Natural to have different views on social spending

A survey conducted by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) showed that Singaporeans were divided over how to finance higher social spending for the elderly (Divided over intergenerational support; Jan 19).

Compared with older respondents, more younger respondents said that each generation should be self-reliant.

The younger ones were also less supportive of raising taxes to fund higher social spending.

The findings are not unexpected. Naturally, different demographic groups would hold different opinions on any issue. Each group's view on what to spend and who should pay for it is different.

Such phenomenon is present worldwide.

In the United States, older citizens benefit more from social spending. Younger citizens, however, benefit more from spending on education. They are also more concerned about paying the national debt in future than older citizens.

Policymakers take on the role of weighing the pros and cons of alternative measures and coming up with policies that would yield maximum benefits for society, and equity or social justice for the less well-off.

They should properly prioritise the issues to tackle and tackle them with efficacy and fairness.

Intergenerational equity is also a big issue in South Korea, which has the highest elderly poverty rate among developed nations.

This has led the elderly to feel betrayed, as they had invested a lot in their children's education.

We should not overinterpret the IPS' findings.

Societies nowadays are more divided on national issues, which poses a greater challenge for policymakers.

In any nation, policymakers take on the role of weighing the pros and cons of alternative measures and coming up with policies that would yield maximum benefits for society, and equity or social justice for the less well-off.

They should properly prioritise the issues to tackle and tackle them with efficacy and fairness.

Albert Ng Ya Ken

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 26, 2018, with the headline 'Natural to have different views on social spending'. Print Edition | Subscribe