Photo of elderly Singaporean with Lee Hsien Loong portrait

Despite widening income inequality over the years, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said that Singaporeans should not focus on income gap and instead “nurture common values by building a caring society”.

The PAP Minister spoke figuratively about his solution and even suggested that more hawker centres and parks are built to “bridge the divide”:

“Rather than focus on how the pie is divided, we should grow the pie so that all can enjoy a larger slice… Bridging social divides is not just a matter of fostering opportunities and closing the income gap. As a society, we must be mindful not to allow invisible, intangible divides to fester. And apart from creating common spaces like hawker centres, parks and HDB neighbourhoods, another way to bridge such divides is to nurture our common values, by building a caring society. A good society is not just one where each of us is able to do well for ourselves. It should be one where we all feel a sense of responsibility towards one another, a spirit of caring.”

The official GINI coefficient 0.459 remains one of the highest in the world, but the Singapore government is not keen on helping the poor. In the Budget, S$2.2 billion of taxes were directed as corporate tax cuts and business subsidies. This amount is more than three times the S$700 million distributed as cash handouts for Singaporeans, worsening the income distribution in Singapore.

According to the latest household income survey, the average person in the bottom 20th percentile in Singapore take home about S$1,094 a month and more than 50% of the population earn less than S$2,400 a month. This contrasts with the top 10 percentile who earns at S$12,621 a month on average. Income inequality has severely jeopardised retirement and the learning abilities of children in low income background.

Earlier in Feb last month, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that income inequality motivates Singaporeans to work harder and that he is not too concerned.