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Public Assistance increased at an ‘miserly’ annual rate of $18 for the last 15 years?

Are we ‘miserly’ in helping destitute Singaporeans?

I refer to the article “Public assistance payouts may increase” (Straits Times, Oct 29).

According to the Straits Times' report, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) revealed that it is reviewing the sum given out - which is to cover basic living expenses such as food, transport and rental - to those on the scheme.

The review will take into account changes in the prices of essential items and feedback from community partners and front-line staff who work closely with the poor.

The public assistance scheme that MSF is referring to is ComCare's Long-Term Assistance Scheme, which is meant for destitute persons who cannot work permanently as a result of old age or illness, and have little or no family support. Most of those on the scheme are poorly educated, elderly singles who live alone.

ST wrote, “From July 2016, a one-person household on the scheme received $500 monthly, up from $450. And a two-person household received $870, up from $790."

It is said that based on MSF’s 2017 financial year, which ended in March, there were 4,409 households on the scheme, up 24 per cent from the 3,568 families in 2013.

As far as I can find by googling – the amount was increased from $230 (in around 2002 or earlier), $260 in 2003, to $290 (2007 or earlier), to $330 in 2008, to $360 in 2009, from $400 to $450 in 2013, and to $500 in 2016.

So, does this mean that the amount only increased by about $270 ($500 – $230) in the last 15 years or so (estimate)?

If so, does it mean that the average increase per year was only about $18 per year ($500 – $230 divided by 15 years), before adjusting for inflation?

As Prof Tommy Koh said is his dialogue with the DPM (aired on Channel NewsAsia on 28 October) that Singapore is among the five richest countries in the world by per capita income – don’t you think we should be ashamed of our miserly public assistance to destitute Singaporeans?