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The poor have little access to right resources to make good decisions

From his personal story and real-life encounters with poor families, manpower correspondent Toh Yong Chuan suggested shifting the focus from poor parents who repeatedly make bad decisions to their children ("Lifting families out of poverty: Focus on the children; last Thursday).

Reporter Janice Tai was also struck by the bad decisions made by the poor because of the mental stress they face to survive each day ("Ease stress of day-to-day survival so poor can plan a better future"; last Thursday).

While I appreciate the journalists' efforts to raise awareness of poverty in Singapore, I question whether the difficulty in breaking the poverty cycle is, as they suggested, simply due to poor people making bad decisions ("The faces behind the aid figures"; last Sunday).

It is said that poor people make bad decisions - they spend beyond their means, get into marital problems and have trouble with the law.

We should remind ourselves that rich people can also make the same bad decisions. The only difference is that the rich have access to resources they need to solve these problems, but the poor do not.

We should remind ourselves that rich people can also make the same bad decisions. The only difference is that the rich have access to resources they need to solve these problems, but the poor do not.

If we were to buy into the idea that poor people make bad decisions, then no amount of support will be helpful to them eventually.

Poverty reduction cannot be accurately measured by an increase in income per capita or household incomes.

Nor can it be better achieved by more charitable programmes or telling the poor how to make better decisions in their lives.

The right approach to take is to get to know them in a respectful way, treat them with dignity and help them to get the right resources they need to solve their problems.

In this way, they will enjoy family, friendship, meaningful work and life in the same waythe rest of us do, even if it takes them a long time to lift the entire family out of poverty.

William Tan Whee Kiem

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 06, 2016, with the headline 'The poor have little access to right resources to make good decisions'. Print Edition | Subscribe