MSF: Our system is better than most other countries’ in improving the lives of the poor

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) released a report yesterday (1 Nov), saying that the Singapore system has performed better than most other countries’ in improving the lives of poor and vulnerable families here. However, it did not say which countries it is comparing Singapore with.

The self-praising report came after the globally renowned aid and development UK-based charity Oxfam placed Singapore in last 10 out of 157 countries, in its recent report on Governments’ commitment to reducing inequality 2018. In fact, in terms of progressivity of taxation, Singapore came out last in Oxfam’s report.

MSF said, “The Government ensures access to affordable basic services, creates the opportunities for growth, and provides institutional support and an enabling environment for individuals as they work hard to look after themselves and their families, with support from the community.”

“Where individuals are unable to provide for themselves, such as individuals with disabilities or other health conditions that prevent them from working, the Government has put in place social safety nets, to provide help where family and community support is inadequate,” it added.

In other words, as long as one still has his 4 limps intact, can breathe and work, he must continue to do so. Even if he is disabled and unable to work, the family members must chip-in to help first, never mind if the family members are also burdened with their own problems to solve. Only when all else fail, the government would then step in with its “safety nets” to “help”.

MSF continued, “To mitigate inequalities, we introduced the Workfare Income Supplement Scheme for low-wage workers in 2007 and Silver Support Scheme for the elderly in 2016. The Progressive Wage Model was introduced in 2012 to uplift lower-income workers in sectors vulnerable to cheap-sourcing through a skills-based ladder of pay. We also enhanced housing subsidies to help low- and middleincome families own their own homes.”

Do take note that the housing subsidies provided by the government are not real cost subsidies. They are actually “discounts” from “market price” of HDB flats.

MSF highlights government’s “excellent” achievements in narrowing SG income gap

“Outcomes for the low-income and vulnerable families have improved, and there is some narrowing of the income gap,” MSF said. It highlights its “excellent” achievements:

  1. Nine in 10 students from the bottom 20% by socioeconomic background progress to post-secondary education today, compared to 5 in 10 students from the bottom 20% 15 years ago.
  2. The lower-income group has seen real income growth in the last few years. From 2012 to 2017, households in the lower 50% experienced a higher rate of real income growth compared to households in the top 50%.
  3. Workfare has helped to raise the income of low-wage workers. To illustrate, a 60 year-old worker earning $1,200 a month receives $300 more through the Workfare Income Supplement, which amounts to a 25% top-up in his monthly income.
  4. More than 70,000 resident workers benefitted from higher wages under the Progressive Wage Models in the cleaning, security and landscape sectors.
  5. While 11.8% of households in the top 20% of households spent more than one tenth of their out-of-pocket expenditure on healthcare, 5.6% of households in the bottom 20% of households had to do so.
  6. 87% of Singaporeans in the bottom 20% by resident household income owned their own homes.
  7. 14.3% of Singaporeans born between 1978 to 1982 to families from the lowest 20% in household income made it to the highest 20% in household income.
  8. Singapore’s Gini coefficient declined from 0.388 in 2007 to 0.356 in 2017 (after taxes and transfers).

MSF said it is “committed” to enable Singaporeans to develop to their full potential, so that “we progress together as a society and nation”. It sees a Singapore “where every person is respected and valued, and no one is left behind”.

In any case, as shown in the example above given by MSF of a 60 year-old elderly Singaporean earning $1,200 a month and receiving a pathetic $300 more through Workfare, this government’s real vision appears to be seeing every Singaporean works until his physical body literally gives up on him so as not to burden the government.

And when the person is dead, truly, he is no longer left behind.