SINGAPORE — The Government will do more in this year’s Budget to support Singaporeans and their families, especially those who are needy and vulnerable, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.
Speaking at the Thye Hua Kwan (THK) Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children (EIPIC) @ Ang Mo Kio, Mr Lee also announced that the Government will set aside S$250 million for a new fund to build up the social service sector as well as spur Singaporeans and organisations to give more of their time and money to help those in need.
Mr Lee said more details on the measures to strengthen the social safety net and enhance social mobility will be announced in the Budget statement, which will be delivered on Feb 21.
He referred to his National Day Rally speech last year, where he spoke about how the Government was making a major change in its approach to nation-building, and noted it was making steady progress in this regard.
Mr Lee also returned to a familiar theme, which he had mentioned just last week at an Edusave bursary award ceremony: The need for the community to come forward and do more to support the less fortunate.
“It’s not just what the Government will do. It’s also what the community will come forward together to do more to support the less fortunate, not because the law says so or the Government tells you to do so, but because those are the values of society … because we feel concern, care and empathy for our fellow Singaporeans, for our fellow human beings,” said Mr Lee.
To achieve this, Singaporeans are encouraged to donate to charities, “not just money, but also their time and expertise”, Mr Lee said.
The voluntary welfare organisation (VWO) sector also needs to be strengthened, he added. To this end, Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing launched the Care and Share Movement in October last year.
The movement, proposed by the Community Chest, seeks to encourage Singaporeans to volunteer and contribute to worthwhile causes through Government matching grants.
It also aims to strengthen VWOs’ long-term capabilities. The movement’s first initiative — launched in November last year — allowed donors to donate money to the Community Chest by tapping their ez-link cards on advertisement billboards at selected train stations.
The Government had earlier announced that it would match donations made to 250 VWOs under the movement. Mr Lee said it will set aside S$250 million for this purpose, under a new Care and Share Fund. This means the VWOs could receive S$500 million in total, including donations from the public. The additional funds could help the organisations build new capabilities, such as launching programmes for the needy, training staff or building infrastructure, said Mr Lee, adding that VWOs need to invest in longer-term capabilities to address societal changes.
Mr Phillip Tan, Chairman of the Community Chest and the Care and Share Movement, said the preliminary plan is for smaller charities to receive at least S$1 million each under the initiative.
“We’re trying to help the smaller charities first,” said Mr Tan. Surpluses will then be allocated to the bigger VWOs, he said.