Monday, 10 February 2014

Support for the Needy and Elderly

Striking a fair deal for the elderly

Thus far, the Pioneer Generation Package easily ranks as the most universally welcomed policy announcement since the 2011 General Election. Who, after all, would begrudge older S'poreans this expression of gratitude after the sacrifices they endured in those early years of independence.

Even those not used to praising the government for generosity were probably pleasantly surprised to find out that the package would cover citizens as young as 65.

The move acknowledges that even if the idea of S'pore had been imagined by a few, it was built by many. And while the majority saw their standards of living rise, they would never enjoy the full suite of opportunities that came to later generations. For example, among baby boomers born in the immediate post-war years, around 60% never got a secondary education. Many who were academically able had to sacrifice school to help their families.


Singapore to spend heavily on elderly, have 1st budget deficit in years

Singapore plans to allocate billions of dollars to support the elderly and low-income families in the coming fiscal year, during which the city-state expects its first budget deficit since 2010.

The government unveiled on Friday a budget for 2014/15 that includes steps to support citizens born by 1949 via subsidies to help cover health-care costs. It said it will set aside S$8 billion ($6.33 billion) in the year starting April 1 to help its "Pioneer Generation".

Singapore's electorate has become increasingly angry over the high cost of living and a gap between rich and poor, forcing the long-ruling People's Action Party (PAP) to re-set its goals and focus on providing more affordable healthcare and extra support measures to the less well-off.


S$8b fund to pay for pioneer generation package: Tharman

Of the $8 billion in the Fund, we expect that about half will be drawn down in the first 10 years, due to the age profile of the Pioneer Generation & the higher benefits for older members.


With this Fund, we assure the Pioneer Generation that Singapore will honour our commitment to them, regardless of future economic circumstances.


The Fund also ensures that Budgets in subsequent years can focus on the needs and challenges of the future, for all S'poreans. Our spending needs will grow significantly in the next 10 to 15 years.

Budget 2014: Bumper health-care support package for Pioneer Generation
Guests at the Pioneer Generation Tribute event at the Istana on Feb 9, 2014, take pictures with people dressed as pioneers from early Singapore. The much-anticipated package for Singapore's pioneer generation will give this group assistance with their healthcare needs for the rest of their lives. - ST FILE FOTO: DESMOND FOO

First, all pioneer Singaporeans will receive annual Medisave top-ups of $200 to $800 depending on their age group.

Pioneers will also get a further 50% off their bills at specialist outpatient clinics & polyclinics. Their total subsidies at specialist outpatient clinics will now amount to 75% to 85% of their bills.

In additional, all pioneers will also now qualify for the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS), which subsidises private GP and dentist visits. Previously, only the lower-income could qualify for CHAS.

related:


Elderly S'poreans hope Pioneer Generation Package can help defray medical expenses

Details of the Pioneer Generation Package will be announced in the Budget statement on Friday, and some elderly Singaporeans are hopeful the package can help to defray their medical expenses.

Madam Noor Jahan Md Hussain turns 65 this year.

She would qualify for the Pioneer Generation Package.

related:



450,000 seniors eligible for Pioneer Generation Package: PM Lee
Singapore's pioneer generation was honoured at the Istana today, where PM Lee Hsien Loong announced that 450,000 older Singaporeans will be eligible for the Pioneer Generation Package

About 450,000 older S'poreans will be eligible for the Pioneer Generation Package, PM Lee Hsien Loong said at the Pioneer Generation tribute at the Istana this morning (Feb 9).

Citizens born in 1949 & earlier and who received their citizenship by Dec 31, 1986 will qualify, and they will be informed in due course.

These include S'poreans who were living and working here after Independence. Those 65 or older by the end of this year were about 16 years or older at Independence. In the 1960s, people often started working in their late teens, Mr Lee said.


