NEEDY Singaporeans do receive substantial help from the Government, and in fact the Government ensures that 'no needy Singaporean is left behind'.
Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon, the Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS), said this in response to criticisms of Singapore's social safety net made on Tuesday by Nominated Member of Parliament Viswa Sadasivan.
Recent increases in the quantum of Public Assistance (PA) allowances means that the total sum that a large family gets can be very close to what a low-wage worker earns, she pointed out.
And the PA scheme is only one of many administered by her ministry to help the poor, she noted.
Citing another example, she said families with a monthly income of $1,500 or less receive childcare fee subsidies of at least 95per cent. They pay only $10 a month for childcare and $5 for kindergarten. As of April, an individual person on the PA scheme now gets $360 a month, up from the previous $330. Those with families get more.
MCYS provides children from PA families with additional assistance of up to $130 per child every month. Along with other aid, this means that a family of two adults and two children could get up to $1,210 a month, Mrs Yu-Foo pointed out.
This is comparable to the bottom 20per cent of wage earners in Singapore, who make $1,200 or less a month. There are fewer than 300,000 resident workers in this category.
PA recipients also receive other cash handouts and utilities and rental rebates from the Government, as well as meal vouchers and other forms of support from community organisations.
Mr Sadasivan had taken issue with what he called a 'very basic level of assistance' provided by the Government to very needy Singaporeans, which had to be supplemented by welfare organisations. He felt the Government was in a strong enough financial position to provide the necessary assistance directly.
In reply, Mrs Yu-Foo said that while MCYS could afford to give more to the 3,000 or so PA recipients, 'the greatest danger in doing so would be taking away the incentive of the much larger number of Singaporeans who are working hard, albeit in low-paying jobs'.