Way forward for inclusiveness

Economist Yeoh Lam Keong's view that public housing - from rental to five-room flats - in Kampong Bugis and Marina South would ensure a "better mix of socio-economic classes and ethnic mixing" represents socialist idealism at its extreme ("HDB flats in Marina South?"; last Thursday).

For example, the rental flats in Jalan Kukoh sit directly opposite the mostly fenceless high-end condominiums at Robertson Quay. There is nothing to stop the residents of both areas from visiting one another. But has this resulted in greater interaction between the two communities and increased the feeling of inclusiveness among those in Jalan Kukoh?

In fact, I often wonder why such a valuable piece of land is still being used for a highly subsidised housing estate.

Now, try to imagine a Jalan Kukoh-like housing estate among the high-end condominiums, mixed developments and commercial buildings in Marina South. Will the poor feel comfortable living cheek by jowl with the rich - and vice-versa - in an environment that highlights the wealth gap on a daily basis?

Are there not already far more conducive common spaces - national service, places of worship, schools, the workplace, shopping centres, hawker centres and so on - for people from all walks of life to mingle with one another if they choose to?

Schemes to make "rich ghettoes" accessible to all just to demonstrate inclusiveness sacrifice billions in land revenue, which could be used to build better public housing estates across the island. They also smack of "tokenism of the worst kind", as highlighted by sociologist Chua Beng Huat, simply because only some among the poor will get to live in these communes.

Ultimately, inclusiveness must be about giving all citizens, regardless of their backgrounds, a fair shot at improving their lot based on hard work, various indicators of intelligence and so forth.

It is not about reducing everything in life to the lowest common denominator of equity, and inadvertently engendering false hopes of entitlement among the disenfranchised.

The way forward for inclusiveness is to try and level everyone up - not down - based on personal and collective responsibility as well as sensible wealth redistribution programmes.

Civilisations progress only when individuals and communities aspire towards the finer tangibles and intangibles in life, instead of reinforcing the "politics of envy" as well as devaluing the spirit of innovation and enterprise.

Toh Cheng Seong

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