A one-off $3,000 grant to help parents amid the Covid-19 pandemic set off a lively debate online among Straits Times Facebook users after it was announced on Friday.
Mums and dads of Singaporean children born from the first day of this month to Sept 30, 2022, will receive the Baby Support Grant, on top of the existing Baby Bonus cash gift that can go up to $10,000.
The amount will be deposited from next April, or within one month of enrolment into the Baby Bonus scheme, whichever is later.
While most ST Facebook users welcomed the news, many asked why the grant will be given only to those with babies born from this month onwards.
"Shouldn't the Government give out the package to those Singaporean families who had given birth since CB (circuit breaker) started? Why only start October 1st?" a user called Eliana Amin asked.
A netizen called PY started a petition on Friday on Change.org to ask the Government to extend the grant to all parents whose babies were born this year.
"Any parent with newborns born during this pandemic would have faced some sort of financial stresses and inconveniences and would certainly benefit from this additional support. Besides, Covid-19 had started since the start of 2020. Therefore, it would only be fair if the grant was offered to all parents of newborns born in 2020," the petition said.
More than 7,600 had signed it as at yesterday afternoon.
On the website, Kristyn Neo explained her reason for backing it: "I had a baby right at the peak of the Covid-19 situation in Singapore and paid more for services due to... scarcity because of the lockdown."
The National Population and Talent Division (NPTD), which jointly administers the Baby Support Grant with the Ministry of Social and Family Development, said it understands that some parents who have missed the start date may be disappointed that they are not eligible.
"We would like to seek the public's understanding that specific start dates are needed for any new measure or enhancement," NPTD said on Friday.
It added that children born before Oct 1 are still able to enjoy many benefits under the Marriage and Parenthood Package.
Bringing up a baby in Singapore is expensive, with one estimate in 2018 that it would cost a few hundred thousand dollars to more than half a million. That's why any help should be welcomed, other ST Facebook users argued.
Meng Tat Chang wrote: "All grants are (a) bonus. People think that Government must pay people for babies. Babies are strictly for the joy of parenthood, and grants are just by the way bonus as (an) appreciation gesture by the state."
Zeus He said: "Quite frankly, if you wish to have a kid, you should be mentally prepared for the costs of raising a child. 3k will be handy. No matter what period it might be, there will always be complaints on why a person misses out on this. Not going to please everyone."
Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah said on Friday that the Government hopes the grant will be a further boost that encourages couples not to delay their plans to get married and start a family.
Some wondered, though, if the amount would be enough to provide that extra push. Others felt that money was not the issue.
Valiant Revane said: "Actually, most young couples are not giving birth because they are not ready to sacrifice their lifestyles. Not so much (because of) cost."
Bonus or no bonus, the deciding factor could be whether couples wish to take on the long-term responsibilities of parenthood.
CRUISES TO NOWHERE: From next month, two cruise lines will offer such cruises from Singapore. They will have to follow a set of stringent safety guidelines, but horror stories of those struck with Covid-19 while aboard cruise ships earlier this year were still fresh on the minds of Facebook users. Others are turned off by the idea of taking a swab test a few days before boarding. ST Facebook user Nickie Woo commented: "I see so many people against the idea... Let's see how fast the cruise tickets will be sold."
BOON LAY KNIFE ATTACK: A man was left bleeding, with injuries to his face, after he was attacked by a teenager with a knife at a FairPrice supermarket in Boon Lay Shopping Centre last Wednesday. An 18-year-old was charged on Friday over his alleged involvement: "Slashing in a supermarket? Many people are getting more brazen these days," commented ST Facebook user Robert Ridzuandowski.
LY Lee said: "Young couples today are afraid to have kids. It's not so much the cost of having kids but bringing them up."
Keith Lim Wei Hoong wrote: "I had my first child 16 years ago and it's just as difficult now as it was in the past. If you want a family, you will find a way."
It was one of those things we took for granted in the time before Covid-19: having mindless fun on Halloween, especially if the day fell on a Friday or Saturday. Many looked for haunted-house experiences, went trick-or-treating or binged on horror shows.
But in a year with real-life pandemic horrors, fun could be the last thing on some people's minds. Making fun of Covid-19, in particular, is deemed offensive by many.
Two weeks ago, Amazon said it would be withdrawing coronavirus-themed Halloween masks from sale, after a British charity said they were "hugely distasteful".
The masks, from one online retailer based in China, were designed to look like the coronavirus - when seen under a microscope - with its signature spikes. Made of latex, they also featured crazy-looking eyes and jagged teeth.
In Singapore, the occasion won't be the same with one popular attraction, the Halloween Horror Nights, not being held this year at Universal Studios, although other activities have been lined up.
Events elsewhere will be muted, with an emphasis on safe distancing and other safety measures.
For those still planning to go out and celebrate in costume, the Oregon Health Authority in the United States tweeted this early reminder: "Be careful to plan a costume that allows you to wear a face covering. #Halloween masks will not protect you or others from #coronavirus. Instead, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask."