Need for consensus on who to help in Singapore
A new group of people who want more government help has emerged in Singapore, according to Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing.
They are middle-income earners who feel unsettled about the future and wonder if they could be shielded from the intense global competition, he said. But their expectations may need to be managed, he added.
As social needs increase, society must reach a consensus on how much help should be given to this and other groups with varying levels of need, he told about 800 students, faculty and guests of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy yesterday.
Mr Chan was speaking at a public lecture to mark the school's eighth anniversary.
Beware 'unintended consequences'
POLICIES to look after people's social needs may have "unintended consequences", warned Mr Chan Chun Sing.
So the goal is to anticipate some of them, minimise them and adjust along the way. He cited several examples:
Childcare subsidies: Making subsidies for childcare universal may not make the services more affordable or improve their quality. If the supply of quality teachers and childcare spaces does not increase in tandem with higher demand, the mismatch could spell higher prices and more angst.
More people may also go for pricier providers, believing them to be of higher quality. The subsidies will then end up being used to pay for more expensive providers, rather than to offset costs.
This could in turn encourage popular providers to raise their fees and widen the gap between "quality" providers and the rest - and possibly compound the problem of social segregation.
Homes for elderly: Pumping all resources into building more institutional homes for the elderly and putting every challenging case into them could push up the cost of such care, given the limited space and manpower.
It also neglects the role of the community and the family, and deprives the elderly of a familiar environment. But insisting that all elderly be cared for in their own homes could be hard if a case is complex and families cannot give proper care. The answer: a mix of institutional, community- and home-based care that society has to decide on.
GOH CHIN LIAN