Friday, November 01, 2013

How to eradicate poverty in Singapore

Singapore is an affluent country. Based on GDP per capita, she is one of the richest countries in the world.

Hence logically, one would expect all her citizens to live comfortably, well above the poverty line (wherever that might be since it has never been officially defined). Yet ironically, there is a small group of Singaporeans who are living in “poverty”. With the country’s vast wealth, both in terms of revenue and savings, it should not be a financial issue to bring this group out of poverty. Further, the government has implemented the “minimum sum” and “CPF Life” schemes which are designed to ensure her citizens would have sufficient savings to spend on necessities during retirement. So it is not as though the government is not aware of the amount required for sustainable living at the minimum level for life. So, if it is not a financial problem to bring people out of poverty, then what could be the problem?

Ideology. In Singapore, welfarism is seen as a “dirty” word. Instead of encouraging the rich to help the poor, she encourages everyone to make their own living. This ideology is fine when everyone is able and there are sufficient jobs. But when some are less able and the job market is challenging, it can lead to a state of “us and them” and "everyone for himself (or herself)". With such an ideology, Singapore indeed has one of largest income gap in the world. In the present economic structure, the rich also tend to get richer while the poor get poorer. So, is there an ideology that is more friendly to the poor so that they can live a dignified life?
We are all one.  The power of this ideology leads us to feel for others - "we are not separate" and “your pain is my pain”.  To implement this ideology in the practical world, we may have an inverse relationship between the salary of senior political and administrative leaders and the number of people living in poverty. With such an arrangement, it is then to the interest of the leaders to ensure that poverty is erased. Yes, with the “right”  ideology and practical approach, poverty can literally disappear from the islands of Singapore overnight!

Dr. Tommy Wong
Author of book series "Wisdom on How to Live Life"

The book series can be ordered here.


Lye Khuen Way said...

Dr Wong, alas not too many of the Elites in Singapore, especially those in the ruling party are as enlightened as you ! Accumulation of Wealth has been the KPI of many since about 20 years already.
For quite a fair numbers of us, this is a Land for the Rich. No ifs , no buts. Very nicely put by one daughter of the Elites : "Get off my Elitist Face !"

Xianlong said...

The ideology difference can be experience in JB.

I often eat at their street hawkers or hawker centres. There the malay hawkers help each other.

Food stall owners will ask if you want to buy a drink even though they don't sell it. They help their drink stall comrades.

Neighoring stalls help to clear cutlery from tables for each other.

I can't comment on their chinese hawkers cause i always like to eat Mee Rebus & satay.

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