Inequality in Singapore cannot be left unchecked: Masagos Zulkifli
Singapore's current and future challenge is to ensure that those on the lower rungs continue to be able to progress upwards along with the rest of society, said Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli yesterday.
He said Singapore is not immune to the tendencies of society to gravitate towards inequality, and hence, the country must continue to tackle it.
The consequences of not doing so could be dire, he said, adding that in some societies, inequality, when left unchecked, has resulted in fractures and loss of cohesion, where a permanent underclass is formed as those who do well do not give back.
Mr Masagos was speaking at the Ministry of Social and Family Development Volunteer and Partner Awards ceremony, held virtually on videoconferencing platform Zoom.
His remarks come ahead of the annual Budget, to be unveiled on Feb 16.
They also come amid a time when Covid-19 support measures from last year are tapering off even as more may be requiring government aid.
Mr Masagos said: "While this pandemic has deepened our sense of solidarity, like the early days of independence, our discipline to hold on to age-old principles is key to seeing us through this crisis and beyond.
"More than ever before, we need to renew our social compact to create an uplifting society - one that continues to provide opportunities for all Singaporeans."
Today's social compact is one where the Government creates the conditions for economic growth and an enabling environment for Singaporeans to flourish, while strong families help to create resilient individuals and provide care and support for one another, and a caring society and a community that actively supports those with less, said Mr Masagos.
While this approach has largely served Singapore well in the first 50 years of its independence, the country will face a very different social landscape over the next 50 years, with new challenges different from what the forefathers faced, he said.
"While our social and economic strategies have uplifted broad segments of our population in the past, our current and future challenge would be to ensure that even those at the bottom continue to progress upwards alongside the rest of the society on a moving escalator," said Mr Masagos.
"We must tackle inequality on a lasting basis by keeping opportunities alive for everyone, regardless of how difficult it might be to do so."