Tag Archive | poverty

$2 can buy happiness!

I was at the Kwan Im Hood Cho Temple in Waterloo Street on Feb 5, after a sumptuous lunch at the Ritz Carlton, courtesy of the Association of Banks in Singapore which always throws a grand event to mark Chinese New Year.

And I always like to go to the Waterloo Street temple when I am feeling good, après or before events that make me feel good.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, what I witnessed before I entered the temple — and after I left it — made me feel even more at peace with the world.

I saw a handful of uncles, aunties, young men and women, handing out $2 notes to the elderly and sometimes handicapped tissue paper sellers who are always around the temple.

Some took the tissues in exchange. Others just gave outright.

Why did I feel good to witness such gifting?

Because it’s always my view that most of us can spare $2 to someone apparently in need. Better to be cheated by 10 fakes than let a genuine needy case go unassisted. Better to be cheated by fakes of $2 a piece than by one mega-fake about which we keep reading in the Straits Times 😆

I hope my $2 non-campaign campaign would catch on.

Most of us can’t spare anyone a million bucks but there must be at least 450,000 Singaporeans who can spare $2 a day for a needy stranger?

Meanwhile do read (below) what I shared with some friends who were knocking our G for not being able to clear the poverty mass from our view.

Me: We all can rave, rant and rate G lowly for the continuing mass of poor in our midst. But didn’t Jesus himself say the poor will always be with us when Martha rebuked Mary Magdalene for wasting money on precious oil to anoint the Son of God, when the money according to Martha could have been better spent on the poor?

And he is not wrong: the poor will always be with us, because in a pyramid, the base will always be larger than the apex. Also, if you think of it, the Bible also says, to those who have, more will be given.

It’s pure maths. The rich having a critical mass will naturally become richer, even if they do no more than sit on their backsides. The poor even if they work hard may not make a lot of headway — or not the same amount of headway unless they experience a windfall through their own acumen or through pure random luck.

I think the more effective way to help this naturally skewed distribution is for those of us who can spare a little is to arm oneself with plenty of $2 notes n give to the ah mahs n ah peks one comes across in all corners of SG to buy snax n kopi. U wld b surprised how they all accept gratefully, if you treat the “gift” as a treat rather than a hand out!”



Auntie Lucia’s very own manifesto

Ok, since everyone and his Uncle Low in the Opposition have made known their manifesto, I guess I should have a go to0.

If I ever shall offer myself for the general election in Singapore, this is what I promise to do and why I am doing so:

  • I will give every tax-paying citizen a tax holiday for one financial year; for those who have stopped paying tax, I will refund their last paid tax; for those who don’t and have never paid tax, I’ll give them an amount equivalent to the lowest tax paid in the financial year.

The reason is to encourage citizens to pay tax: the more you pay, the more you will be rewarded. The corollary to that is obvious.

  • I will give a one-time amnesty to all death row prisoners, by commuting their death sentences to life imprisonment. And life really means “life” in this instance.

I do this firstly for the law enforcers: the police, the prosecutors, the judge, the president and even the Cabinet. Don’t think they don’t feel bad to have a hand in the process of executing another human being, even if the condemned person is like the cold blooded killer, nicknamed One-Eye Dragon.

I also do it for the condemned. Hell, you think a death sentence is bad? Try what it feels like when you are 27 years old and you could be sitting in the cell for the next 50 to 60 years! So while I’m not against the death sentence in each and every capital offence, I think hanging could be losing it’s deterrent effect whereas when a life sentence means “life” — not 20, 25, 30 years — would-be, implusive or deliberate, criminals may have second thoughts!

  • I will make the State fund free meal kitchens at MRT stations and co-fund those already run by charity and/or religious organisations. These will be open to the destitute or those who simply don’t get enough to eat — because they don’t earn enough, are sick, poor and don’t have (or don’t have enough) savings. Such kitchens will be open to children from dirt poor families. There will be draconian penalties for anyone who abuse these free meal kitchens.

The reason for such a comprehensive network of  free meal kitchens is to ensure that no one in Singapore starves, however much the individuals have done to bring themselves down to such a state of penury as not to be able to afford two decent meals a day. If I have my way, I never want to see another like the old vagrant I’ve written about in this blog here, here and here.

  • I will make it compulsory to roster all secondary school children from four and five room HDB flats and all private properties to help out at the soup kitchens as well as family centres and other congregation points for the disadvantaged. The kids at international or other private schools licensed by the Ministry of Education are also coralled while all children from 3-room HDB flats or worse participate on a voluntary basis. Families who try to escape by registering as 3-room dwellers will face severe penalties if found out.

The reason for this program is to expose children to the reality of poverty in Singapore and also to help them better appreciate what they themselves have. While there is no grinding poverty in Singapore like that in some countries, too many of us — including even some members of my family (!) — have for too long been turning a blind eye to the obvious poor in our midst! And i don’t mean just those collecting scraps of cardboard or raiding trash bins for their next meal.

