Quality of spending more important than quantity

The Oxfam report that criticised Singapore for being "one of the worst-performing countries in the world at tackling inequality" overlooked an important point (S'pore refutes criticism over tackling inequality; Oct 10).

What is important is the quality of spending, and not the quantity.

Education and healthcare spending were among the top expenditures in Singapore's Budget this year. And, as Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee pointed out, Singapore is ranked second in the world for healthcare outcomes and sixth for its healthcare system.

Our low tax and meritocratic education system have raised our gross domestic product per capita from US$500 a year in 1965 to more than US$52,000 (S$71,800) a year today.

Singapore has refused to emulate the European model of a welfare state, where people turn to the government for handouts and pensions. Instead, we promote self-reliance.

Singaporeans save to take care of their needs through the Central Provident Fund. Such savings have enabled 90 per cent of the population to be home owners.

Similarly, our system of Medisave helps to ensure that Singaporeans have money set aside for their healthcare needs.

And while there is no such thing as equal healthcare, we have embraced a system of fair and practical healthcare, where people can choose either basic or premium healthcare depending on their income.

Singapore is also vigilant in ensuring that one generation will not bankrupt future generations by selfishly living beyond its means.

While the issue of inequality is a subject for serious discussion and debate, the solution to curbing it does not lie in creating a system where people get accustomed to a government providing for them.

If Singapore is among the worst in tackling inequality, why then do we rarely see people living on the streets and begging?

If there was such destitution, then that would mean that something has gone wrong with our society and that our nation has failed its people.

Cheng Choon Fei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2018, with the headline 'Quality of spending more important than quantity'. Print Edition | Subscribe