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Poverty in Singapore has hit a chronic level. Over 1,000 Singaporean elderly poor took a queue stretching 500m long to receive a S$60 hong bao from a local temple in Balestier Road on Tuesday (Dec 13). The queue outside the temple gate of Tong De Shan Tang started as early as 10 hours before on Monday morning 2am, with some elderly poor bringing cardboard to stay over the night.

Most of the elderly in the poor are welfare recipients in the poverty-stricken areas of Toa Payoh, Balestier, Whampoa and Little India. Cardboard collectors, retirees in wheelchairs and destitute elderly in tattered clothes formed most of the well-mannered and orderly queue. An elderly man fell face-down while he queued overnight and sustained serious facial injuries.

Screenshot from omy website

According to an interview with chinese paper Lian He Wan Bao, an 80-year-old man said that the temple gives out cash and food donations every year. He said the food rations – consisting of bread and milo powder – he would receive is able to feed him for two days, and he is very appreciative of the temple’s charity act.

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Poverty in Singapore is often ignored by the Singapore government as it is an “embarrassing” topic to the administration with the highest political salaries in the world. Singapore Ministers claim that there is no “extreme poverty” seen in developed countries like Australia in Singapore. However, the Ministers are not aware that, unlike other countries, public begging in Singapore warrants a 2 years’ jail. In November during the APEC meeting, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the poor in Singapore is not “badly off” like “other countries”. In July 2015, Minister of Social and Family Development Tan Chuan Jin said that elderly collect cardboard to exercise. Singapore also have one of the highest income inequality in the world, worse than every OECD nation except Chile.

Read: Elderly cardboard collector earns S$3 a day in Singapore