  • I will have all hospitals that are funded by tax payers’ money keep their medical centres ie specialists clinics with ancillary facilities open 7 days a week. If restaurants, news organisations, shopping malls, the police and even hospital emergency rooms can run all week, why not specialist clinics?

The main reasons are to use extremely expensive facilities more intensely and give patients and their care-givers more choice of slots for consultation. More doctors and supporting staff will be needed to run the 7-day week schedule but the medical profession may baulk at the prospect of being rostered to work the traditional week-end. Still, if other people-heavy professions can run such schedules without breaking down, why not those who seek to cure the sick?

  • Last but not least, the HDB. Mr Low Thia Khiang, the Workers Party boss, says he will disband the People’s Association if his party gets into power. For me, I want to bring the HDB back to its roots: provide housing for the poor. Better still, just concentrate on housing those who can’t afford to buy even HDB and can rent only and even then only at HDB’s highly subsidised rates.

Reason is obvious: the HDB can’t provide housing to Singaporeans, generation after generation, without creating a crutch mentality in the majority of the population. So best draw that line in the sand: if Singaporeans can afford cars, expensive meals, travel, time off etc and yet when it comes to owning a home aren’t able to do it without the HDB, then we haven’t grown up at all where our financial planning is concerned!

But of course i’m not standing for election! So I can afford to take such an uncompromising position when I haven’t a hope in a million in the upcoming or any election for that matter 😆

The old tramp of Bt Timah Rd resurfaces

Since I last wrote about the pitiful old man who tramped the trunk roads of Dunearn and Bukit Timah on Sept 19, he disappeared for several weeks.

I grew a bit fearful that someone had taken him off the streets: Death, a do-gooder or the “beggars” squad from the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports.

Yet, part of me hoped that someone — even Death — did render him permanent assistance. His disappearance allowed me to go about my life in peace, without him hobbling into sight now n then and I would be forced to worry about how it must feel to be old, hungry, thirsty, sick and not knowing where your next meal would come from.

I guess animal lovers must have similar emotions when they run into strays. Still, I think it’s a lot easier to deal with strays. At worst, if I’m at my wit’s end, I could call the SPCA or the NEA and be done with it.

Not so the human poverty stricken.

Call me eccentric but once poverty has a face where I’m concerned, my imagination tends to work overtime. I think that’s what is behind my compulsion to give the down and out the price of a cheap meal whenever I run into them; for my sake, rather than for theirs, mostly.

Back to the old tramp.

As weeks had already passed, I had all but forgotten about him till this afternoon on my return home from lunch and shopping.

Oh no, there he was tramping along Bukit Timah Road, a plastic bag in one hand, as usual.

But thankfully, he was wearing a shirt that seemed new or if a cast off, then still good enough for several weeks of continuous wear.

(Followers of this blog may remember that I last wrote about this tragic case on Sep 19 that “he looked even worse for wear: his tattered shirt looked even worse than in my last post. Any minute, every semblance of what was once a garment is going to disintergrate into shreds, if not dust.”)

Someone had obviously given him the shirt!

Now for my peace of mind, I hope that someone would give him a home too.

Is that too much to ask from a country that seems to be spending million$ left, right and center?

Something satisfying

Followers of this blog would know I have a hang up about seeing old people looking worse for wear and feel, perhaps wrongly (?), that the only gesture I can appropriately make is to pass them a few bucks for a treat.

I’ve done it again this afternoon. After driving my car out of the OG carpark in Bencoolen Street, the traffic light was in my favour and I was able to shoot across the road to where Burlington Square is.

And sitting right on the curb outside the Square was this reed thin old man with a large growth beside his nose, a bit ragged in appearance. Even if he didn’t have his cart of cardboard scrap besides him, I won’t have mistaken him as someone from Forbes’ Singapore rich list.

The usually busy road was practically empty of traffic because the traffic lights were holding off traffic from Jalan Besar and Sungei Road. There was no car behind or in front of me. It felt like a heaven sent chance for me to do what i wanted — which was to stop and give the old man something.

That I did. Passed him enough for him to have a decent meal. He was surprised but he didn’t reject my offer, beaming broadly.

I drove off be4 the traffic lights could change and send a wave of cars upon me. My small gesture was more satisfying than anything else I did today.

Did I do wrong? I think not. Did I encourage the old man to develop a dependent mentality? I think not.

Should our government have looked after people like the old man better?

Frankly I don’t know. Because the safety nets are there but who knows why or how many fall through them.

Rather than berate the Government or put videos of the poverty stricken on the Net, we should show our concern by 1) adopting one or two of these down and outs and helping them through the labyrinth of officialdom to get what’s their due as Singaporeans and 2) buy those we come across a meal; if not every time, then some of the time.

If more of us who still have our wits with us — and some spare cash too — take it on ourselves to lend a direct helping hand to those fallen through the MCYS’ safety nets, then these unfortunate people may have a better chance to survive till longer term official help finally trickles to them.