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Forum Replies

Benefits criteria not perfect but practical

03 Mar 2009

MS TAN Siew Leng ('What about couple caring for aged aunt?', Feb 20) was concerned that her elderly aunt, who is currently taken care of by Ms Tan and her family, did not receive her fair share of benefits under government schemes such as GST Credits, because they live in a private property.

The GST Credits scheme, which aims to give more benefits to lower- and middle-income groups, is based on two indicators of an individual's means - first, the individual's income, and second, the Annual Value (AV) of the individual's place of residence. The latter serves as a simple proxy for relative wealth.

Elderly Singaporeans like Ms Tan's aunt also get the Senior Citizens' Bonus. The criteria are simple and broadly equitable. For example, while all senior citizens deserve greater benefits, those who live in one- or two-room flats generally have lesser means and sources of family support than others and deserve greater benefits.

The criteria are certainly not perfect in identifying each individual's actual living standards. But taken together, they have been the most practical way to distribute GST Credits to 2.4 million citizens, while allocating somewhat more to those who are less well-off and the elderly. To look further into the actual circumstances of each individual would be intrusive and would slow the distribution of benefits considerably.

Nevertheless, some Singaporeans will require additional assistance due to their special circumstances. Those who need more help can approach their community development councils, family service centres or grassroots leaders, who will assess their needs. They can also call the ComCare Call helpline on 1800-222-0000 for further assistance.

We thank Ms Tan for her feedback. We will continue to review how best to help households, in the design of our national schemes.