Look at the outcomes Singapore has achieved, Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee has urged. This was his response to a report by United Kingdom-based charity organisation Oxfam which ranked Singapore among the bottom 10 countries in the world at tackling inequality.
The Minister is right on point. Outcomes are what matters and outcomes are precisely what Singaporeans have been concerned with for years.
The government touts home ownership, help schemes and safety nets, GST vouchers and Medisave top-ups, but the outcomes right before our eyes are that hordes of senior citizens have to slog so hard for so little well into their twilight years. They are the old men and old women we see everyday as cleaners, servers, security guards, tissue sellers, and scrap and cardboard collectors.
These are the tangible outcomes of the rich-poor gap – the rich get richer and the poor have to continue working till their bodies cannot take it anymore because they have to continue paying and paying.
As a friend remarked recently: “In the past one person could support a household of five, today five children cannot even support one aged parent.” The is the outcome of the government’s failure to address the inequality and the rich-poor disparity.
Another tangible statistic we can look at is that despite decades of work, about 50% of Singaporeans cannot even meet the CPF full minimum sum at the age of 55.
Singapore has stubbornly bucked the trend among developed countries, refusing to set a poverty line. The government has said it is better to have a flexible approach in helping the needy through a combination of schemes and not be tied down to a poverty line because people may still fall through the cracks.
In Hong Kong, about one-fifth of the population fall below the poverty line it set in 2013. Singapore could be in a similar situation. Research has shown that up to 20% of resident households here have to get by with less than $1,500 a month.
Last year, there were statistics showing that the top 20% own 73% of Singapore’s wealth and the bottom 20% own just 1% of the overall wealth.
So if Minister Desmond Lee wants to focus on outcomes, they are all there for him to look at. It’s precisely outcomes that Singaporeans have been looking at and talking about for years.