Home > Dummies Guide to Grants and Subsidies, Singapore Scene, Singapore Sorely Needed > Dummies Guide to Grants and Subsidies, Singapore Sorely Needed

Dummies Guide to Grants and Subsidies, Singapore Sorely Needed

Many years ago, I was in contact with a teenager – let’s call him Al. Al was visually impaired. He had twin brothers and his father was a single parent. Being a transport worker, the father plied the highways ofMalaysia, and was often not home. Things did not go well, so eventually my friend took him under her wings while his brothers were in a boys’ home – if my memory serves me correctly. Anyway, Al was visually impaired and when he attended my church, he had some problems. I was told he was treated in a private hospital. In any case, this time, the doctor advised him to go to SGH, for what reason I really cannot remember. So armed with the letter of recommendation, Al reported to the doctor at SGH.


To my horror, he was admitted as a private patient. His father was not earning much and in my mind, this was ridiculous. After some nagging, I finally persuaded them to speak to the medical social worker. They managed to qualify for subsidized medical care.


Were they too proud to ask for subsidies? Actually, no. They were just too intimidated to do so. Not being highly educated, they just did not know how, did not know who to ask, and was worried that they might not know how to fill the forms. There was a lot of embarrassment and uncertainty involved. Armed with a recommendation from a private doctor, no one at SGH offered any counsel, until I insisted Al asked about medical subsidies. The assumption was that the patient had the ability to pay. The rule was that patients with recommendations from private doctors automatically meant they would not be subsidized.


Hence I think a dummies guide to grants and subsidies is sorely needed. Take a look at the Workfare Income Supplement Scheme. I tried to see if somebody I knew qualified. I am still not sure. For one thing, I am not sure whether his property’s annual value fell in the category specified. While you can check this year’s annual value, I am not sure what it was last year, since I know the values have been changing. Why annual value of the property? Why not have an online query that will help you check whether your residence disqualifies you? Or why not just have property type? I suspect that annual value will exclude HUDC and Executive apartment owners. Then why not just say so?


Therefore when I read about the no. of new grants and subsidies, especially for those for the elderly, I was at once happy and anxious. Take the silver hair downgrade scheme. They will only qualify if they

  1. downgrade to a 3 room flat or smaller
  2. top up their cpf minimum sum
  3. convert CPF minimum sum into CPF Life



What if they sold first – being desperate for money, then wait to buy? When will the government grant come in?


My concern – elderly folks in need of money will sell off their property immediately. When they try to buy a 2 room flat – almost none available on the open market, or a 3 room flat, they may be horrified at the COV or the prices of these flats. If they then decide to apply for a BTO flat, where will they stay in the meantime? Must they top up the minimum sum right now? If not, whatever cash in hand may not last till their BTO application is successful, not to mention the wait for the building to be completed. If this scheme is only financially viable when they buy a BTO flat, what happens to their current money needs?  First they will need a successful application, then the completion of flat. All in this process will take years.


Who will advice them? When should they be advised? Sending a pamphlet does not work. Some of these CPF pamphlets have left me scratching my head. Granted I am not too bright – but can we assume these elderly folks will fare better than me?


So many schemes, so many subsidies. I suspect many who are badly in need of them did not apply for them out of sheer ignorance or unawareness. Some may not be able to qualify some condition or other. Take the case of this student who wrote to Mr Brown. He gave several reasons why he did not take up a scholarship. One of the reasons is that he will be unable to furnish a suitably qualified guarantor. This seems like a very small matter to most, but to a student from a family with low income and no connections, this can be a hurdle.


So while it is good to give subsidies and grants, getting them to those who need them may need work. If too many fall through the cracks, then they are not cracks but big gaps.


In any case, I still maintain while grants and subsidies are welcome, nothing beats trying to cut costs. Yesterday, health minister already said medishield premiums will go up. Some grants are one time offers only, and even with long term subsidies, the cash portion that a citizen has to cough up will be a drain on a finite, often very shallow pool. But that is another matter.


In the meantime, can somebody please write a Dummies Guide to Grants and Subsidies,Singapore?

  1. Soojenn
    March 8, 2012 at 5:35 am

    Hahaha. … A very well written and timely article. It has apparently been a beuracratic nightmare for the poor and the poorly or uneducated people to know, understand how and where to get this in Singapore.

    Even the educated has a problem, what more for the uneducated and poor. The rich can have the lawyers to do the work for them. You should try selling a HDB and outline the amount of beauracracy that a person has to go through just trying to sell off THEIR property, or even better make a police report, and see how long and beauracratic before anything gets done, and in most cases NOT.

    There should be a list of all the grants, subsidies available and given by the Singapore government, and who is eligible, where and how they can get this. A free service to handle these should also be provided, since the uneducated may not understand even if a “dummies guide” has been written, especially if it is by the Singapore government, and will most likely need help on these

    • SpeakSpokeWriteWrote
      March 8, 2012 at 6:32 am

      haha – i feel like the dummy when i read some of the conditions of the grants!

  2. WL
    March 8, 2012 at 7:13 am

    Call me cynical but it always feels to me that it’s a deliberate attempt to make grants and subsidies difficult to understand so that as few people as possible would apply for them. And what they give with one hand, the other will inevitably take it back (eg. medishield premiums).

  3. KeepTheDamnedSubsidies
    March 8, 2012 at 8:34 am

    Well articulated, Sophia. I call these SAF “Army Style” subsidies. I recall during my National service days in the 1970’s, when soldiers had to pack their full packs to report sick. Punishment befalls the soldier who missed out even a small item. It was so burdensome that if you are not that sick, you would not bother to go through the hassle of packing that full pack in order to report sick. The idea i understand was to discourage “malingerers”. Same applies here. The idea seems to be, to make this so cumbersome you wont even border to apply for the subsidies !

  4. SpeakSpokeWriteWrote
    March 8, 2012 at 10:19 am

    I certainly hope the cynics are wrong here. I think sometimes our scholarly leaders forget how difficult to understand things can be. Not only do they find it difficult to understand the poor, since they are so well paid, they may genuinely forget that their policies, grants and subsidies can get really difficult to understand, given our inferior intellect. I just hope they will make it easier, automatic and yes i agree with Soojen that a list of what’s available should be easily accessible to all.

  5. March 9, 2012 at 2:33 am

    Yes even I who can read and write am overwhelmed with such a maze of grants etc. Too complicating, too many rules and too many obstacles. Better to study and read carefully if not really kena play out by the seemingly generous obvious goodies. Langgar!

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