Established in 1999



¡¡

Home

Public Others Government Business Arts Community
Entertainment Lifestyle Services People Travel Internet Stuff

 

¡¡

     Previous FrontPage Edition 28 Jun 2005

  Back to FrontPage of Article

 

ComCare Fund for needy Singaporeans launched

Prime Minister Lee's Speech

¡¡

SPEECH BY MR LEE HSIEN LOONG,PRIME MINISTER AND MINISTER FOR FINANCE, AT THE LAUNCH OF COMCARE, 28 JUNE 2005, 3.30 PM AT THE NTUC AUDITORIUM

Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon, Chairman of the ComCare Supervisory Committee,

 

Distinguished guests,

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

 

Introduction

 

1.                  I am happy to be here this afternoon to launch the ComCare Fund.  ComCare is an expression of our concern for the weakest members of our community.  We will support these Singaporeans as our economy and society changes.

 

2.                  Since independence, as the Singapore economy took off and developed year by year, life improved for all Singaporeans.  The fruits of growth were spread widely.  Incomes rose across the board. But since the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997, income gaps have widened.  Globalisation has caused incomes to stagnate at the lower end, while incomes continue to rise at the higher end, albeit less quickly than before.  This is a worldwide trend, and the latest Household Expenditure Survey (HES) shows that Singapore is not immune to it.

 

3.                  The Govern­ment continues to help every Singa­porean benefit from the country¡¯s progress. Our public housing programme has made us a home owning society. Our education system gives every student, regardless of family background, the opportunity to do well and rise to the top. Our healthcare system delivers good, affordable medical care to all, rich or poor. These crucial policies and systems greatly mitigate the impact of globalisation on Singa­poreans, even though they cannot nullify the powerful economic forces which hold down the wages of unskilled workers everywhere. 

 

4.                  As a result, low income Singa­poreans are much better off than low income groups in any other country in Asia.  We do not have destitute persons sleeping on the streets.  Our unemployment rate remains one of the lowest among developed economies.  The health status of our population is among the best in the world.  A young Singaporean has a better chance of getting a tertiary education in Singapore than in many first world countries.[1]

 

5.                  I studied the HES closely, because our aim is to take care of every Singa­porean, and not just those at the top. I focussed particularly on the lowest income group ¨C those in the bottom 20% in terms of per-capita household income. Their incomes have hardly risen over the last five years. But I was relieved to find that in terms of home ownership and of their possessions, many in this group are not that badly off.  Four out of five of these households own their homes.  More than half (51%) actually stay in 4-room or larger HDB flats.  A large proportion of these households also own consumer durables.  Despite their low incomes, 61% have audio/video compact disc players, 42% have air-conditioners, and 63% own handphones.  All these figures have gone up substantially in five years between 1998 and 2003. This is a remarkable and encouraging picture.

¡¡

¡¡

A Government that Cares

 

6.                  We must do all we can to help lower income Singaporeans and their dependents break out of the poverty trap.  We must prevent an underclass from forming and growing, as that would undermine and fracture our social cohesion. This is a multi-faceted problem with no quick and easy solutions.  It will require a comprehensive effort ¨C by the government, the employers, VWOs and most importantly, the people themselves.  They must take responsibility for their own situations, and do their part to improve their own lives.  But these Singaporeans will often need assistance to prevent them from being overwhelmed by their immediate problems.  We must also open up more opportunities for them through redesigning and re-creating unskilled jobs, which are more productive and can pay better.  We need to upgrade the skills of the present workers, and to educate the next generation so that they will not face the same problem when they grow up.  

 

7.                  On the government¡¯s part, the effort involves multiple ministries, working together to solve a national problem.  I have therefore set up a Ministerial Committee on Low Wage Workers, chaired by Dr Ng Eng Hen, to study the problem in all its aspects, and recommend policies and measures the Govern­ment can take.

 

8.                  ComCare¡¯s goals are more narrowly focussed.  With economic restructuring, a small but growing minority of Singa­poreans will face hardship.  The breadwinner may lose his job, a family member may fall ill, or the children may have problems meeting school expenses.  ComCare will provide a safety net for this small group.  By targeting our resources, we can make a real difference to their lives, without inadvertently discouraging other able-bodied Singaporeans from making the effort to work and provide for themselves. 

 

9.                  ComCare complements the other elements of our social safety net.  We already have CPF for old age, Edusave for our children, Medifund for basic medical care, and the Lifelong Learning Fund for skills upgrading and training.  Now with ComCare, we can do more to reach out to needy Singaporeans, in focussed and effective ways.

