Speech By Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Minister for Finance & Chairman & Life Trustee, SINDA Board of Trustees, At The Official Opening Of The Sinda Service Centre28 Mar 2011
Members of SINDA Board of Trustees & Executive Committee
Ladies and Gentlemen
Setting up the SINDA Service Centre
1. Today marks the official opening of the SINDA Service Centre (SSC) serving the western region of Singapore.
2. Since SINDA was set up in 1991, we have rolled out numerous programmes and services aimed at supporting the upliftment of the Indian community. These range from subsidised tuition and enrichment classes and mentorship of our youth; bursaries for deserving students from lower-income households; and skills upgrading programmes to improve employability.
3. To benefit from these services, those residing in various parts of Singapore have had to travel to Little India, which is where we have our SINDA headquarters.
4. We have found that a large number of the Indians whom SINDA serves actually reside in the West. Setting up a SINDA Service Centre (SSC) here therefore brings our services closer to their doorstep. It also allows us to reach out to more of our heartlanders. Residents can look forward to a one-stop information and referral centre on the community resources available.
SINDA's Additional Relief Measures
5. Education is fundamental in SINDA's approach to uplifting the Indian community. Our approach is to complement the good work of our schools, by engaging directly with families and children to increase their aspirations and help them outside of school time. We also want to intervene early to help children from lower income families succeed. The earlier we provide help and guidance, the more likely that they can move up and eventually do better than their parents.
6. In the current environment, many families and especially those who are not well off are understandably concerned about the rising cost of living. The Government has addressed these concerns in the recent Budget. Through our ‘Grow & Share’ package, we are providing most families with benefits this year that are significantly larger than the increase in their costs of living.
7. SINDA will nevertheless provide further help for those with lower incomes who use our services. We want to encourage parents to take advantage of SINDA's programmes to help their children, without worrying about the costs.
8. We have put together a package amounting to an additional $500,000 from now until the end of the year. The package comprises three components – first, additional bursary payments amounting to $220,000; second, additional fee subsidies for STEP & Teach amounting to $210,000 and third, additional family assistance amounting to $70,000.
Top-Up of SINDA Bursaries
9. We will top-up the value of SINDA bursaries for 10 months, until the end of the year (from Mar – Dec 2011). Primary school students' monthly bursary will increase from the current $45 to $65. For secondary students, it will be an increase from the current $80 to $100 per month. For JC/Pre-U students, they will get an increase from $100 to $120 per month.
10. We currently have about 1650 bursary recipients. However, we have also reviewed the criteria for SINDA Bursary applications to allow more students to benefit. The new criteria will now be based on 'Nett' income rather than 'Gross' income. Further, for families who have additional financial problems brought about, for example, by chronic illnesses, single parenthood or having dependants with special needs, the monthly per capita income criteria for qualification of the SINDA bursary will also be raised from $450 to $600.
Fee relief for SINDA Tutorials for Enhanced Performance (STEP) and Project Teach programmes
11. Second, we will provide further fee relief for students attending SINDA's tuition programmes.
12. In 2010 alone, more than 6,700 Indian students enrolled in our academic and enrichment programmes, such as the STEP programme and Project Teach. Their fees are already heavily subsidized by SINDA.
13. To encourage continued enrolment in these useful programmes, we are not collecting fees this year for those with household per capita income of $600 and below. For households whose per capita income is above $600, we will collect only 50% of the fees. About 3600 students in STEP & Teach will thus receive free tuition this year, while another 900 will pay only about $18 per month. This is well below market rates for tuition.
Ongoing outreach to schools/Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs)
14. We are also reaching out to more students through other channels. We continue to tie up with schools, voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) and other Family Service Centres (FSC). For example, SINDA will continue to work with MOE to identify Indian students under the MOE Financial Assistance Scheme who are not receiving either SINDA Bursaries or the Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (SPMF), so that we can reach out to more needy Indian students.
General Family Assistance
15. More will also be done for families who are clients of SINDA Family Service Centre, or whose children take part in our programmes. We will provide additional financial assistance to those with low incomes. We will also increase food rations.
16. Finally, I would like to thank all our partners who have assisted in the opening of this new SSC, and provided support for SINDA's programmes – including the National Council of Social Services (NCSS), Tote Board, Jurong Point Realty Ltd, MCYS, the voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) and the schools. Let's work together to achieve SINDA's vision of building a strong and vibrant Singaporean Indian community. I wish you a pleasant morning ahead.