Yet another “heart-wrenching” story: where art thou (assistance schemes)?


Are our financial assistance schemes adequate in helping the poor?

I refer to the article “It’s not about being rich, says man who made waitress cry with $2,000 tip” (Straits Times, Nov 18).

It states that “(she) was moved to tears after a customer gave her a tip of $2,000 – nearly three times her monthly salary.

The waitress, a single mother of two young children, shared her story on citizen journalism website Stomp recently.

The 37-year-old, who asked for her name not to be used and gave only her initials XYW, arrived in Singapore from Penang a decade ago and has struggled to make ends meet since her divorce in 2012.

My ex-husband, a Singaporean, left me for a woman from China,” she told Stomp.

She does odd jobs such as cleaning houses and washing clothes in the day, while her nights are spent toiling away at a steamboat restaurant in Katong.

She said: “As I am a permanent resident, I have very few subsidies.”

My take-home salary from the restaurant is $700 plus while I can earn $50 for every home I clean (about four hours each time). Sometimes, I have to clean up to 20 houses a month,” said the woman.”

What struck me when I read this story, was – why do we keep seeing such stories practically every week in the media or social media?

Does it not indicate that something may be very wrong with the assistance schemes that we have in Singapore?

How many such “heart-wrenching” cases are there in Singapore?

As to “Despite her hard work, she recently hit a rough patch and did not have enough to pay for her children’s school fees” – since her two young children are presumably Singaporeans – I thought that their school fees would be almost free, as her monthly income of less than $1,000 should have met the eligibility requirements of practically every financial assistance scheme – such as the MOE financial assistance scheme, Kindergarten Financial Assistance Scheme, ComCare, etc.

Leong Sze Hian

About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the 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), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.