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Ethnic-based self-help groups relevant as Singapore raises socio-economic levels: PM Lee

Ethnic-based self-help groups relevant as Singapore raises socio-economic levels: PM Lee

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaking at an event to mark the 30th anniversary of the Chinese Development Assistance Council. (Photo: MCI)

SINGAPORE: Singapore's four ethnic-based Self-Help Groups (SHGs) are still relevant as the country continues to raise socio-economic levels and provide opportunities for everyone, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday (Sep 18). 

Speaking at an event to mark the 30th anniversary of the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC), Mr Lee said that as Singapore's economy develops and the external environment becomes more challenging, "economic growth will be harder to come by, and social mobility will be tougher to sustain". 

That's where SHGs can assist in giving extra help to those who are not doing as well as others, he said.

While the ethnic-based groups - the CDAC, Mendaki, SINDA and the Eurasian Association - receive some government funding, they mostly operate on donations from their respective communities. For CDAC,  contributions range between S$0.50 and S$3 per month. 

In this way, SHGs "are a vehicle for more successful Singaporeans to help and support fellow members from their own communities", said Mr Lee. 

"It is a very natural human impulse, and it strengthens the bonds between members of the community," he added. 

Mr Lee also made a case for supporting ethnic-based SHGs in Singapore's multiracial society, instead of creating one outfit to serve everyone. 

The four SHGs "better understand the unique characteristics and needs of their different communities" and can also address issues "forthrightly, without raising racial or religious sensitivities", he pointed out. 

"We will lose something precious if we do not have the SHGs", Mr Lee said. 

But he also encouraged the SHGs to collaborate with one another "to reinforce Singapore's social compact and strengthen our multiracial identity". 

The groups currently run joint programmes - like the Collaborative Tuition Programme and Big Heart Student Care Centres - which cater to students from all races. 

Another project - special centre Vibrance @ Yishun - is also in the works, and will cater to all students as well, Mr Lee said.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to clarify that the $0.50 and S$3 range of monthly donations only applies to CDAC. 

 

Source: CNA/vc(ta)
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