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Philanthropy in Asia on the rise

Philanthropy is on the rise in Asia, with roughly 40 per cent of the wealth donated going to education last year.

SINGAPORE: Singapore ranked 64th on the World Giving Index in 2013, up 50 spots from 2012. The index, compiled by British-based Charities Aid Foundation, sorts 135 countries worldwide based on how philanthropic its citizens are.

Private banks Channel NewsAsia spoke to say their ultra-high net-worth clientele have shown a greater interest in philanthropic causes, especially those related to education.

In May, Singaporean philanthropist, Professor Saw Swee Hock donated a "significant" amount to the London School of Economics and Political Science to establish a new academic centre focused on Southeast Asia.

Some of the ultra-wealthy in Singapore were recently treated to a private meeting with international music star, of the Black Eyed Peas to find out more about his project to build schools in the Philippines.

"I really wanted to share the development of the ( Foundation)", said the rapper. "I wanted to show them what's been happening and developing. I'm here to find partners, so I can have sustainability and to keep doing what I'm doing, because I can't do it by myself. I need help with ideas and meeting people that have the same values that I do."

With increasing wealth in Asia, there has also been a growing desire to give back to society. Private banks like Credit Suisse have taken the initiative to organise networking events in order for philanthropists to have a more direct platform to share their aspirations.

Aspirations aside, experts say the act of giving is also motivated by the desire to deepen family bonds. "We're certainly seeing a growing trend here in Asia in philanthropy and philanthropic causes," said Managing Director and Head of South Asia and Global NRI at Coutts, Ranjit Khanna.

"But I think this really is a culmination or result of the growing wealth or wealth pools, particularly entrepreneurial families and families getting into the second or third generation. There is also the taking on of initiatives to greater benefit society, and bringing families together. And (people are) saying: 'Look, we now literally stand for a cause'. 

According to the Coutts Million Dollar Donors Report 2013, across the globe, roughly US$19 billion of wealth had been donated to philanthropic causes. 

"And if you look at the breakdown of that US$19 billion, roughly 40 per cent goes to education and education-related purposes, not necessarily to build schools, but also changing the way education is being delivered," Mr Khanna noted. 

Said Mr Bernard Fung Head of Family Office Services and Philanthropy Advisory APAC at Credit Suisse: "We find that our donors are thoughtful enough to say we will fund particular areas that the public sector is unable to support, and we will fund those for a long period of time .

"So for example, access to funding for students who are not A-class students -- who are not the best students who get the scholarship, but needy students who are doing well in school but not well enough to justify a scholarship. We have a number of clients who actually support them through very quiet bursaries through a long period of time." 

Mr Fung expects the giving to continue. "Between last year and this year, just the donations that we've been helping to manage through the SymAsia Foundation have doubled. It has doubled every year over the last couple of years. I'm not saying it’s going to be like this every year, but the momentum is there."

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