Manpower chief Tan Chuan-Jin had lately been posting about destitute elderly folks that he observed to be in financial trouble. In one Facebook post, he dedicated an observation about an old man begging outside of St. Andrew’s Cathedral and another one more about an elderly woman selling tissue paper.
Whilst it is good for the minister to take his time and turn attention to one individual, I could not feel upset that his time was spent on two elderlies whom do not actually require financial help.
It is bad enough to see an old person begging, especially in employment-rich Singapore. It is even more upsetting to learn that beggars can be earning in a day what some people earn in a month. Some even good enough to earn up to six figures a year.
Now before you quit your job and start trawling the streets to beg, know that begging is technically illegal in Singapore. According to the Destitute Persons Act, a habitual beggar (someone who was found to be begging on two previous occasions which might cause public nuisance and as a result required to stay at a welfare home) can be fined up to $3,000 or jailed up to two years.
That’s not to say that the government is cruel enough to leave these people to their own devices. The same Act also has provisions for the beggar to be temporarily housed at a welfare home if he or she is found to be unable to fend for themselves.
The Minister added in a Facebook post that we should still continue to “…talk to these old folks or people who seem to need help. Find out what details you can. Where they need help, call COMCARE 1800 222 0000 or let us know so that we can follow up. While it is not always what it seems, and I’ve encountered some similar ‘exploitative’ cases, and there are probably more that a few who see these efforts as easy money-making opportunities, there are genuine folks who do need help. So don’t stop speaking to them and following up…it may make a real difference to some of them.
Indeed we shouldn’t stop talking and helping, just because of a few black sheep.