“Yesterday, he reaffirmed his reputation by calling for funds and talent to be channelled towards helping the most under-privileged children” (Government ‘Should Help Most Needy Kids’, Mr. Zakir Hussain).
The report “Government ‘Should Help Most Needy Kids’” (November 20, 2010) by Mr. Zakir Hussain: it is certainly interesting to hear Mr. Ngiam Tong Dow’s perspectives on what the administration should do to render more help to those in need. Coming from an extensive public service background, Mr. Ngiam is in a prime position to expound on the successes and failures of the Government; and on hindsight, what the potential areas for improvement are. There is a need for public and civil servants – past and present – to be more forthcoming about the challenges that Singapore face, instead of pedantically relishing in the comforts of conservatism and stability.
By walking the public service talk, Mr. Ngiam is right to point out that more funds and assistance should be targeted at under-privileged children and struggling households. Despite respectable efforts from voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) and non-government organisations (NGOs), the Ministry of Community, Youth Development and Sports (MCYS) has the capacity to engage in early intervention. Against a background of gang-related activities and the susceptibility of at-risk youths, addressing the concerns of broken families and low-income households et cetera would go a long way to promote cohesive homes and bonds, and maintain healthy environments for growth.
Because they are often individuals who fall through the cracks in spite of public assistance programmes, more targeted approaches are needed to avail recommendations on a case-by-case basis. The administration has to make more active use of regional bodies such as the Central Development Committees (CDC) to identify these households, and to lend a hand accordingly. We cannot afford to casually brush these challenges as being “minor”, before lazily sweeping them under the carpet of delusion. The socio-economic progress and growth of Singapore has to be shared by all individuals.
To take the status quo as it is would be largely detrimental; for progress to be made we need to be cognisant of our short-comings, and constantly keep a look-out for Singaporeans who might have hit a rough patch, and hence require tangible help or motivation from the state.
One wonders if civil servants like Mr. Ngiam are a dime a dozen, or whether he is a one-of-a-kind renegade. His experience and input would help keep the incumbent administration in check, and also serve as an impetus for existing civil servants not to lose sight of their primary role and responsibility: to serve the people. Having been through the system and fully comprehending the methodologies or the limitations of the available platforms, these forms of opinions can prove to be extremely constructive in the long run.
A version of this article was published in The Straits Times.