Poverty line not useful for Singapore, says PM Lee: reports

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (L) poses for a photo with Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa during a banquet dinner for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo November 16, 2013. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte (SRI LANKA - Tags: POLITICS)

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reportedly indicated on Saturday that Singapore is past the point of where a poverty line would be useful, adding that the groups of needy now take shifting and multi-faceted forms.

Lee, who was speaking to reporters after a Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka, seemed to agree with the government’s “kueh lapis” or multi-layered approach to social assistance, reported The Straits Times’ report.

The prime minister’s comments come after the Lien Centre for Social Innovation and SMU School of Social Sciences issued a report on Monday which called for an official definition of poverty and one that didn’t base it solely on monetary terms.

Lee pointed out that Singapore has moved beyond “extreme poverty”, which is defined by the United Nations as living with less than S$1.90 a day, according to Today.

He also pointed out that it is more crucial to have in place various schemes for those in need and for able people to access cases for people who may fall through the cracks, said Today.

The local media quoted Lee as saying, “The question is, how much should we help, which groups, and how should we arrange this help so that the most needy get the most help, and if you are just at the margins, you don’t find yourself with nothing.”

His comments echo earlier remarks of Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Social and Family Development, who said that an official poverty line might be unhelpful as it poses the danger of a "cliff effect", where welfare schemes are only made available to those below the line while ignoring others in need of support.