SINGAPORE - Mr Lim Tong Wah suggested reviewing the practice of using the annual value of a person's home as a criterion in government subsidy and wealth-sharing schemes ("Flat size not an accurate reflection of income"; Forum Online, July 8).
We agree that government assistance should be targeted at those in greater need. This is why government assistance schemes, such as the Workfare Income Supplement and the GST Voucher, consider both a person's assessable income and the annual value of his home.
While this is not perfect, it provides us with a fair and objective basis to take a person's income and wealth into consideration.
Annual value is a relevant consideration, as among those who do not have income, citizens living in private condominiums, for instance, are generally better off than those living in smaller HDB flats.
For government assistance schemes, those living in five-room flats enjoy the same subsidy tier as those living in four-room flats.
Mr Lim shared the example of the cost of a mammogram at a polyclinic.
Government subsidies are provided to all polyclinic patients, which means they would need to pay only $50 for a mammogram. To encourage regular screening, the cost for women due for rescreening was further reduced through the sponsorship of the Khoo Teck Puat Foundation, a charitable organisation, with the level of sponsorship based on the annual value of their residences.
We recognise that there are those with unique circumstances who may not qualify for government assistance based on their home.
For those facing extenuating circumstances, the Government is prepared to exercise flexibility. They may also consider approaching the family service centre, citizens' consultative committee, community development council or social service office, which are better placed to assess their specific needs and provide the necessary help.
We thank Mr Lim for his feedback and assure him that the Government continually explores ways to refine the eligibility criteria of government subsidy and wealth-sharing schemes, so that help reaches those who need it most.
Lim Bee Khim (Ms) Director, Corporate Communications Ministry of Finance
Bey Mui Leng (Ms) Director, Corporate Communications Ministry of Health
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.