Singapore – In one of the series of social media posts explaining his maiden speech in Parliament, Workers’ Party (WP) parliamentarian Jamus Lim called for an official poverty line to be established in Singapore to assess the extent of the poverty which would serve as foundation for future policies.

Mr Lim’s speech during the parliamentary debate on the President’s Address on Thursday (September 3) touched on the topic of a missing official poverty line in Singapore. He took to Facebook on Saturday (September 5) to explain the issue further, noting its importance in tackling the problem accurately.

Also known as the poverty threshold, the poverty line refers to the level of a household’s income below what is classified as poor according to government standards. It is the minimum level of income deemed as adequate in a country.

There is an unofficial poverty line in Singapore, associated with ComCare, of S$1,900 per household (or S$650 per person), Mr Lim noted. However, if this was used as the poverty threshold, “this is a very bare-bones level of income,” he added. The level also corresponds to the lowest five per cent of income earners using 2016 data.

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Mr Lim used the United States’ poverty line as an example, which was a little more than $2,000 (approx S$2,720) “even though per capita incomes here, corrected for price differences, is 1.5 times higher.”

He cited a study from the Social Studies Research Centre at the National University of Singapore (NUS) that estimated the poverty rate to be as much as a quarter of working households. “It echoes the sentiment, felt by many Singaporeans, that they are sinking in a sea of higher costs and declining affordability,” said Mr Lim. “But such disparate estimates will continue to float around, as long as we fail to define an official poverty line.”

“That is why I called for an official line—consistent with international best practice—to be established, and for the publication of an official poverty rate.”

Before tackling problems, the extent of their existence must be known, he explained.
Members from the online community agreed with Mr Lim’s statement, noting this (the lack of an official poverty line) has been “overlooked for so long.”

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Photo: FB screengrab/Jamus Lim
Photo: FB screengrab/Jamus Lim
Photo: FB screengrab/Jamus Lim

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ByHana O