Budget 2014: Govt sets up S$8b Pioneer Generation Fund for seniors

There are 3 components to the package - outpatient care, Medisave top-ups & life-long subsidies for MediShield Life.
Under outpatient care - those with common illnesses or chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension will get 50% off the nett bill at all specialist outpatient clinics or polyclinics - on top of subsidies. Mr Tharman said: "What this amounts to is that all pioneer generation members will get a 75% to 85% subsidy for treatment at specialist outpatient clinics. “Similarly the pioneer generation will receive an additional 50% off their subsidised bills at polyclinics.” All eligible will also be put on the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS). The scheme provides subsidies for medical and dental care at participating general practitioners (GPs) and dental clinics.
On Medisave top-ups - those eligible will receive annual payouts of between S$200 and S$800. Older cohorts will get more. These top-ups will be paid out from August this year.
As for MediShield Life premiums, Mr Tharman said there will be special subsidies to ensure premiums are affordable for the pioneer generation. Subsidies will increase with age - from 40% at age 65 to 60 per cent at age 90. Mr Tharman said this means that a 65-year-old today, who is expected to live till 85, will get a 50% subsidy over his lifetime. The target is to fully cover the MediShield Life premium of those aged 80 and above - after premium subsidies and Medisave top-ups are factored in. This will apply also to those who are currently not covered under MediShield.

'Silver stars' bring Chinese New Year joy for seniors

Madam Ong Siew Choo and her flatmate Lim Boon Keng, with their new TV set, hotpot, microwave oven and standing fan.

For the past few months, 78-yr-old Ong Siew Choo and her flatmate Lim Boon Keng, 69, have had to put up with a faulty television set that would turn off without warning.


On Wednesday, the pair of friends, who live in a Tampines rental flat, received a brand-new TV set as a present for Chinese New Year, along with a hotpot, microwave oven & standing fan worth $400 altogether.


The money for the gifts came from a fund-raising project, which involved about 40,000 volunteers. They folded origami stars under the "Wish Upon a Silver Star" project, organised by the North East Community Development Council and the NTUC FairPrice Foundation. Every 10 origami stars received a $1 sponsorship from the 2 organisers.


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PAP Women's Wing calls for change in four areas to help seniors



The People's Action Party's Women's Wing is calling for change to housing, healthcare & employment policies so as to strengthen support to seniors.


It released a position paper on Saturday which set out its recommendations calling for, among others, mandatory eldercare leave, housing subsidies for single caregivers of the elderly, & help for older entrepreneurs.


Ageing issues are particularly important to the Women's Wing as women are expected to form the majority of Singapore's elderly, said Associate Professor Fatimah Lateef at their annual conference.


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NTUC wants CPF contribution rates for above-50-55 age group to be hiked


Ahead of the Budget statement next Friday, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has called on the Government to raise the Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution rates for workers aged from above 50 to 55 by one to 2 percentage points this year, to help them save more for retirement & healthcare.

While CPF rates were raised in 2012, there remains a 3.5 percentage-point difference between the rate for this cohort and those aged 50 and below. The total CPF contribution rate for those above 50 to 55 now stands at 32.5%.

The NTUC also proposed yesterday that, over the longer term, total contributions to the CPF should also be increased across the board.


CPF rates for older workers 'may go up'

Older S'porean workers face the pleasant prospect of seeing a rise in their Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions

The labour movement yesterday called on the Government to raise the CPF rates of those aged above 50 to 55 so that they are on a par with younger workers.


But it need not be done "in one go", said labour chief Lim Swee Say, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office.


Union leaders, he said, are not pushing for the 3.5% gap to be closed "in one go, because we do understand it should be done progressively", he told reporters after an official visit to restaurant chain Eighteen Chefs.


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Expand support for the needy and elderly

It is commendable that the authorities have taken a keen interest in helping needy people in Punggol East, through a community voucher programme that will help more than 400 households ("More shops accept vouchers from needy"; Dec 30).


Another report ("5 more estates get grant for features to help the elderly"; Dec 28) said 5 more estates have been awarded the $50,000 City for All Ages grant to enhance their elder-friendly features. Kembangan-Chai Chee now plans to work with the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) to help the elderly keep depression at bay.


