The poor are always with us…

says the Bible. At least in the Gospel according to St Mark. In that version, this was the reported advice given by Jesus to Martha when she complained that her sister Mary Magdalene was wasting money that could have been better spent on the poor, instead of anointing Jesus with expensive oil…..

The truth of the statement ascribed to Jesus is evident, even in Singapore which has gone from 3rd world to the 1st in about 1.5 generations.

This is reflected by the ongoing debate on how best the disadvantaged (PC euphemism for “poor”) in our country could be helped and could be savoured through the links to recent bloggers’ posts I’ve collated below on the topic.

One of my biggest disappointments with Singapore is that the poverty I witnessed in my childhood, youth and as a working adult is still very much with us today when I am already on the cusp of old age.

More incredulously, The Straits Times reported in recent days that the poor in SG are perceived to be invisible, with many young, educated and presumably working adults claiming not to have witnessed grinding poverty.

Oh sure, I’ve seen grinding poverty in old developed countries, more specifically in London, Washington, New York and San Francisco. As well as in Hongkong, Shanghai, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Penang. And one could hardly move more than a few feet in Laojie in Shenzhen without coming across most horrifyingly disfigured men and women begging for pittance in the sizzling heat or the miserable cold.

By comparison, the poor in my country is nothing as visible or clustered in as large numbers as those in Shenzhen.

But if we look harder, we can see for example, the trishaw rider outside the Victoria Theatre now under multi-million $ refurbishment. He has the unhealthy bloated look of someone eating bad food that fills the stomach but doesn’t nourish. He is shabbily dressed. His vehicle looks rickety and has plastic bags filled with inconsequential stuff (his worldly possessions?) on the floor of the trishaw. No wonder I’ve never seen him pick up a customer, every time I went to the Singapore Cricket Club.

So a couple of times, I made to effort to pass him some money (and more than the usual $2 I give the usual tissue sellers I come across all over Singapore, but especially on pedestrian malls, MRT stations and places of worship) not because he’s a beggar but because I think I should give him a treat and break the monotony of his painful long waits for probably non-existent customers.

It is gr8 therefore to discover that the online community can see our poor vividly and to pen articles such as Belmont Lay’s below which have views and practical advice on how to extend our helping hand ; good too to have taglines like “make poverty history” or whatever, but IMHO, giving out $2 to someone who looks in need will hit the spot right away.

I hope — and pray — in the next two months (at least) when we all swing into the “giving” mood, some of my friends and visitors to this site would make sure they have plenty $2 notes in their wallets to share with someone in need whom they come across.

Never seen anyone in need? Then please go to Blk 25 Bendemeer Road (near Boon Keng MRT exit) and you would be rewarded with at least a handful within 30 minutes. Or go to the environs of the Kwan Im Hood Cho Waterloo Street Temple, and you would have a much better harvest, tho most destitutes there try to avoid arrest (for public begging) by flogging tissue papers.

OK, some of these folks may be frauds. But for anyone with swollen face and/or limbs and weeping sores to crouch miserably in all weather, blistering sun or persistent rain, just for that few $ to come his way after several hours of suffering, then he must have some mental deficit at best. After all, his “fraudulent” haul is probably no larger than what he could get from going to see his MP with a good story. So I would rather be defrauded by him than by those who ask for a lot more just because they’ve got the Govt’s nod as a public charity!

In any case, I’d rather be defrauded by 99 fake needy-looking folks than accidentally overlook one genuine case, in dire need of one last grasp of what a meagre two bucks would buy in Singapore nowadays.

Views on Singapore’s poor

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