Engage now for a more equitable society

Engage now for a more equitable society

I cannot agree more with political editor Lydia Lim on the need to change our social and cultural values so that we can limit the adverse effect of meritocracy turning Singapore into a winner-take-all society ("Long-term task to fix winner-take-all mindset"; Sunday).

We need meritocracy to spur success. It was the economic model since our nation's independence 49 years ago.

But to evolve into a winner-take-all society is utterly bad for national unity.

It leads to a divisive population and reduces trust in government.

It is one in which there is superior financial advantage for those at the top but if you are second or further down the hierarchy, you get nothing comparable, however good.

Having benefited from meritocracy, I was enlightened by Occupy Wall Street - the protest movement in New York that brought to light some of the social ills of unabated American capitalism, such as the widening income gap and stunted social mobility.

Singapore's Gini coefficient - a measure of income inequality - is among the highest in the world, so there is every cause for concern.

While we should not stoke class resentments, rational dialogue among the top-echelon citizens should begin sooner rather than later. More data and research are needed so that discussions can be more productive - beyond rhetoric.

When convinced, I believe more affluent Singaporeans are prepared to make adjustments for a more equitable society.

We can explore how to further improve our economic mechanisms to distribute wealth more fairly.

Edmund Lam (Dr)

This article was first published on June 28, 2014.
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