Needy S'poreans and elderly folk with mental issues are not confined to just a few districts in S'pore. It is imperative that the Government reach out to everyone who needs help.


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New bursary targeting lower-income elderly in South West District
Dr Amy Khor (left), mayor of South West District, touring booths at the launch of the new South West Active Ageing Bursary at the Gek Poh Ville Community Club at Jurong West. With this bursary, elderly beneficiaries can get a $200 grant to offset the cost of courses offered by grassroots organisations. These include cooking classes, zumba sessions and lessons on Chinese string instrument guzheng. -- ST PHOTO: AUDREY TAN
A new bursary targeting the elderly from lower income groups in the South West District was launched on Wednesday

Called the South West Active Ageing Bursary, the $600,000 bursary will be disbursed to some 3,000 elderly residents from the district over the next 3 years.


Elderly people living within the Chua Chu Kang, Jurong & West Coast GRCs, as well as the single seat constituencies of Hong Kah North, Pioneer & Yuhua are eligible for the bursary.


The bursary, which was launched by Mayor of South West District Amy Khor, is aimed at encouraging the elderly to embrace lifelong learning and lead a healthy lifestyle, & promoting greater social interaction among them.


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PAP lobby group wants more government help for seniors' healthcare needs


The PAP Seniors group wants the Government to increase public spending in 6 areas to ensure healthcare stays affordable for older S'poreans, especially members of the pioneer generation.


The new lobby group for ageing issues set out its 6 proposals in a paper released on Thursday.


They are for the Government to :

1) Pay a significant part of premiums for Medishield Life, a revamped national health insurance scheme that will cover everyone for life.
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5 more estates get grant for features to help the elderly


Madam Helen Lee has a new bedside light switch in her Bukit Merah View flat. She said she usually wakes up at least once a night and used to be afraid of falling or hitting against objects while moving in the dark

5 more estates have been awarded the $50,000 City for All Ages grant to enhance their elderly-friendly features.


There had been 8 applications for the remaining three grants this year, Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Health told The Straits Times earlier this week.


But due to the quality of the proposals, the Ministry of Health (MOH) decided to award 2 more grants than budgeted for, she revealed.


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A TRIBUTE TO OUR PIONEERS! PIONEER GENERATION PACKAGE TO RECOGNISE THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF OUR PIONEERS


About 450,000 seniors will benefit from extra subsidies for MediShield Life and outpatient treatment, as well as annual Medisave top-ups under the Pioneer Generation Package.

As one of the first S'pore 50 (SG50) events, the Pioneer Generation Tribute was held this morning at the Istana. Attended by over 1,000 members of our Pioneer Generation, the event was held to say ‘Thank You’ to our Pioneer Generation for their contributions in nation-building. These representatives of our Pioneer Generation included those who have served during the early years of Singapore’s nationhood in the uniformed services, unions and the community, former political leaders, and ordinary S'poreans who contributed in many other ways and raised the next generation of S'poreans.

PM Lee Hsien Loong announced at the event that the Pioneer Generation will receive a Pioneer Generation Package that will be focused on healthcare. Wide consultations have shown that healthcare is at the top of the minds of older S'poreans. The Package will provide benefits that cover different types of healthcare needs. All members of the Pioneer Generation will enjoy the Pioneer Generation Package for life.


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Bursary to help seniors stay active


Performers from the Hong Kah North song & dance interest group rehearsing before Wednesday's launch of the bursary for elderly residents from the lower-income group in the South West District

Elderly residents from the lower- income group in the South West District who wish to dance to the pulsating rhythms of zumba music or improve their computer literacy now have another incentive to lead an active lifestyle.


Under a new $600,000 bursary launched on Wednesday, they will be able to take part in various grassroots-organised courses such as qigong & computer classes at little or no cost.


Vouchers will be disbursed to the residents through the yearly bursary, & are redeemable for elderly-friendly courses at grassroots organisations like community clubs.


