Don’t give too much help to the poor?


Do these arguments against giving too much help to the poor – make sense to you?

I refer to “No need for poor families to keep up with the Joneses” (Straits Times, Jul 7) in response “Is being deprived of easy access to tuition and enrichment classes such a crippling disadvantage for students from low-income families? (No-win choices for the poor when resources are limited“, by Mr Kevin See Yao Hui; July 5).

It states that “Are there not more resourceful and economical ways to help them develop their talents vis-a-vis their arguably stressed-out counterparts from mollycoddled backgrounds?”

As to “Nothing ought to repulse Singaporeans more than anecdotes of low-income families who spend their social hand-outs on premium electronic gadgets and TV/broadband packages to keep up with the Joneses, when some of their better-off fellow citizens have no issues living with basic forms of entertainment such as free-to-air TV (Social workers also tackle structural conditions that lead to poverty, by Dr Ng Kok Hoe; June 27) – this argument may not hold water, as long as our education system continues to give scholarships disproportionately to richer families, and include extra-curricula activities as a criteria, because these may stack the odds against those from lower-income families.

With regard to “Rich or poor, we all have to learn to live within our means .

It is more so if one is reliant on social assistance.

Self-reliance must remain the underlying principle of Singapore’s social safety net to maintain a modicum of individual discipline and responsibility in this country.

Banish that, and some of the worst excesses of human nature will come to the fore, as seen to some extent in the abuses of our well-intentioned universal healthcare insurance system” – these too may not hold water, as our fiscal policies may be unique in the world, such that the odds are heavily stacked against lower-income families, by way of being the only Government in the world which from a cashflow perspective, may not be spending any money on healthcare, pensions or public housing.

In respect of “In fact, with resources set to become more contestable, it is imperative for the authorities to allocate these wisely, according to a clear set of priorities – regardless of race or religion” – these may also not hold water, as we typically have the highest Budget surpluses per capita annually, in the world.

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.