Focus on help for families that need it

Letter from Leong Sze Hian
Nov 22, 2011

I REFER to the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports’ (MCYS) study that only 20,300 families, or about one in 10 of the 200,000 families in the bottom fifth of the income ladder, were getting help under the various ComCare schemes.

Even if the bulk of those getting assistance were in the poorest 10 per cent of households – about 100,000 which earned a household income of only S$1,400 a month, it still means that only about two of these 10 poorest households were helped.

It was found that more than six in 10 lower-income families were able to manage without outside help, that most such families seem to prefer to rely on themselves rather than seek help from family, friends, charities or the Government.

I find these findings to be somewhat odd, as I understand that, in the developed countries, those in poverty are typically given benefits and help automatically.

Instead of explaining why most poor families do not want help, or that about one in 10 did not know where to get aid, perhaps we should focus on getting the help to them.

After all, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was last raised from 5 to 7 per cent, with the main reason of helping the poor. So, since the funds are already there, we should focus on getting it to those in need.

Whatever the reasons for not wanting or not knowing about aid, the poor, particularly the children and the elderly, should be helped regardless.

I would also like to suggest that an independent study be done to examine as to whether the current system, process or procedures, may be too onerous, such that it may be deterring needy families from seeking help.

About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), invited to speak more than 200 times in over 30 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of Indonesia and Brunei. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.