Strive to be rich in compassion too

While it may be right to not exhaust our reserves when rolling out more social help, the oft-cited refrain of the need to "preserve and grow the wealth" that Singapore has accumulated does little to address our nation's income inequality (S'pore will continue to be financially prudent: Indranee; Feb 22).

A Smart Nation which strives towards being an inclusive society should also have the smarts to be benevolent and rich in compassion and empathy for the people.

There is an easy way to give the needy a fighting chance to normalise their lives.

For a start, all one-and two-room flat tenants and Blue Community Health Assist Scheme card holders should automatically qualify for targeted help, which is renewable every two years.

They get to benefit immediately from no goods and services tax (GST) for essential food items, up to an adjustable limit. Going forward, this lightens their financial burden and gives them more room for upward social mobility.

While the SG Bonus, which gives $100 to $300 to each adult Singaporean, is appreciated, I hope our fourth generation leadership team will not use mere tokenism to get Singaporeans to contribute long term, in a sustainable way, to our nation's coffers.

It is the duty of the Government, as the steward of our nation, to do more with less, think out of the box, and help strengthen the weakest.

To rely on price as a mechanism to curb demand and affect consumer change (such as water consumption and road usage), and raising taxes is hardly imaginative enough.

Lam Yan Choon

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 26, 2018, with the headline 'Strive to be rich in compassion too'. Subscribe