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Many welcome move to make healthcare more affordable for elderly

7 in 10 Singaporeans supported the Budget initiatives announced, with the same number agreeing that the new Pioneer Generation Package will ensure affordable healthcare for Singaporeans aged 65 and above. TODAY file Foto

Many have welcomed the ideas to make healthcare more affordable for the elderly, as recommended by the PAP Seniors Group on Thursday.

But some also flagged concerns about the impact of the proposals.

The PAP Seniors Group made several recommendations. Among them, a tiered Medisave withdrawal scheme where older Singaporeans can withdraw more for outpatient needs, & increasing subsidies for home-care costs.
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PAP Seniors Group urges more healthcare support for pioneer generation

The PAP Seniors Group has put forth 6 suggestions to the government to consider for the Pioneer Generation Package and the formulation of MediShield Life.

One of the suggestions is a tiered Medisave withdrawal scheme, which allows older Singaporeans to withdraw more compared to younger Singaporeans, for outpatient needs.

Healthcare affordability was a big concern at the group’s inaugural dialogue session on January 28.

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PAP Seniors Group formed to champion elderly causes

The People's Action Party (PAP) has set up a group dedicated to address ageing issues in Singapore.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is also PAP Secretary-General, made the announcement at the party's convention on Sunday morning.

It will be called the PAP Seniors Group.

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Elder care leave, higher subsidies among PAP Women’s Wing recommendations to help seniors
Elder care leave, higher subsidies among PAP Women’s Wing recommendations to help seniors

Elder care leave and respite care for caregivers, a higher subsidy for health screenings, & free assistive equipment for needy seniors - these are some of the health-care recommendations the PAP Women’s Wing is making to the government in its position paper on seniors in Singapore.


The 15-page paper includes a slew of other recommendations on employment & housing.


They include more affordable public housing flats for seniors in their retirement, & a special home care subsidy for singles who are caregivers to their aged parents.


read more


Campaign to encourage better care for elderly, people with special needs

Not many are aware that an elderly or disabled person can live an independent life, given the right help.

This is the reason behind "LivEnabled", a two—month campaign launched nationwide to foster greater awareness of the different care options and assistance schemes available through the Centre of Enabled Living (CEL).


Some 1,400 children are diagnosed annually as having require special needs, while the wider elderly population stands at some 350,000 people.


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Elderly to benefit from integrated Social Service Hub in Chong Pang


Elderly residents in the Chong Pang ward can now make use of a one-stop social service provider — whether they are looking for leisure activities or financial help.

The integrated Social Service Hub, the first of its kind, is collaboration between Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities and the area’s grassroots leaders and community.


1 in 4 residents in Chong Pang is a retiree, compared with the national average of about 1 in 10.


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New programme in Yuhua to improve help for frail elderly


A new programme has been set up at Yuhua constituency in Jurong GRC to improve the help available for elderly residents.

The "Health Ambassadors" programme was launched on Saturday by Senior Minister of State for Education and National Development Grace Fu at the opening of the new St Luke’s ElderCare Centre. Ms Fu is also MP for the area.


The programme matches volunteers to elderly residents who are frail or living alone.


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What so great about the Pioneer Generation Package?

450,000 out of 5m means less than 10% of the population will benefit. To enjoy the full benefits the 450k must be sick all at the same time. The sickest the betterest the benefits. Those who are healthy and enjoying are penalized with a 25% hike.

So PAP is clear... only help those who help themselves to be sick.

Why can't they provide more direct help? Just to name a few, give scholarships to locals instead aliens, stop the fucking hike on all essentials, stop providing medical subsidies to aliens and increase it for locals, return our CPF @ 55 or reduce the GST. I'm sure readers here have more ideas on which areas the government should help.

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Call for more help for low-wage workers, low-income families

More can be done to help low-wage workers and other vulnerable groups, such as children from low-income families.

That was the call by some contributors to government feedback agency REACH, which received 1,300 suggestions for this year's Budget.

Whether it's housing, transport or healthcare, experts said the cost of living is one of the biggest concerns facing low-income families in S'pore today.

