Edwin Tong schools on the moral hazards of social spending

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Photo: YouTube screengrab

In an interview with Channel Newsasia yesterday, newly appointed Senior Minister of State for Law and Health Edwin Tong spoke about populist efforts that he cautioned the Government against.

He said, “When then-Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam announced social transfers – GST Vouchers, U-Save rebates, the Silver Support Scheme and other policies – I did feel that it was unprecedented and a slippery slope and it was too much of a reaction to what the ground sentiments were”.

Continuing on the topic of social aid and transfers, he added, “I’ve seen the experiences of the Western countries where the more you give, the more one asks and I think that’s really the start of the erosion of the work ethic that Singaporeans have. Once we start giving, we can’t scale back”.

While Mr Tong may be of the notion that the Government should cut down on the social aids it provides, there are many others who feel otherwise.

Andrew Loh, founder of The Online Citizen was one of them, and said, “I mean, seriously, giving U-Save rebates and GST vouchers will undermine the work ethic of Singaporeans?

He forgets that since Goh Chok Tong’s time, and during LHL’s premiership, such “giveaways” were touted as sharing the fruits of economic growth. Has Singaporeans work ethic been eroded the last 30 years because of these?”

Mr Loh continued, “And doesn’t the money for all these giveaways come from people’s hard work in the first place?”

In his interview, Mr Tong also went on to say, ““I’m not sure about the assumption that giving people social transfers and handouts is the way to level up and decrease inequality and increase mobility. It’s one way, but I would say it’s only a small part of the equation.”

He explained that education might be a more effective method to decrease inequality instead of social transfers, but that ultimately the Government should have struck a better balance.

On the issue of social transfers, Mr Tong concluded, “I think if the result is that we can get fairer, better applications of our resources which are finite, I think it’s well worth the effort.”

Netizens completely disagreed with Mr Tong on the issue.


obbana@theindependent.sg