By Leong Sze Hian
I refer to John Hui Keem Peng’s (Dr) letter ”Give Hope to needy couples – minus family-size criterion“. (Straits Times Forum, Mar 20).
HOPE – Cannot have more than 2 children?
The letter states that “I once came across a patient who saw me for complaints arising from complications of an abortion she underwent a week earlier.
During the consultation process, it became clear to me that she was hurting not just physically, but also emotionally.
She told me that this was not her first abortion, but her third.
As she fought back tears, she explained that she “had to” go through with the procedure as she was on the Home Ownership Plus Education (Hope) Scheme.
The scheme provides financial and material benefits to young, low-income families that choose not to have more than two children.
Housing Grants and benefits – Have to return if have more than 2 children?
The scheme clearly states that once they have more than two children, they are no longer eligible for the benefits.
The doctor says, "I am sure my patient is not the only young parent in anguish, and there are probably many others like her."
Reverse procreation policy?
While the Hope scheme was conceived to help lower-income parents cope with the high cost of living, we might have inadvertently lost a number of Singapore citizens through abortions because of the conditions attached to it.
Discrimination against the poor?
Should we discriminate against lower-income couples by penalising them for having more than two children?
Shouldn’t we complement the scheme instead by putting in place programmes that help them build stronger marriages and become better parents?
If they decide they are unable to raise their children, why not provide them with services to facilitate adoption?
After all, there are many childless couples in the long queue to adopt children.
I am sure the scheme was initiated with good intentions. The question we must now ask is: Can we do better?”
HOPE – 9 years ago?
In this connection, I wrote two letter to newspaper forums about nine years ago, which are reproduced below.
“HOPE scheme should be for all poor
Business Times, The (Singapore)
March 30, 2004
I REFER to the editorial ‘A growing underclass?’ (BT, March 25).
Must be poor & low-education to be helped?
I agree with the statement in the editorial that the exacting criteria for the Home Ownership Plus Education (HOPE) scheme – aimed at young families at risk of becoming permanently poor – will exclude struggling households not deemed needy enough to qualify for public assistance.
Must be 35 or younger with 2 or less children?
To qualify for the HOPE programme, a mother must be 35 or younger and must not have more than two children. But Singaporeans have been encouraged to have more children for many years – so what happens to those who heeded the calls to procreate and are now not eligible for HOPE?
And what about people who, for reasons such as religious belief, may have more than two children. For example, I understand that Catholics cannot practise birth control or have abortions. Is it fair to discriminate against such people?
Furthermore, what if one has more than two children not because of planning, but due to twins for the second childbirth?
It was reported recently in the media that Singapore’s percentage of single women is very high.
By restricting HOPE to mothers 35 years old and below, are we not making it even harder for single women who are nearing or over 35 to get married?
Procreation & tax benefits discriminate the poor & favour the rich?
Current procreation policies are complex and confusing, with all kinds of penalties for having too many children, at the wrong age, being too over-educated or under educated etc.
It is hard enough to be poor – but to have to be less educated, not too old, and not too productive in procreation in order to qualify for HOPE? Is that fair?
I have known large families with relatively low incomes who live very happy and fulfilling lives, as they are able to manage their expectations and cash flow. For generations, Singaporeans have managed, with the help and close ties of the extended family, to have larger families despite relatively low incomes.
Those who want to have more children are likely to earn less because they have to spend more time with those children, with just one spouse being able to work.
Procreation tax benefits don’t work?
Higher-income earners on the other hand don’t have more children because they value income more than time with children.
Everything is about money in Singapore?
In my opinion, family values and the joy of having children should not be overly tied to money and materialism – and policies like HOPE should be reconsidered to give hope to all economically disadvantaged Singaporeans, regardless of their age, education or how many children they have.
Poor rewarded to have fewer children?
June 15, 2005
Leong Sze Hian, Singapore
THE Home Ownership Plus Education (HOPE) scheme provides assistance to Singaporean households in which the wives are not over age 35, with no more than two children, earn monthly household income of $1,500 or lower, and where both husband and wife must have at most two GCE ‘O’ level passes.Mandatory ligation before – now involuntary abortion?
I understand that one form of the financial assistance offered is monetary incentives for couples who undergo ligation.
This is contradictory to the national policy to encourage procreation.
Various incentives like the Procreation Tax Rebate encourage families to have more children.
Only rich babies wanted?
Why are the rich being given financial incentives to have more babies, whereas the poor (under the HOPE scheme) are given monetary rewards to have less children? In so doing, are we not procreating a ‘class’ society?
I believe ligation is an irreversible procedure which means that one can never conceive again.
I would like to ask how many people have taken up this ‘ligation’ assistance under the HOPE scheme.
Selling away one’s God-given right to bear offspring?
Perhaps a better way to help those who are now economically disadvan taged, is to foster their understanding of the trade-off between money and women’s God-given right to bear offspring.”
Why is it that we have so many problems and issues, like the HOPE scheme, that continue to plaqued society till today, despite these issues being raised time and again over the years?
I think it may be an affront for a first-world nation to continue to have such “uncivilised” policies!