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More than a “crusade against snobbery” is needed to address inequality: Ravi Philemon

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Community worker Mr Ravi Philemon has criticised Senior Minister of State Dr Janil Puthucheary for going on “a crusade against snobbery” in the “Regardless of Class” documentary on the class divide among Singaporeans, instead of addressing the real issues underprivileged Singaporeans face.

Mr Philemon, who contested Hong Kah North SMC during the 2015 General Election as a candidate from the Singapore People’s Party, wrote on Facebook that it does not make sense to try to treat the symptoms of inequality without establishing a root cause.

In this case, he argued, PAP’s aversion to identifying an official poverty line makes it difficult to address inequality and difficult to determine who the underprivileged are and how they can be helped:

“PAP MP Janil Puthucheary goes on a crusade against snobbery in CNA’s documentary ‘Regardless of Class’.
“Puthucheary, being a medical doctor, should know (perhaps better than anyone else) that you don’t try to treat the symptoms without addressing the root cause.
“I do not disagree that there are hard questions to be asked and difficult choices to be made in addressing inequality. But the first step to addressing the problem of inequality would be to establish a poverty line – something which the PAP government has been averse to identifying.
“Without knowing what is the minimum level of income deemed adequate to live in Singapore (which a poverty line determines), how can you address inequality?
“The PAP Government has however dismissed the idea of an official poverty line saying that it is unhelpful in identifying poverty.”

Mr Philemon further said that the divide among students from different socio-economic backgrounds has grown from the time he was in school since “students now seem to be cocooned with others from their own social standing.”

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Asking how these students will understand the struggles of ordinary citizens when they become the leaders of the nation one day, Mr Philemon wrote:

“Inequality in Singapore is worrisome because unlike the time when I was in school, the students now seem to be cocooned with others from their own social standing. Top schools, like Raffles Institution, are becoming segregated, catering to academically bright students from well-off families.
“When these academically bright students become policy-makers one day, how will they understand the plight and challenges of ordinary citizens who may not be as privileged as them?”

Having worked for years with the underprivileged in his career as a community worker, Mr Philemon said that the struggles the participants in the CNA documentary involving Dr Puthucheary face go beyond having to deal with snobbery from the upper echelons of society.

He added that despite the struggles the poor in Singapore face, they still sometimes vote against their own interests because they feel fearful of and beholden to the Government:

“I know some of the participants in CNA’s documentary. Their challenges are much more severe than having to deal with snobbish attitudes of others. Some only have one meal a day – that which they have in school, provided by the The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund.
“Despite the challenges the poor face in Singapore, the poor here sometimes vote against their own interests. Why?…Because they are beholden…Because of fear!
“”My vote is for the PAP. I got $200 in financial assistance from the MP”…”I am afraid I will lose my rental flat if I vote against the PAP”… These are some of the reasons some voters gave me in why they would vote for the PAP in the last election.
“And the PAP keeps them beholden and in fear for political reasons – because the poor are a voter bloc to keep them in power.
“So you see, the problem of addressing inequality is multi-pronged. And it probably has to start with the poor realising the political strength that they have in making change (through their vote) and in being courageous enough to make a stand for themselves.”

Interestingly, Mr Philemon tagged Dr Puthucheary in his Facebook post but the PAP MP untagged himself.

Read Mr Philemon’s post in full here:

https://www.facebook.com/PhilemonRavi/photos/a.382060171893807/1550891311677348/?type=3&__xts__%5B0%5D=68.ARB3zBHSjTijLzi76DszWws55DgAo_VnZJ-2pTbzRPI87l1EWk97ldP83DWpjieTPV0rgIhjm13D1uwZ_qAoY8yovGCVP5BtiOJeabWWl4On60FkD3OIp6HnzArieDqy9baY7Yl_x6hQWpHclgBRHMmcYFzcX2vB2E5joX2ZYozz4wdrth4BrA&__tn__=-R

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In case you cannot read the above:

“PAP MP Janil Puthucheary goes on a crusade against snobbery in CNA’s documentary ‘Regardless of Class’.

“Puthucheary, being a medical doctor, should know (perhaps better than anyone else) that you don’t try to treat the symptoms without addressing the root cause.

“I do not disagree that there are hard questions to be asked and difficult choices to be made in addressing inequality. But the first step to addressing the problem of inequality would be to establish a poverty line – something which the PAP government has been averse to identifying.

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“Without knowing what is the minimum level of income deemed adequate to live in Singapore (which a poverty line determines), how can you address inequality?

“The PAP Government has however dismissed the idea of an official poverty line saying that it is unhelpful in identifying poverty.

“Inequality in Singapore is worrisome because unlike the time when I was in school, the students now seem to be cocooned with others from their own social standing. Top schools, like Raffles Institution, are becoming segregated, catering to academically bright students from well-off families.

“When these academically bright students become policy-makers one day, how will they understand the plight and challenges of ordinary citizens who may not be as privileged as them?

“I know some of the participants in CNA’s documentary. Their challenges are much more severe than having to deal with snobbish attitudes of others. Some only have one meal a day – that which they have in school, provided by the The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund.

“Despite the challenges the poor face in Singapore, the poor here sometimes vote against their own interests. Why?…Because they are beholden…Because of fear!

“”My vote is for the PAP. I got $200 in financial assistance from the MP”…”I am afraid I will lose my rental flat if I vote against the PAP”… These are some of the reasons some voters gave me in why they would vote for the PAP in the last election.

“And the PAP keeps them beholden and in fear for political reasons – because the poor are a voter bloc to keep them in power.

“So you see, the problem of addressing inequality is multi-pronged. And it probably has to start with the poor realising the political strength that they have in making change (through their vote) and in being courageous enough to make a stand for themselves.”

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