Extravagant help for the needy?

By Leong Sze Hian

The ChannelNewsAsia report “50 needy households receive free electrical appliances” (29 August) (link) said that:

“Needy residents in the South West District received various free electrical appliances on Wednesday due to an initiative by the South West Community Development Council and appliance manufacturer Akira.

Akira has donated S$120,000 worth of appliances for 50 low-income households.

A set for each household includes a kettle, stove, rice cooker, radio and cordless phone.

Mayor of the South West District, Dr Amy Khor, was on hand to give the recipients a few tips on using the appliances”.

Dividing $120,000 by 50 equals $2,400. Are these top-end very expensive appliances? A kettle, stove, rice cooker, radio and cordless phone cost $2,400?

In a similar event earlier this year – I refer to the Channel News Asia report (6 January, 2007), “Low-income workers get handouts at NTUC Downtown East event”, about “the extravagant show for the less fortunate at NTUC Downtown East organised by three unions” in January.

“1,500 people came”, and “low-wage workers have each been given food vouchers and household goods worth $40 by unions and sponsors. They benefited from the $100,000 spent on the event with sponsors donating $ 35,000 worth of goods”.

At the event, it was said that “It’s not so much the money involved in the process, as much as getting the best ideas and making sure we find the right balance”.

$40 multiplied by 1,500 people gives a total of $60,000 in food vouchers and household goods given away.

Since the goods given were worth $35,000, does it mean that the food vouchers cost $25,000 ($60,000 – $35,000) ?

Instead of spending $75,000 ($100,000 – $25,000 food vouchers) on the “extravagant show for the less fortunate”, why not just give them the $75,000 ?

The additional $50 to each person may be more helpful and meaningful to the less fortunate, than attending a one-time event with their families to eat a meal, whilst collecting the vouchers and household goods.

Calling it the “extravagant show for the less fortunate” is, in a sense, literally inappropriate, as I think the less fortunate may prefer less of extravagance, but more money ($50) instead.

Is it not somewhat extravagant to spend $50 at an event to give away $40 ?

If the $100,000 spent on the event” includes the $35,000 worth of goods, then it may not be very appropriate to say that $100,000 was spent on the event. If this is indeed the case, then spending $26.67 to give away $40 per person, is less extravagant !