CommentaryConnexionOPINION

Connexion: Neighbourhood Self-governance (Continued)

Connexion

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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Joachim Ng

A veteran interfaith researcher and science enthusiast, Joachim Ng has acquired more than 45 years of research experience in studying the world's scriptures and harmonising them with latest scholarly findings in many disciplines especially science and spirituality. In the 1980s, he penned a weekly interfaith column that won him a Promotion of Unity award from the Malaysian Press Institute. In addition to five earlier books, he has delivered papers at international conferences held in New York, Los Angeles, Seoul, Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Assisi near Rome. A Master's degree holder from the University of Hull, UK, he is a former chairman of the Interfaith Spiritual Fellowship and the recipient of an Ambassador for Peace award conferred by the Universal Peace Federation.

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