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Government statement on social policies contain no data to back up claims

Ms Karolyn Poon, Press Secretary to the Minister for Social & Family Development has issued a statement defending Singapore’s policies and programmes in education, healthcare, housing, skills training, employment and social support which she claims have uplifted the majority of Singaporeans, while providing additional support for the low-income.

The government has every right to issue its own statements and put forth its own position on matters. Indeed, I think the government should engage even more with the media and include the alternative media in its engagement. But I digress! Now, back to business. Poon has made many statements about the positive impact of the government’s policies. Yet, her statement has not provided any factual information or data for any of the claims it has made. If the government claims to have “uplifted the majority of Singaporeans”, surely there should be statistics for the number of people it has actually helped?

She goes on to say that when “public funds or charity dollars are spent, the Government and voluntary welfare organisations have a duty to ask relevant questions and impose suitable conditions.” While I have no issue with the need to ask questions, I wonder if this rule is equally practiced throughout all cases where public funds are spent? In the plan to replace our fighter jets or to rejuvenate Orchard road, what questions were asked? Was the duty of asking questions fulfilled? If this “duty” is more strict on the poorer ones among us, are we being unfair and discriminatory thereby perpetuating the cycles of poverty?

She further states that any questions asked and the sort of conditions imposed “should respect and uphold the dignity of those being helped” While I agree with that statement in a vacuum, have our current policies actually delivered this? Was the elderly blind citizen who was denied aid given the respect and dignity that he deserved?

She says that the Singapore approach “is a collective one with many helping hands. It demands individual effort, alongside government support in partnership with families, the community and social workers.” Again, I have no issue that the individual being helped must also work alongside the government and do his or her part but the real question is what constitutes “individual effort”? Is it effort that we from our ivory towers deem acceptable? Or is it us going down to the granular level to try and understand what they need and judge “effort” from that standpoint?

Anyone can self righteously dismiss efforts when they have not ever had to suffer. It is only when we make an effort on our part to understand the difficulties they face can we truly judge what these “efforts” are. Have we done that? From the judgmental way in which certain members in the community have spoken, I would think not. Either that or their opinions are based on needs of 20 years ago and not current ones. Perhaps we need to move forward in terms of how we view “help” and what “help” actually entails.