I don’t condone illegal activity in any way, shape or form. That said, one cannot help but feel that a lack of social safety net has contributed to Lim Teng Kok (Lim) turning to crime to pay for mounting medical fees.
According to news reports, Lim, who had to shoulder the medical fees of his daughter, wife and mother, was unable to cope with his mounting medical debts and as such resorted to turning bookie in order to earn some cash.
It is easy to point the finger at someone and call them a criminal but at the end of the day, would he have turned criminal if life had not dealt him such a harsh deck of cards? It is very understandable for a father, husband and son to want to take care of his family. It wasn’t as if Lim wasn’t working either. He was working as a helper in a hawker stall which we all know entail long hours, backbreaking work and low wages. This would also mean that his CPF contributions would be low meaning that there might be limitations to his Medisave accounts. In such a situation, what other choice did he really have?
Based on news reports, he did receive some assistance from social welfare organisations although he was still unable to cope. Given that his daughter had kidney failure (a serious condition by any yardstick), it is safe to say that her medical fees must have been high. The government does not like to acknowledge that there are people who literally cannot afford to live but with examples like this – can we really deny that a lack of social support can in fact lead to crime? When you leave a man (or woman) with no choice, what can he or she do?
Are our social welfare organisations given enough government support to help those in need? More importantly, what is our government doing to ensure that healthcare is more affordable to low wage workers especially if that worker is the sole breadwinner in a family when illness strikes? There are arguments from the government against a minimal wage. However if minimal wage is resisted then necessities such as healthcare should then be made much cheaper or even free for low wage workers and their direct family members. Something has to give.
I am not saying that there is a magical formula to solving inequality. However, as a start, the government has to acknowledge that there is a segment of society where life is so dire that they would turn to crime just so that they can live!