Forum: Ensure the poor will have a seat at the table

Education and home ownership have always been two very important pillars in Singapore's social security system.

The two commentaries (Ensure estates like Toa Payoh or Marine Parade are not beyond the reach of the low-income; and Alumni networks worsen inequality. Here's one way to improve them, both Dec 6) have rightly pointed out how without conscious and intentional social engineering, these two pillars may very well become obstacles to low-income families uplifting themselves from the poverty trap.

Look at the case of Hong Kong for housing. Unfettered market economy and economic progress have very often led to greater disparity and inequality.

The imperative, therefore, falls on policymakers to always think of the underprivileged, so that in their planning, they will always try to find creative ways to social-engineer solutions that will ensure the poor will always have a seat at the table, while not penalising the better-off for doing well.

But no amount of social engineering or policymaking can eradicate inequality.

Those who are less well-off must themselves do the heavy lifting to change their lot in life. They will, as many can testify, face many challenges and setbacks in doing so. Lacking resources and connections, they find themselves at a disadvantage.

However, the critical difference lies in what the narrative they tell themselves is, despite their situation in life. Faced with similar challenges and stresses, I believe they can do as well, if not better, if they possess the right mindset and narrative: That they can be as good if not better; that they are not as well connected but not less capable; that they have less but are able to give more.

Tristan Gwee

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