Week's Top Letter #2: Create 'give-up' subsidy system here to help needy

As part of this year's Budget, a 50 per cent rebate on income tax capped at $200 per taxpayer will be provided across all tax resident individuals, irrespective of income.

While $200 does mean a lot to a segment of lower-income Singaporeans, to many others, the amount is insignificant.

Over the years, there have been many other schemes under which the Government has given subsidies to every Singaporean.

A few years ago, I came across this interesting scheme floated by India's central government, called Give-It-Up, which was an "opt out of subsidy" scheme that urged the well-off to give up their liquefied petroleum gas subsidies so the money saved could be channelled to poorer beneficiaries.

Over 10 million Indians chose to give up their subsidy, and the feeling of pride in those citizens for even such a small community action was palpable.

I would recommend a similar but more comprehensive scheme to be created by our Government, where with a single click on a universal give-up portal, any citizen can give up part or whole of any such special subsidy or bonus that she is entitled to with all the released funds directed to the Ministry of Social and Family Development to use for needy citizens.

If just 100,000 privileged Singaporeans gave up their $200 tax rebate, that would release $20 million of extra funds for social programmes. The potential amount could actually be much larger.

This can be a big lesson in community spirit.

A big side benefit of this scheme would be the real test of the giving character of the average citizen.

The number of people willing to give up some part of their subsidy would tell us a lot about our true community spirit as Singaporeans.

Rahul Keshav Patwardhan