Singapore—In Parliament on Monday (Apr 5), the Workers’ Party’s Dr Jamus Lim (Sengkang GRC) voiced his support for grants that would go to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the aid of vulnerable countries.
Dr Lim, an associate professor of economics, said that Singapore can and should give more, given its history as a “major beneficiary” of globalisation as well as a staunch advocate of it.
The Sengkang MP also noted the country’s “legacy of ambivalence” on the subject of raising contributions to the IMF and the World Bank, adding that Singapore has neither a national foreign aid development agency nor a firm plan to further expand its representation in global organisations.
He acknowledged that “charity begins at home” and that Singapore must take care of Singaporeans’ needs first.
But Dr Lim added that, during times of crisis, global generosity may pay off in the long term as well as raise the country’s soft power and ability to influence the global agenda.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday (Apr 6), Dr Lim wrote on the topic again, this time using a personal experience to prove his point.
He recounted that when he was in the US as a PhD student, he received no financial assistance and his savings dwindled quickly.
However, the family he lived with had been very generous, especially with meals, and he was even invited to spend holidays with them.
“Perhaps the most memorable (but simple) gift I received from them was a cash booklet for McDonald’s, for Christmas. It cost all of 30 bucks. But with that $30, as my American Dad would like to say, he received a lifetime of gratitude and goodwill,” he wrote.
He compared this with Singapore’s situation, taking issue with what he considered an “unwillingness to expand our international footprint”, which he says comes at a cost.
Helping out neighbouring countries is a win-win situation, he added, as that would enable them to buy more exports from Singapore. “And richer countries buy higher-value goods, which we are more likely to produce. So we do well when they do well.”
He also called generosity towards other nations a “moral imperative”.
“As citizens of a global village, reciprocity and altruism should be part of our moral fibre. We are taught from a young age to share, and this should extend to foreign relations because there is value in being good neighbours,” said Dr Lim, expressing the hope that one day Singapore’s foreign aid efforts can be institutionalised.
And while today he can afford above and beyond McDonald’s dinners in the US, he has not forgotten this vital early lesson.
“I’m in a better financial position these days, and so when we visit the States, I usually pay for our dinners. Nobody’s really counting, but that $30 has probably paid for itself many times over. That’s the power of generosity.”
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