Members of Parliament were right to flag the risks of widening income gaps during the Budget debate. Inequality can be perpetuated even in societies priding themselves on distributing rewards according to merit. The paradox of meritocracy is that the elite often fail to take a closer look at meritocratic practices that exclude certain groups and reward only those with achievements attained as a result of socio-economic advantages. Such a system makes those who grow up in poorer households feel like failures for not achieving as much as their privileged peers. Nominated MP Kok Heng Leun was right to say Singapore must find ways to make its system more equitable, and to provide timely help to those in need.
One way is through policy intervention to guard against brand-name schools becoming in effect closed circles that deny others a chance to gain admission, and contribute to "inbreeding". Such environments work against efforts to give students a broad world view and social ease when mixing with different groups. A recent Institute of Policy Studies study on social capital found that those who attended elite schools had few friends from non-elite institutions.