Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the article “NTUC speeds up aid to workers” (ST, May 31).

It says;

The labour movement is moving speedily to help 194,000 members affected by the recession this year with $23.2 million worth of cash, vouchers and bursaries.”

I would like to applaud the NTUC for so speedily helping 194,000 union members affected by the recession this year.

However, as NTUC has about 500,000 unionised members, this means that two out of five members are affected by the recession and need assistance.

I find this statistic to be quite alarming.

If we extrapolate from this and apply it to non-NTUC members, the number could be even more disconcerting. With a total resident workforce of 2 million, this could mean 800,000 workers are similarly affected by the recession and are in need of assistance!

NTUC Chief Lim Swee Say was reported to have said:

“We recognise the sum is not that big ($100 to $300), however for lower-wage earning between 800 to $1,000, it means a lot to them. It may not be a lot but what is important is that the labour movement continues to do its very best”.

Out of the $23.3 million set aside to help the needy, $7.6 million will be used for “family bonding initiatives” as well as to help the elderly. This means that only $15.7million is used to help the 194,000 members who need help.

This works out to an average of about $80 per year per member – or $6.66 per month per member. Indeed, it seems this is not very much once the numbers are broken down.

One question which needs to be asked is: How much of this $7.6 million will be used to promote family life at the six carnivals to be held this year at the NTUC Club’s Downtown East facility?

As the $7.6 million is about 33 per cent of the $23.3 million raised for the U Care Fund, I would like to suggest that more of it be used to help affected needy workers directly, so that it is more aligned with the main purpose of the fund.

As $80 per year assistance is not very much, I would also like to suggest that the Government and corporations try to contribute more to the U Care Fund.

We should also not forget non-NTUC members who are affected and need help, and try to find some way of helping them too.

To qualify for NTUC assistance, one would first need to be a member of the NTUC. This means one would have to pay a membership fee of $117 annually. Does it make sense then to become a member, and pay $117 for membership in order to receive $80 in assistance?

NTUC helping more people than the government?

According to the article, “If you really need help, ask : Yu-Foo” (ST, May 21), as at end March, about 24,000 people are getting financial and other forms of help under one of the ComCare progrrammes, up from about 21,000 in the same period last year.

This is an increase of about 14 per cent, year-on-year.

Since the NTUC can help 194,000 of its members, why is it that the Government is only helping 24,000 Singaporeans?

Applications for assistance at the Community Development Councils in the first quarter of this year increased by 66 per cent year-on-year.

However, the number of Singaporeans who are receiving assistance has only increased by about 14 per cent?

66 percent applied but only 14 per cent receiving assistance? The obvious question one would ask is, what is the rejection rate for unsuccessful applications for financial assistance?

According to the Straits Times article, a total of 24,000 cases received aid in the first quarter, including those who applied last year and earlier. This is an increase of 485 cases, compared to the last quarter of 2008.

In another Straits Times report on 31 May titled, “More seeking financial aid”, it was reported that:

“[There were] 15,000 applications for financial assistance between January and March this year, and of the applications processed so far, about 7 in 10 have been approved.”

Why is it that the number receiving aid for the whole quarter has only increased by 485 cases?

Shouldn’t the figure be about 10,500 – since 7 in 10 out of 15,000 applications were approved?

In this connection, it was also reported that there were 40,681 applications last year.

Since the last update from ComCare was that it gave financial assistance to about 24,000 needy families last year, why is it that the latest update now says that the number is still 24,000 despite 485 new cases in the first quarter?

So, how is it that the 24,000 figure for last year has now shrunk to 23,515 (24,000 minus 485)?

Shouldn’t the figure have increased instead of decreased, in view of increasing applications of 10 per cent quarter-on-quarter and 66 per cent year-on-year?

Perhaps the relevant authorities involved should explain all these confusing and fuzzy numbers so that Singaporeans know for sure how much money is actually going to those who need help and how many are actually being helped.

At the moment, the numbers do not seem to make sense.


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