STR claims that 38% of Singaporeans are poor. Oh really?

By May 22, 2017Current

TL;DR – Apparently, Singaporeans don’t think.

There was an article in the States Times Review (STR) that had this claim: 1.3 million Singaporeans, or 38% of the population, are poor. That article came to this claim by twisting what Minister Gan Kim Yong said at the 2017 CHAS Family Carnival.

In his speech, Minister Gan said:

“Today, there are about 1.3 million Singaporeans who can benefit from CHAS, including our Pioneers, compared to just 34,000 when we started in 2012.”

That STR then claimed:

“To be eligible for CHAS medical subsidies, one will has (sic) to earn less than S$1,800 household monthly income per person. This is only about S$1,440 in take-home pay after CPF deductions. As there is no poverty line in Singapore, S$1,440 is considered “poor” as it is less than half the 2016’s median monthly salary of S$4,056, and less than a quarter of the GDP per capita of S$6,097 in a month.”

via Facebook

Deliberately twisting facts? Or just plain fake news?

I dare say whoever wrote that article is either an idiot, or a malicious and evil troublemaker. Why? If you look at his reasoning, he assumes that everyone in the household is earning a salary. How can that be?

A typical household in Singapore likely consists of two adults who are working and two children who are not. That’s four people. For everyone in that household to be eligible for CHAS benefit, the household monthly income per person needs to be less than $1,800. What does this mean?

Let’s say the two working adults earn $3,000 a month each. The household monthly income is $6,000. Since there are four people in the household, the household monthly income per person is $6,000 divide by four, which works out to be $1,500. Everyone in that household will be eligible to benefit from CHAS.

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Is a family of four with a total household monthly income of $6,000 considered poor? They probably won’t live very luxuriously. But I don’t think you can consider them to be poor. So as you can clearly see just from this simple calculation, the reality is very different from what the article claimed.

But wait. It gets better.

STR article conveniently ignores the Pioneer Generation

If you are a Singaporean from the Pioneer Generation, you automatically qualify for CHAS benefits. That’s right. Regardless of your income, or the annual value of where you stay, you automatically qualify for CHAS benefits. That means that 450,000 Singapore Citizens will automatically qualify for CHAS benefits regardless of their income levels. That includes people like:

Former Presidential candidate, Tan Cheng Bock also qualifies for CHAS benefits. (via)

Is the author suggesting that Dr Tan Cheng Bock is poor?

But some Singaporeans actually believe it

One would expect that anyone who reads such a preposterous claim to dismiss it as rubbish immediately. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. There seems to be Singaporeans who believe that preposterous claim.

And that is very worrying for two reasons.

First, Singaporeans don’t exercise critical thinking. The calculation we performed above isn’t difficult. It’s simple arithmetic. Anyone would have been able to do it.

Second, Singaporeans don’t fact-check. Typing in “CHAS eligibility” into google will give you this page:

As you can see, at the left side, you can see a link that says “CHAS Subsidy for Pioneers.” Click on that link and you will clearly see that all members of the Pioneer Generation automatically qualify for CHAS benefits. That page also reveals that there are about 450,000 Singaporeans in the Pioneer Generation.

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So a simple exercise of basic arithmetic and Internet skills that would take less than two minutes is all you need to conclusively debunk that article. Yet, many Singaporeans aren’t willing to do it. Why? Are  we so lazy to use our brains?

Fine. If we are lazy to use our brains, then perhaps we should just stick to this very simple rule: Avoid rubbish sites that publish fake news or distort facts.

Just don’t read it. Do you want to be taken for a ride like a fool? I thought not.


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Author CRC

Working on a startup is a scary crazy process. To destress, I write random stuff.

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