Distribution key to tackling rising inequality

Economic growth alone is not sufficient to tackle inequality (Adopt rational approach to tackle inequality, by Mr Ng Chia Wee; Feb 25).

It only results in a bigger pie, but the key to ensuring social equity lies with the distribution of the pie. It is not uncommon for developed countries to enjoy economic growth, but with the income gap widening at the same time.

The Government can redistribute income through taxation and subsidies. However, more importantly, the Government must constantly tweak its policies and systems where possible to provide opportunities for its people, which is crucial for social mobility.

Take the admission criteria for primary school, for example. Currently, proximity to schools and affiliation are important priority admission criteria. As many good primary schools are located in expensive residential areas, children from richer families will naturally stand a better chance of getting into those schools.

As Mr Ng rightly pointed out, surely no parent who enjoys such a privilege or advantage would want to give it up. However, let us not forget that it is the current policies and systems, and not meritocratic achievements of the children, that have afforded these parents such an advantage.

This is where the Government has a role to play in re-examining the admission criteria for primary schools and assessing whether we need to relocate some of these schools so that they are evenly spread out throughout Singapore to ensure that all children, regardless of their background, have a fair chance of gaining entry into good primary schools.

Mabel Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 28, 2018, with the headline 'Distribution key to tackling rising inequality'. Print Edition | Subscribe