Edwin Tong’s views on social welfare, appear ignorant, myopic and patronising

I find it pretty rich that Senior Minister of State, Edwin Tong has appeared to make a comment which shows not only his ignorance of “western countries” but also a completely misguided understanding of what motivates people to work hard.

In giving his comments on GST vouchers, Silver Support and other policies introduced to help alleviate the rising costs of living in Singapore, Tong has called these moves “a slippery slope” and “too much of a reaction to what the ground sentiments are”.

He said during the Channel News Asia interview:

“When then-Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam announced social transfers – GST Vouchers, U-Save rebates, the Silver Support Scheme and other policies – I did feel that it was unprecedented and a slippery slope and it was too much of a reaction to what the ground sentiments were.

“I’ve seen the experiences of the Western countries where the more you give, the more one asks and I think that’s really the start of the erosion of the work ethic that Singaporeans have. Once we start giving, we can’t scale back. You look at our country. We have nothing but our people. If we erode the competency of the workforce and we introduce a policy that undermines the work ethic, I think that’s going to be a big problem for us as a country.”

Can someone be speaking from a higher ivory tower?

Does Tong consider helping fellow citizens struggling to make ends meet beneath him? Has he forgotten who pays his salary? In case he has forgotten, he is a PUBLIC servant (emphasis intended). He has been put in that position by the people who have voted for him in order for him (and the rest of the elected government) to help improve the lives of Singaporeans.

Given that Singapore can afford to spend millions paying the huge salaries of their ministers; are they are quibbling GST vouchers for the low income group? Is he for real?

It is so patronising that he seems to view those with financial difficulties as pariahs who just want to get a free lunch. That is surely an extremely myopic way of looking at things. Many people fall on hard times not because they choose to be lazy.

Sometimes in life, s%$t happens and all most people need is some help so they can get back on their feet again. It is beyond shocking that a minister who would have ostensibly been well educated could come up with such a black and white statement. If you don’t extend some help, you will not give people who are down and out any hope. Without hope, what motivation is there to work hard?

He then goes on to lump all western countries into one category of social welfare whereby “the more you give, the more one asks”. Firstly, what does he mean by western countries? Just in case, he doesn’t know, they are not all the same. Nor do they all have the welfare system of “the more you give the more people take”.

The United States of America, for instance, is a western country but with no welfare. Having just hosted the Trump Kim Summit, I would have thought that Tong might have known that – but hey, clearly not.

Also, I am sick and tired of politicians fearmongering about so-called “western countries” and the way they govern. For the record, many of these so-called western countries such as Britain or France etc have economies far larger than that of Singapore’s. London, for instance, is the financial capital of the world. I highly doubt that Londoners have a poor work ethic. Given that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is about to be a guest of honour in France for its Bastille Day celebrations, I really hope that Tong thinks before he speaks. If all these westerners have poor work ethics (which is what he is implying) why are we trying to develop relationships with them?

Tong seems to equate the giving of aid to work ethic erosion which will, in turn, become “a big problem for us as a country”. You know what I think is a big problem for us as a country? A highly paid minister who cannot see the merit of helping his fellow citizens; who is so sheltered he cannot understand that sometimes people just need a helping hand to get back on their feet; and who is so ignorant that he generalises “western countries”.