SINGAPORE - The upcoming Budget will cover social programmes that focus on the elderly, healthcare and education as well as pay special attention to helping the disadvantaged and underprivileged, said Second Minister for Finance and Education Indranee Rajah on Wednesday (Jan 30).
Speaking to the media during a visit to Big Heart Student Care centre in Lianhua Primary School, Ms Indranee, who is also a Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, said there is a small group unable to make the most of the opportunities given to them because they face issues such as family difficulties.
"We are putting special focus on how we can help those who are underprivileged, from a disadvantaged background, and the Uplift committee will be a part of that," she said.
Ms Indranee declined to elaborate on whether social spending this year would be higher than in 2018 but she noted that it has more than doubled in the past decade, spurred in part by growing needs in the education and healthcare sector - the first because of the need for continued education and the other due to an ageing population.
As the head of the eight-member Uplift - the Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce, Ms Indranee also said the visit to the student care centre has helped her confirm some of the ideas the committee has had.
The Big Heart Student Care centre at Lianhua Primary School is one of 24 centres operated by the four self-help groups - the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC), Yayasan Mendaki (Mendaki), Singapore Indian Development Association (Sinda) and Eurasian Association (EA). Six more centres are expected to be set up by the four self-help groups by next year.
Nearly half or 45 per cent of the 3,021 students enrolled in these school-based student care centres are from lower-income families who pay subsidised fees under the Ministry of Social and Family Development's Student Care Fee Assistance scheme.
Recounting her conversations with students, Ms Indranee said that one told her that she preferred the centre as it was more conducive for studying, while another said that he was taken to school everyday by neighbours instead of his parents.
"You can see that some of the ideas we have been looking at, like having a structured environment... or this idea of getting volunteers to assist those who are not able to bring the kids to school, it's actually being played out in real life here," said Ms Indranee.
She added that the Uplift committee would be making more detailed recommendations during the Committee of Supply.