Sunday, November 18, 2012

Helping the needy takes tailored action from us all

I refer to the report "Values, not just GDP, also 'a measure of success'" (Nov 10). I agree with the Prime Minister that the Government cannot and should not take complete responsibility for aiding the less fortunate.

While the faith in our Government has been justified over the decades, it is worrying when society believes that the Government's efficacy would carry over for all problems.

This is manifested in our public discourse on social challenges, such as integrating new citizens and helping the less well-off.

The discussions dwell largely on what the Government can do rather than what we can do. This is counterproductive.

Many of these challenges are complicated and increasingly more resistant to a one-size-fits-all approach.

I serve residents of the one-room flats in Redhill Close and other estates on an ad-hoc basis. The diversity I see baffles me: Even neighbours living side by side could be facing entirely different challenges.

There are varied reasons why residents may be stuck in poverty, from indulgence in vices to the financial burden from medical treatment.

It would be folly if the Government thought it could cater effectively to these diverse needs, even with a policy mix.

We need customised action to ensure better outcomes, and citizens who are better placed to understand the unique situations of such residents, appreciate the nuances and design appropriate solutions.

The Government, through the People's Association and grassroots organisations, could create a framework to facilitate this process. But most of the progress would happen only through citizens' involvement.

As attention shifts from the hardware to the software, from the system to the people, let us realise our important role in creating a better Singapore.

* This article was published by Today on 17th November 2012.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Eradicating Urban Poverty

It has been about 2 years since, I delivered my first TEDx speech; the speech was centred on how we should go about eradicating urban poverty. I still consider it one of my highlights in my life.

The core argument I presented in the speech was that poverty- especially urban poverty- is an extremely complex problem and the most effective solutions are those which are customized to suit the individual. Hence it follows that it is ordinary people like you and I who have an extraordinarily important role to play. Outsourcing our responsibility is not an option.

The co-curators of the event, told me to inspire the audience to action. As I look back at the speech now, the memories of the people I met there and the sights and sounds of Redhill close all gush through the mind, reaffirming my conviction that there has to be more humanity among us if there is to be less poverty and suffering in the lower segments of society.

I want to see a Singapore where everyone has a fair shot at life. A Singapore where every citizen can lead a contented life. One of the best ways to improve the lives of the poor would be to create an online platform which pairs up those who can help and those who need help. It would be something similar to, expect that is not money which is being transferred but rather services.

Supposing a Primary 3 student living in the one room flat in Redhill close, needs some extra reading assistance, then a volunteer could highlight this need. Then, another person who feels suitably qualified could step in to help the student out.

Two years on, I still hold firmly to the belief that customized action is the way to go to reduce urban poverty and that we need platforms to facilitate that. My dream to plug in the gap to make Singapore better a place of all still remains alive.

Hope to hear your thoughts on this.