDCs – or Community Development Councils – often take a low profile, working quietly but steadily to fulfil their mission.

But their contributions become vital and more apparent in times of crisis,  PM Lee said at the Swearing-In Ceremony of Mayors on 23 September 2020.

Take the COVID-19 pandemic for example. The CDCs responded with more than 70 initiatives. This includes the $20 million Vouchers Scheme to help 400,000 households with the cost of living. Because the vouchers are meant to be spent at heartland businesses, they also benefit heartland businesses like hawkers and SMEs.

Another scheme the Mayors rolled out is the CDC Student Meals scheme, implemented within 10 days of the introduction of home-based learning. The scheme had the support of donations from the community and private sector. It ensured that students from lower income families do not fall behind their peers.

CDCs illustrate how we have structured our social support system in a thoughtful and creative way.

You bridge residents and the Government. You function not just as hands and legs to implement the programmes, but also as eyes and ears to identify emerging needs and gaps in social support. You are close to the ground and you have a strong network to lean upon, so you can aggregate local needs and resources, build capabilities in your partners, and connect your communities together.

– PM Lee Hsien Loong –

Most importantly, CDCs can deliver services with a human touch, in a way that government agencies that operate on a national scale, try very hard to do, but will find it harder to do, PM Lee said in his speech.

“A resident who is in need and does not know where to get help can just turn to the CDC. The CDC can then assist them or redirect them and lift some of the burden of navigating the bureaucracy off them,” he added.

Mayors, past and present

PM Lee paid tribute to Dr Teo Ho Pin for being the longest-serving Mayor at 19 years and Dr Maliki Osman who served as Mayor for 9 years.

Dr Teo and Dr Maliki Osman will be succeeded by two equally passionate people: Alex Yam and Mohd Fahmi.

Alex Yam has a passionate concern for those who are down and out. He has spoken up in Parliament on many causes, from protecting victims of human trafficking to strengthening animal welfare. He had also served in the grassroots for many years before becoming an MP, and was a District Councillor of North West CDC, PM Lee said.

Fahmi Aliman may be a new MP, but he is not new to public service.

“He was a Colonel in the SAF before joining MUIS last year, to work on social and educational programmes for the Malay/Muslim community. Now he is in the NTUC, working there, and also one of our labour MPs, speaking up in particular on behalf of low-wage workers. Everyone who knows him describes him as a gentle soul with a big heart,” PM Lee said of Fahmi.

“These are precisely the kind of qualities that he will need, and all our Mayors need, who are charged with overseeing our CDCs.”

Stepping up to help residents with the economic impact of the pandemic

In this pandemic, the Mayors have stepped up efforts to deal with its economic impact by helping their residents to stay employable through the SkillsFuture@CDC 2020.

This is an online event to help residents learn more about job search strategies, and the skills needed to succeed in the future economy.

Through this event, the CDCs made the connection with over a quarter-million residents, many for the first time.

“Today these residents are beneficiaries, but tomorrow they may themselves become CDC volunteers, paying it forward and strengthening the social glue that binds our society together,” PM Lee said in his concluding remarks.

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