Singapore — Workers’ Party (WP) Member of Parliament (MP) Jamus Lim spoke up on how Singapore should reevaluate the mechanism for social safety nets in Singapore.
Assoc Prof Lim mentions at the start of his post that he resumed visiting households to speak with residents.
While he interacted with many residents, he found the family living in the last unit he visited to be particularly memorable.
The family consisted of six people but had been repeatedly rejected from receiving financial aid from the government. This was due to the fact that they reside in a four-room flat which caused the assessed value of their home to disqualify them from almost all assistance schemes. Meanwhile, the family had a combined income of $1,600 while having to provide for four young children.
Assoc Prof Lim says that this is by far not the worst living situation he had seen. He had spoken with another person living with eleven others in a two-room rental flat. However, he acknowledges that the family of six is not well-off either.
He notes that the family’s inability to secure assistance schemes is indicative of limitations of Singapore’s all-or-nothing criteria for accessing citizens’ social safety nets. If a family earns just a dollar more than $650 per capita, they are completely ineligible for receiving social services support. If another family resides in a flat that is worth more than $21,000 annual value, they are unable to apply for GST vouchers as well.
Assoc Prof Lim says that it is important to delineate the criteria for social safety nets. Setting the thresholds make it easy to check if citizens are able to qualify for a scheme, but can be restrictive as well.
He also mentions the “cliff effect” where a person who earns more money may not necessarily improve their standard of living if it boosts their income such that they lose access to some or all of the benefits they were previously offered, causing the value of the lost benefits to outweigh the increase in their income.
Assoc Prof Lim says that graduated thresholds are implemented in other areas of public policy. Citizens pay tax rates according to income brackets and HDB Loan Eligibility (HLE) loan amounts are also based on one’s CPF and cash savings. He adds that it would be a good idea to evaluate other social support schemes to allow for similar graduated thresholds.
Several netizens agreed that the current can be rather rigid and unfair to certain people.
You Zi Xuan is an intern at The Independent SG. /TISG
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