SINGAPORE - Malay-Muslim self-help group Mendaki ran a budget deficit for the first time in its latest financial year.
The $1.8 million deficit was the result of increased spending on its aid schemes, especially on education.
"The policy adopted by the board is to be more aggressive in our education-related activities," said Mendaki chairman and Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim. "Our members have acknowledged this is the right way to go, and will continue to do so."
As a result, more Malay students have been given support in a few areas: tuition, tertiary fee subsidies, and loans.
About $30 million was disbursed to 4,175 students last year under the Tertiary Tuition Fee Scheme.
Of these, 103 were students accepted to Institutes of Higher Learning that were not covered under the scheme until 2013: Lasalle College of the Arts, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Yale-NUS College and the NTU Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine.
Currently, 102 students are studying at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, while one is at Yale-NUS.
Dr Yaacob said Mendaki had been "conservative" with its fiscal managememt so far, which is why it can afford to dip into its reserves.
But he emphasised that dipping into reserves is not sustainable.
"We must avail ourselves first of the resources at the national level," he said, adding that Mendaki will continue to look at ways to be more productive with its existing resources.
Dr Yaacob also said he was pleased with the group's increased outreach efforts. He pointed to the Nadi Khidmat programme - mosques in the heartlands which can be tapped on as a venue for tuition for needy students - and the Mendaki@Heartlands - satellite centres in Pasir Ris and Woodlands - as good examples.
"We need to reach out to the more vulnerable segments of the community, who have either not heard of Mendaki or are unable to make use of its programmes," he said.