$820m: Charities attracted record sum last year
Theresa Tan
Tue, Jul 08, 2008
The Straits Times

CHARITIES here pulled in a record $820 million last year - a jump of more than 50 per cent from 2006.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong revealed the figure last night, but did not give any other details behind the record sum raised, such as what accounted for it.

However, he urged more Singaporeans to give to charity, especially those with means. He was speaking at the official opening of the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre's (NVPC) new office.

Of Singaporeans who have made good in life, Mr Lee said: 'The more they have gained from society, the greater their obligation to give back something to their fellow citizens.'

He added: 'They must not allow society to be split between the haves and the have-nots and undermine the whole basis for able people to succeed and create wealth in Singapore.'

The Prime Minister reiterated the importance of philanthropy and explained why Singapore can't afford to go down the welfare route, because it will lead to high taxes and erode the work ethic, and slow economic growth.

While volunteerism and philanthropy are on the rise, Mr Lee noted that Singapore has yet to build a 'strong philanthropic tradition', like that of the United States, where businessmen such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have pledged away the bulk of their wealth.

The national volunteerism rate in Singapore went up from 9 per cent in 2000 to nearly 16 per cent in 2006, and a previous survey found that about nine in 10 Singaporeans give to charity.

Despite some charity scandals in recent years, Institutions of a Public Character (IPCs) - or charities authorised to receive tax-deductible donations such as the NKF - received $820 million last year.

That sum is more than double the $382 million IPCs pulled in 2002. Going by past data, companies donated a substantial portion of the money raised.

Mr Lee also announced that the NVPC, the national body to promote volunteerism and philanthropy, will become an independent entity later this year, a move which will put it 'in a better position to be a leading voice for the non-profit sector'.

The NVPC is currently a committee of the National Council of Social Service, a statutory board of the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports.

Last night, the NVPC also revealed its first donors to the new Community Foundation of Singapore, a vehicle to boost philanthropy among the Republic's growing number of millionaires.

They are: property developer Simon Cheong, retired businessman William Bird, NVPC chairman Stanley Tan, Swiss Bank UBS AG and the Khoo Foundation. The five donated $13 million.

Mr Bird, 62, a Briton who is now a Singapore permanent resident, made his money from the logistics business and is giving $1 million. He said: 'The new foundation is an excellent vehicle to guide donors where and how to give.'

NVPC chairman Tan, who donated 'at least $1 million', revealed that his generosity comes from humble beginnings. When he was 10, his father left the family with no financial support. Still, he gave his time into a youth group, visiting orphanages and hospitals.

The retired publisher, 52, said: 'What the orphans did for me during that visit made me grateful for my own life. They made me believe I could do things. Most of all, I learnt that giving empowers.'


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