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800,000 HDB households to receive rebates of up to S$260

Around 800,000 Housing & Development Board (HDB) households will this year receive a one-off rebate, the Goods & Services Tax (GST) Voucher — Utilities-Save (U-Save) Special Payment, to help free up cash for their other expenses, said DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday.

The U-Save Special Payment will cost the Government about S$110 million and is given on top of the GST Voucher — U-Save Regular Payment. Those living in smaller flats will receive rebates of up to S$260.

The extra GST vouchers paid out would mean those eligible will get up to double the amount they usually receive. For example, those living in one- or 2-room flats will receive a U-Save Special Payment of S$260 on top of the S$260 U-Save Regular Payment they are entitled to. Those living in larger flats will get a proportion of the U-Save Special Payment on top of a fraction of the U-Save Regular Payment.


Up to 170,000 households to get financial support for digital TV upgrade: Yaacob

Up to 170,000 households could receive some form of financial aid to mitigate the cost of migrating to digital television, with the low-income group to get help with almost the full cost, said Communications & Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim yesterday.

Digital TV transmission is expected to be rolled out to all Singapore households by 2020. Those who subscribe to pay-TV already enjoy digital TV at home, regardless of where they live. For others, they will require an Integrated Digital TV (IDTV) — a TV with a built-in digital tuner — or a set-top box, which retails at about S$129, to tune in to the digital channels when they become available.

“Certainly, we want low-income households to migrate without having them spend a lot of money, so we hope we can help them by giving them assistance through the set-top box, the antenna and a bit of funding for installation,” said Dr Yaacob during a visit to the Bukit Batok Transmission Centre. Details of the scheme are expected to be announced at the Committee of Supply debate next month.

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387,187 IN POVERTY?

I refer to the article “Median household income rose to $7,870 last year, inequality down” (Straits Times, Feb 18).

Real median household income rose 1.6% - It states that “Median household income rose to $7,870 last year, 4 per cent up from 2012, according to a Department of Statistics releaseon Tuesday. After accounting for inflation, the rise was 1.6 per cent from 2012.” According to the Key Household Income Trends 2013 report released today – the Median Household Income from Work Per Household Member only increased in real terms by 1.9% per annum, from 2008 to 2013, lower than the 3.2% per annum from 2003 to 2008.

Income per household member of the 3 lowest deciles? - Average Monthly Household Income from Work Per Household Member Among Resident Employed Households by Deciles – 1st to 10th, 11th to 20th and 21st to 30th deciles were only $463, $896 and $1,268, respectively last year.


Singapore's hidden poverty problem


Singapore may be one of the wealthiest and most developed countries in the world, but poverty remains a worrying problem.

Despite holding the world's highest concentration of millionaires, the city-state also boasts the second-biggest inequality gap among Asia's advanced economies.

So how do you live in a city that's becoming increasingly expensive? The BBC's Sharanjit Leyl reports.


Out In The Cold: A documentary bringing light to the homeless
Many here below the age of 40, do not understand the concept of poverty. On the front, its streets are the picture of wealth and affluence. But in the dark corners, hundreds call these streets home.

A group of ex-temasek polytechnic (TP) students did a film about the less known, less talked about, sometimes seen, and always leaving people wondering: The Homeless People.

Titled “Out In The Cold”, it is a documentary bringing light to people and circumstances that sometimes can’t be help.

The ex-students from TP who had to do a final year project for their Diploma in Moving Images formed the team of four for the documentary. They are Tan Yi Wilfred, the director, Nur Shahirah A. Latif, the producer, Sing Valerie, the director of photography and Anisa Bte Abdul Latiff, the editor.


Homeless with a handcart against Singapore’s Grand Prix


At about the same time that Sebastian Vettel roared across the finish line at the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday, Madam L was also crossing the daily finishing line in her own race to collect enough cardboard to survive.  She is the one in the lower picture. You can recognise her by the absence of champagne.

