It is commendable that there is active discussion and debate on inequality and poverty in Singapore.
As a volunteer befriender with a programme that helps youth who dropped out of school, I would like to offer some observations and suggestions.
There are many families with multiple poverty-related issues, and these trap youth in a perpetual poverty cycle. For example, parents who are unemployed and illiterate may not know how and from whom to seek assistance.
Perhaps professional social workers could be proactively paired with such low-income families and youth, so as to prevent them from perpetuating the poverty cycle in the next generation.
Having volunteered at sessions where residents seek social assistance, I have also observed that the forms of assistance offered, like vouchers for food or transport, may sometimes be too specific.
More flexible forms of social support may be required to better assist multi-faceted issues.
For example, there are job-matching services that have offered help for the unemployed. However, some of these unemployed people have explained that they cannot afford the telephone bill and the transport fare to keep in touch with the companies and go for interviews, and are sometimes too shy to ask for help in these areas separately.
One possible solution could be to give them a CashCard that could be used for various basic services.
Understandably, the Government requires more fiscal space to implement policies to support the low-income.
Perhaps the authorities could consider increasing the tax rate for the high-income. The personal tax rate may have been kept low to attract high net-worth individuals to stay and invest in Singapore.
However, this need may be mitigated by other factors such as a stable living environment and competitive investment climate.
Raising such tax rates, beyond the potential rise in goods and services tax, would offer such fiscal space.
Social inequality can lead to disenchantment.
Enabling the young who are currently trapped in poverty cycles to reach their potential can contribute positively to the economy.
Lam Yin Yin (Ms)