No need for poor families to keep up with the Joneses

Is being deprived of easy access to tuition and enrichment classes such a crippling disadvantage for students from low-income families? (No-win choices for the poor when resources are limited, by Mr Kevin See Yao Hui; July 5)

Are there not more resourceful and economical ways to help them develop their talents vis-a-vis their arguably stressed-out counterparts from mollycoddled backgrounds?

Nothing ought to repulse Singaporeans more than anecdotes of low-income families who spend their social hand-outs on premium electronic gadgets and TV/broadband packages to keep up with the Joneses, when some of their better-off fellow citizens have no issues living with basic forms of entertainment such as free-to-air TV (Social workers also tackle structural conditions that lead to poverty, by Dr Ng Kok Hoe; June 27).

Ditto those "bleeding-heart" social workers/sociologists who appear to be in their element painting low-income families as victims of the system, and inadvertently reinforcing the already "crutch" mentality inherent in some.

There is no such thing as comprehensive equality in this world, even as we strive to address the inequalities and injustices wrought by human prejudices.

Since time immemorial, one's survival strategies - including overcoming one's perceived comparative disadvantage - is, to some extent, a function of one's resources.

Rich or poor, we all have to learn to live within our means .

It is more so if one is reliant on social assistance.

Self-reliance must remain the underlying principle of Singapore's social safety net to maintain a modicum of individual discipline and responsibility in this country.

Banish that, and some of the worst excesses of human nature will come to the fore, as seen to some extent in the abuses of our well-intentioned universal healthcare insurance system.

In fact, with resources set to become more contestable, it is imperative for the authorities to allocate these wisely, according to a clear set of priorities - regardless of race or religion.

Toh Cheng Seong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2018, with the headline 'No need for poor families to keep up with the Joneses'. Print Edition | Subscribe