While the details of the deal between Formula One and the PAP government are not disclosed, the one thing we can be certain of is that the Grand Prix is only possible because it is heavily subsidized with taxpayer funds and GLC monopoly profits.  Madam L, who by contrast is a model of self-reliance, only collected $8 yesterday from her six to seven hours of hard work.

However we still had a  win of sorts on Monday .  After our calls to various offices last week  two representatives from the Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centre (FSC) came down to  our office on Monday afternoon to interview Madam L.  (They were accompanied by a young woman from the Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities)  As I only started working on Madam L’s case on Thursday I am pleased by what has been achieved  in 5 days. Especially when you consider that Madam L has been  living on the streets for over a year now. We should pause for a moment to appreciate our overstretched social workers. Their job is frustrating, often thankless and always poorly paid. They  do a commendable job despite the meanness and contradictory ideology of our PAP government.



How do Singapore's poor families get by?

Nurhaida, 29, who is unemployed with six children in Singapore, says it is difficult to make ends meet

Nurhaida Binte Jantan is making dinner. She is roasting otah-otah, a Malay dish of fish paste wrapped in banana leaves, over a portable stove.
She is a 29-year-old unemployed single mother with six children from five to 13 years old. She lives in a tiny flat, just 30 square metres, with little furnishing.
There is no dining table, so the children eat their otah-otah with rice and chillies crouched on the floor.

related:

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UNDERSTANDING POVERTY IN SINGAPORE: A REALITY CHECK

A lot has been said about helping the poor in Singapore, and while it’s heartening to see the leadership coming out to encourage people to help the less fortunate, I’m actually skeptical that such appeals to the general public would hold any clout and actually make life better for the poor.

For one, Singaporeans are not known for their spirit of volunteerism. I’m not saying we’re a nation of heartless and inhumane citizens, but let’s do a reality check: how many people actually come forward to volunteer their time and effort on a sustained basis for the benefit of the destitute in Singapore? Most people would probably think it’s a lot easier to simply donate money, and then get on with their lives.

That is if they bother with donations in the first place. I always believed that in addressing poverty issues, one has to take a very realistic approach, instead of the conventional way that seeks to tug at heartstrings– at the end of the day, what the destitute and underprivileged need are not your emphaties (or is it really sympathies?), but rather real solutions that provide for a roof over their heads and putting food on the table.


Poverty in Singapore

There are various categories of being poor in Singapore. (No official line yet, but some are calling for an official poverty line to be defined [t1])

Some could be the old and frail – these are the elderly living on their own, either with no children or children who have abandoned them. They have no means to work and more so if they are sick, they may not be mobile and hence are dependent on others.

We could also have parents not earning enough to make ends meet – partly because they have quite a number of children, in addition to elderly parents so they are the sandwiched generation.


Singapore’s Old Recycled

From seeing elderly’s clean tables at food courts to collecting recyclables to make a living, it is indeed a sight that many aren’t comfortable with.


Many of these elderly’s earn very little, but do it anyway- some, because they want to fill time, others, to earn some extra cash.


A team of five individuals decided to look into the issue of a certain number of senior citizens being left behind while Singapore progresses forward.


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Singapore: Best Place to Live and Work
Plight Of The Tissue Peddlers
Have you ever Spoken to a Cardboard Uncle or Aunty?
Singapore’s Story: What comes next
Singapore at 50: From swamp to skyscrapers
Singapore Good Old Times
The Poor & Homeless in Singapore
Support for the Needy and Elderly
The Singapore Story
Other Side of The Singapore Story

ChasingThe Singapore Dream
To Be Or Not To Be Singaporeans
Longing for the good old days
Singapore: A Sampan or a Cruise ship?
Singapore at 50: From swamp to skyscrapers
Singapore is ‘World’s Costliest City To Live In’
Coping with Inflation & Cost Of Living
COL goes Up, Up, Up!
Singapore “Swiss” Standard of Living
Tackling poverty the 'kuih lapis' way
Callings for a Poverty Line
Setting a poverty line may not be helpful
A minimum wage for Singapore?

No homeless,destitute starving people in S'pore:Poverty eradicated
Growing Up With Less