Leong Sze Hian: Give more funds to Mendaki

By Leong Sze Hian-

I refer to the articles “More aid for poor Chinese families to move up” (ST, Jun 26), Mendaki  ‘may have to dip into reserves’ for
 subsidy expansion” (ST, Jun 24) and "Mendaki may 'dip into its reserves' to fund tuition subsidy scheme" (ST, Jun 23).

Mendaki may need to cut programmes

According to Mendaki’s chairman, it will likely run a deficit after expanding the reach of its Tertiary Tuition Fee Subsidy (TTFS). To finance this deficit, it may need to cut some of its social and education programmes three years from now, or dip into its reserves.

CDAC launches new programmes

In contrast, the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC) will be launching several new programmes.

Mendaki's financial situation

According to Mendaki’s 2011 annual report, it had a net income of $14.1 million, an increase of 72% over the previous year’s $8.2 million. Its Total Funds and Reserve was $95.8 million, which was 24% more than 2010’s $77.4 million. Given the above healthy financial situation, I would like to urge Mendaki not to cut back on its programmes, as the Malay community is behind the other communities in all economic and social measurements of attainment.

For example, only 6.8% of Malay-Muslims had a university degree in 2010, compared to 28.3% across all races. (“Frank talk of policies concerning Malay-Muslims”, ST, Jul 1)

The Price of Inequality

We should heed the call in Joseph Stiglitz’s new book, “The Price of Inequality – How Today’s Divided Society Endangers our Future”, which was written in response to the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. We must continue and increase our efforts at reducing inequality amongst our communities. Even if the TTFS starts to run a deficit, it would appear that there are sufficient funds to last many years.

Give more funds to Mendaki

It was the change in government policy, to means test the TTFS on a Per Capita Income (PCI) basis, that is expected to drive the TTFS into a deficit. Why not give Mendaki more funds from the nation’s budget surplus of $2.3 billion last year and net Budget surplus of $8.2 billion over the last six years?