Singapore— Everyone could give and do more for others was one of the conclusion of a panel discussion on how to get the wealthier in society to do their part in helping the poor.
Members of the panel included Paulin Straughan, Singapore Management University Professor of Sociology (Practice); T. Ranganayaki, the deputy executive director of Beyond Social Services’; Laurence Lien, the chairman of Lien Foundation; and ST’s Singaporean of the Year 2017, Goh Wei Leong, who is the co-founder of Healthserve.
Organized by The Straits Times (ST) with the Singapore Kindness Movement, it was moderated by Han Fook Kwang, the editor-in-chief of ST.
According to the chair of the Lien Foundation, there is much more that Singapore’s affluent citizens can do. He believes that giving in the country has become stagnant, adding that the amount some are giving are not substantial.
”I think the wealthy are not giving enough… In the Forbes 50 list of Singaporeans, only one in five are known to have foundations,” Mr Lien said.
However, he added a point later that the other panelists agreed with—that it is not only the affluent who should make it a practice to give but all Singaporeans.
Mr Lien said that generosity needs to become part of Singaporeans’ DNA.
”Giving needs to be part of the DNA, so it’s not just the wealthy who should be giving. If you don’t give when you’re poor, you won’t give when you’re rich.”
He also said that he does not believe that just because Singapore is an urban nation does not mean citizens live in “cocoons,” or seeing old folks cleaning up at hawker centres mean you know the story they carry with them.
SMU sociology professor Paulin Straughan was in agreement with Mr Lien, saying, “The more dangerous levers of inequality are the ones behind closed doors… we don’t see them, and therefore we assume that it’s okay.”
She highlighted the need for the press to cover situations such as poverty being handed down from one generation to the next, or the problem of people overworking to compensate for the smallness of their salaries.
This point was also underscored by Ms Ranganayaki, who urged Singaporeans to get beyond the concerns of their own lives and start showing care for the lives of others.
“Do I know my neighbours? If I’m taking the train, do I know the person sitting next to me? It doesn’t mean just talking to everybody, but at least having the curiosity about what my society, my community is, and how I fit in there.”
Moreover, she said, “A social issue is not a problem to be plugged but an opportunity for community to come together.”
For Dr Goh, what is needful is a perspective change from individualism to a more community-centered mindset, since people are influenced by those around them.
He added, “The broader the mix, the richer it becomes.”
According to its Facebook page, the mission of the Singapore Kindness Movement is “to help build a gracious Singapore” by aiming “to encourage the individual to internalise courtesy, kindness, and consideration.”
The non-government organization (NGO)’s mission statement is: To inspire graciousness through spontaneous acts of kindness, making life more pleasant for everyone.
William Wan, the general secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement, has said, “With self-awareness, empathy, and contentment with what we have, we can be more conscious, deliberate and specific in our giving back… together, we can be greater.”/ TISG