 

10.             With ComCare, no needy family who is prepared to work hard towards self-reliance will be left hungry. No child will be deprived from going to school because of poverty.  No poor elderly or disabled person will be left alone without community care and support.

¡¡

¡¡

Guiding Principles

 

Self-Reliance as the Goal

 

11.             ComCare aims to help the needy help themselves, and work towards being able to support themselves and their families again.  This is important because it invests the individual with confidence and dignity.  It also ensures that the assistance rendered is sustainable in the long run.

 

12.             We must avoid a welfare mentality in Singapore.  It is important therefore that we stress mutual responsibility on the part of the Govern­ment and the individual needing help.  ComCare will be a springboard that will help needy Singaporeans to bounce back from their difficulties. 

 

Greater Community Involvement

 

13.             ComCare will work actively with the community to achieve its goal. Many Singa­poreans care deeply about their fellow citizens, and are prepared to come forward, and spend the time and effort to help those who are less fortunate.  ComCare will build on and reinforce this strong capacity of the community and people sector to care for and help the needy amongst us.     

 

14.             In particular, ComCare will get the CDCs, and the grassroots and community organisations more involved in delivering assistance programmes for needy Singaporeans.  This will be more flexible than a central government bureaucracy, and better able to exercise discretion and judgment.  Being closer to the ground, our grassroots leaders know their residents best, and are best placed to identify those that need help, and the kind of help required.  As one grassroots leader put it, ¡°we know because of our solid neighbourhood network and we move around a lot.¡±

¡¡

¡¡

ComCare Programmes

 

15.             Based on these broad principles, the ComCare Supervisory Committee has been working with the grassroots and community organisations to initiate several new programmes and to enhance existing ones.  Let me highlight four examples. 

 

16.             First, ComCare will establish a ComCare Enterprise Fund (CEF) with a Fund size of $3 million a year.  The CEF will provide seed funding to start viable social enterprises which will provide jobs and a means of support for the lower income.

 

17.             The Ministry of Community Development Youth and Sports (MCYS) has been helping to establish such social enterprises on a smaller scale. Several enterprises have already started operations, with services ranging from gift-wrapping to selling home-made items such as candles and soap products.  The CEF will enable MCYS to expand this programme, and support more such initiatives.

 

18.             Second, ComCare will increase the assistance per child under the Kindergarten Financial Assistance Scheme (or KiFAS).  KiFAS was set up in 2004 to help low income parents pay for their children¡¯s kindergarten fees.  This year, KiFAS has provided financial support for 9,000 children in low income families.  This constitutes 80% of the children aged 5 to 6 years from low income families.  We will now enhance KiFAS, so that more of these children are able to attend kindergarten.  Education is the key to breaking out of the poverty cycle, and these children must build strong foundations for their future.

 

19.             With this additional support from ComCare, a needy family will typically only pay $20 each month to send a child to kindergarten.  The grassroots and voluntary welfare organisations will reach out to needy families to ensure that no child misses out on this opportunity.   

 

20.             Third, ComCare will set aside $10 million each year to develop new programmes run by community organisations. Some of the programmes being piloted include a Meals-at-Home service for the home-bound elderly, a home-based therapy scheme for the disabled, and an initiative by the Tampines-Changkat Citizens Consultative Committee (CCC) called ¡°Silver Connect¡±, which will specifically reach out to the elderly who may be lonely and draw them out into the community.  

 

21.             Fourth, ComCare will help to set up CCC ComCare Funds, which will be run by the CCCs.  ComCare will allocate $4 million this year to establish these Funds, which will enable the CCCs to help needy residents quickly and flexibly through local schemes.  I believe that the CCCs will exercise their discretion wisely, and focus their resources on the residents in most urgent need. 

¡¡

¡¡

Conclusion

 

22.             The Government is committed to do more to assist the needy.  Through ComCare, we will provide the vulnerable members of our society with the means to support themselves and their families.  To succeed in this endeavour, all Singaporeans have to do their part.  Through our collective efforts we can build a more compassionate society, where everyone has a place and a purpose, and where every Singaporean can share in the benefits of globalisation and the promise of our nation. 

¡¡

 


¡¡

[1]           2004 World Competitiveness Yearbook.  Singapore was ranked fourth in the world for the percentage of persons, aged 24-35, who had attained at least a tertiary education.

¡¡

Source: www.mcys.gov.sg Press Release 28 Jun 2005

¡¡

¡¡

ABOUT THIS WEB SITE | ADVERTISING WITH US | LISTING WITH US

ePartners  | Press  |  eMail Us | Permissions | Content Contributors

Contact Getforme at help@getforme.com

Powered by

Copyright© 1999 - 2005  All rights reserved