GE 2015: Means-testing measures need to be relooked to meet the needs of private home dwellers

Mr Edwin Tong speaking to reporters on Aug 2, 2015. Mr Tong said on Sunday, Sept 6, that there is a need to relook at traditional means testing, to ensure those living in private estates are not left out of Government social programmes.
Mr Edwin Tong speaking to reporters on Aug 2, 2015. Mr Tong said on Sunday, Sept 6, that there is a need to relook at traditional means testing, to ensure those living in private estates are not left out of Government social programmes. PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

SINGAPORE - Traditional means-testing measures need to be relooked to ensure private home dwellers are not left out of the Government's social help programmes.

Mr Edwin Tong, the People's Action Party candidate for Marine Parade GRC, said the long-held assumption that those who own or live in homes in private estates have sufficient income "may not be correct in all cases".

"When they say they feel neglected, I think it is because they have been means-tested based on the addresses they live in...we have to go beyond the address," said Mr Tong on Sunday after a walkabout with the PAP team contesting Marine Parade GRC.

"You got to look at the income, you got to look at whether they own the property they live in and then assess from there, then you have a bespoke solution for the particular resident concerned."

Mr Tong is in charge of Joo Chiat, which has been absorbed by the Marine Parade GRC this time round. The PAP won the former single-seat constituency by a whisker in the 2011 General Election, with PAP veteran Charles Chong getting just 388 more votes than Workers' Party (WP) candidate Yee Jenn Jong.

The coming electoral battle in the area is likely to be the tightest in the new Joo Chiat ward, with all the 22,000-plus voters living in landed property and condominiums.

Mr Tong, 46, has been walking the ground and meeting residents and told The Straits Times that he has covered up to 80 per cent of the landed property estates in the ward since Nomination Day.

A one-term MP, he was deployed to Marine Parade after the Moulmein-Kallang GRC was wiped from the electoral map, following the electoral boundaries review last month.

He joins the team's anchor minister Tan Chuan-Jin, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and team members Seah Kian Peng and Fatimah Lateef.

They will square off against Mr Yee, who leads a WP team that comprises lawyer Terence Tan, chocolate factory owner Firuz Khan, corporate lawyer He Ting Ru and wealth manager Dylan Ng .

ESM Goh, the former prime minister, had said that Joo Chiat voters may have felt neglected by the government in the 2011 election as they live in private property. "These people have paid taxes, they are retirees. So they felt ignored. They therefore sent the message 'Please do not take us for granted'."

Yesterday, Mr Tan said that he wants to deepen his understanding of the residents and hear their concerns. "Many of them have ideas on how they could improve their environment and many of them are keen to step forward to work with us to see how to make it a much more conducive community for everyone."