Connexion: Neighbourhood Self-governance (Continued)


By Joachim Ng

The country needs a Neighbourhood Management Act to empower ratepayers. All owners pay a yearly property assessment tax to finance the construction, maintenance and upgrading of public infrastructure within the local authority area — and they are the biggest segment of contributors to a town or city’s income.

The Act should ensure that a high percentage of the income is disbursed to each neighbourhood as a common fund. To oversee its usage, the Act should require the formation of a management committee made up of ratepayer representatives and public servants. Why public servants? It’s because neighbourhood common areas are designated as public property, and this includes roads, sidewalks, drains, playgrounds and greenery.

Here’s where a page from the Strata Management Act 2013 should be incorporated into a Neighbourhood Management Act 2018: the professional management team of a stratified development is based on site. So too, a team of public servants should be seconded to a neighbourhood management office so that they get close to the problems and become more sensitive to service delivery breakdowns. You also get to meet them easily as they’re no longer in far, faraway land. The connection between the public and the public servants is thus re-established.

Self-governing neighbourhoods will get better work done as service contractors find themselves under close daily scrutiny. While the contractors have to be selected from a list provided by the local authority, the neighbourhood management committee should be authorised to sign the contract of service with power of termination or non-renewal on grounds of under-performance. Have you not seen road sweepers clearing rubbish into the drains, and months-old potholes ready to swallow your tyres like black holes in space? Politicians, of course, should not be involved in neighbourhood governance, as they will inject a combative element into the down-to-earth business of clearing rubbish and keeping the roads free of potholes.

You may say: “The neighbourhood isn’t that important as my focus is on the family.” However, worldwide scientific research has produced consistent evidence that the environment influences behaviour: if your children grow up in a neighbourhood where the people are habitually littering, their brains will interpret such behaviour as normal and worthy of following. Hence, it is in your family’s interest to participate in neighbourhood governance.

To be continued next issue

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