Speech by Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, Minister in Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister for Finance and Transport at the National Volunteerism & Philanthrophy Awards21 Nov 2009
Mr Stanley Tan,
Chairman, National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre;
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. I am delighted to be here in the excellent company of dedicated individuals who give unstintingly to the community and to celebrate the spirit of giving in Singapore.
2. Indeed we are here today to applaud and recognise individuals who have done exceptionally well in the practice of doing good and who are receiving the National Volunteerism and Philanthropy Awards. And this is all the more commendable, considering the overcast skies brought about by a financial meltdown.
Impact on society and those in need
3. Today, even as we are seeing brighter skies, some citizens continue to feel hard pressed and struggle to get by day to day. In particular, our lower skilled workers have to compete hard against workers in other developing nations.
Details of Government's response in the form of programs, funding etc
4. The Singapore government recognises the vulnerability of the low income families and has directed efforts at helping those severely affected by the crisis.
5. We have put in place schemes that will save as many jobs as possible. The Jobs Credit Scheme (JCS) lowers wage costs to employers and reduce the incidence of job losses. Enhancements have also been made to the Skills Programme for Upgrading and Resilience (SPUR) that has help companies train their employees during this downturn.
6. There is also the Workfare Income Supplement special payment that provides incentives for older low wage workers to stay in work, while at the same time helping them save for their long-term needs. We have also provided targeted help for vulnerable groups and provide direct assistance for households in need.
7. MCYS has provided $240 million to help the needy, sharply higher than the $167 million spent in 2007.
Government cannot do it all
8. Yet the Government cannot do it all. Most of the support required is more emotional than financial. The family remains the best and most reliable safety net. Quite often however, a comprehensive social safety net with the active participation of voluntary welfare organisations, self-help groups, grassroots leaders and the wider community of people and private organisations are needed to plug gaps.
9. Government schemes tend not to be overly customised or they would be too administratively cumbersome to administer. Therefore, in challenging times like these, dexterous hands, strong hearts and creative minds are needed to help some families weather the storm.
Government should also not do it all
10. Furthermore, government should also not do it all. And neither should we just merely rely on professionals in the public and non-profit sectors to serve the disadvantaged in society. Instead, we need to build a giving society, where everyone is involved in the giving; where it is not every person for himself or herself, or the family. We want a society that is cohesive, where active compassion is exercised, and where we are one, despite our ethnic, religious, socio-economic differences. A society, where individuals are able to contribute meaningfully and make a difference would truly be a happy society.
11. This is where non-profit organisations need to work harder to come up with new strategies to mobilise and engage volunteers. They need to be more effective at appreciating the contributions of time and resources that volunteers bring to the organisations. Volunteers are here to help ease the demands made of the organisation and bring fresh, new perspectives. Non-profit organisations also need to look at ways of being more creative and effective at fundraising by diversifying donor sources and investing in better donor management systems.
12. In these uncertain times, non-profit organisations will need to evaluate the effectiveness of their programmes against the desired outcomes. There will be a need to streamline internal processes and eventually phase out less impactful programmes.
13. We also need to tap on the resources of the private corporations, whether they are big MNCs or SMEs. MNCs or SMEs can also do their part in contributing to those in need. Corporations can step forward by engaging in staff volunteerism as part of their corporate social responsibility. Collectively, these corporations will be able to offer extensive assistance to numerous social programmes through the various expertises available from their larger pool of human resources.
14. 2009 has been an especially hard year for us all as we not only face the financial meltdown, but also had to also battle with the H1N1 flu pandemic as it hit our shores.
15. Yet, a bright light shines through these difficult times in the form of the power generated by the collective voluntary and philanthropic acts. I understand over the past few years, there has been a steady increase in volunteerism and philanthropic efforts in Singapore, both in terms of absolute numbers and across different sectors including the arts, the environment and in social services. The findings from NVPC's Individual Giving Survey in 2008 showed that the volunteerism rate increased to 16.9% and donor participation rate was at 91%. This is of course very encouraging as active volunteerism and philanthropy are crucial to building social capital and maintaining social cohesion.
16. On this note, I would like to take this opportunity to commend NVPC for its ongoing efforts at raising the standards of professionalism in the management of volunteers and donors as well as at building capabilities in the non-profit sector, particularly at the leadership level.
17. Last but not least, I would like to extend my heartiest congratulations to everyone receiving awards today. The work you do in harnessing the spirit of giving will go a long way to make Singapore a better place to live for all. Thank you for stepping forward to help those in need and with this recognition we hope many more will follow your good example.
18. Thank you.