In a media interview with Chinese papers Shin Ming Daily, an elderly cardboard collector revealed her daily routine, shedding light on abject poverty in Singapore.
67-year-old Dong Ah Lan earns around S$3 each day collecting cardboard and she survives only one meal a day. Every morning between midnight and 3am, she would go to the 24-hour Macdonald outlet at Toa Payoh Lorong 4 to request for a free cup of water for her medication, and also to ask if the outlet have cardboard she can collect. The Macdonald staffs would provide her with the cardboard which she would bring them on her trolley to an industrial area in Toa Payoh to sell for around S$3 to S$4 each day.
With the earning, Dong Ah Lan would get herself porridge – her only meal for the day – at a coffeeshop in Toa Payoh. On a good day sometimes, a stranger will treat her to a meal or give her “bread skin”. A 54-year-old coffeeshop helper working in the Toa Payoh coffeeshop the elderly cardboard collector frequent, also regularly treat her to a bun and a cup of tea, after knowing of her plight. She would then sleep at her friend’s house – a kind-hearted stranger whom she met at church two years ago. Before meeting her friend, Dong Ah Lan used to sleep in at bus stops or HDB staircases.
For her clothes, Dong Ah Lan would get them from a rag-and-bone seller, also known as a karang guni. Dong Ah Lan lives off the charity of the people around her, whom many are struggling with poverty in Singapore as well. There is no welfare in Singapore as the government is worried about having a crutch mentality among Singaporeans.
Just last week, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told foreign reporters in Peru at the APEC meeting that the poor in Singapore is not “badly off” or worse off than those in the first world countries. Two days ago, state media ChannelNewsAsia also claimed that Singapore’s “wealth gap” is not as bad as United States, Sweden and Switzerland.
The presence of the elderly cardboard collectors in Singapore is an embarrassing fact to the ruling party government which is the most expensive administration in the world. In 2015, Minister Tan Chuan Jin attempted to whitewash their existence by claiming that elderly collect cardboard for exercise. Another government leader, Minister Chan Chun Sing also refused to set a poverty line in Singapore, claiming that doing so will just worsen poverty.