Mr Yee Jeng Jong
Non-Constituency Member of Parliament
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development whether the Government plans to introduce an official poverty line adapted from international practice to identify at-risk households and to measure the performance of governmental and non-governmental efforts in helping them leave the poverty cycle.
Different countries tailor their methods to identify and assist their needy according to their circumstance. Even amongst developed countries, New Zealand and Canada do not subscribe to official poverty lines. In Singapore, we use broad definitions for the groups we seek to help, have clear criteria to identify and assess those in need, and tailored schemes to assist them.
A poverty line does not fully reflect the severity and complexity of the issues faced by poor families, which could include ill health, lack of housing or weak family relationships. If we use a single poverty line to assess the family, we also risk a ‘cliff effect’, where those below the poverty line receive all forms of assistance, while other genuinely needy citizens outside the poverty line are excluded.
Our assessment process is rigorous but also flexible to cater to the genuinely needy. Singaporeans who do not meet scheme criteria but who still deserve help, can receive assistance.