Ong Ye Kung: 'Little bit disappointed' at public criticism of S'pore's S$27 million contribution, but glad for MP support

Helping others helps ourselves.

Sulaiman Daud | April 06, 2021, 02:58 PM

Singapore may be small, but we are in a position to help our fellow nations and do our part as a member of a global community.

Previously, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced that Singapore will contribute S$27.73 million to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), subject to Parliament's approval.

The money is earmarked to help vulnerable, low-income countries who are dealing with the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Glad that MPs support this: Ong Ye Kung

However, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung, who is also an MAS board member, said he was a little disappointed at some of the public reaction to the announcement.

Speaking in Parliament on April 5, Ong said:

"If you look through the threads, there were quite a few criticisms saying that 'why is Singapore giving out money to other countries?' And frankly within MAS, when we reviewed that, we were a little bit disappointed."

But he added that he was heartened to see various Members of Parliament (MPs) making speeches to support the move.

"I am glad that all the MPs that stood up and spoke supported this shows that as a small country, we can also be big-hearted, that we can also play our role. And I think we also share our concern for the future of humanity, and we'll do our part."

WP's Jamus Lim: Helping others helps Singapore too

Earlier during the debate, Workers' Party MP Jamus Lim rose to support the move.

Lim said it was an "important step", but added that Singapore could do more to help. While it has largely eschewed foreign aid, as Singapore is classified as a "developing country", it still received about USS$14.4 million (S$19.3 million) every year between 1960 and 2004.

Currently, Singapore has no formal foreign or development aid agency, and as a rule, does not channel any share of the budget towards official development assistance.

Lim said that from a purely self-interested perspective, uplifting neighbouring economies helps Singapore in the long-run. He explained:

"After all, what we export shows up as another country’s imports. When the economies in our region grow richer and faster, they will increase their demand for all goods, including exports from us. And when their incomes are elevated, their consumers are better able to afford our goods and services, which skew toward those of higher value."

He also pointed out that generosity increases a country's soft power, citing smaller nations like the Netherlands, Switzerland and Qatar, who have invested in multilateral organisations and the international system.

Lim added that charity must begin at home, and Singaporeans' own needs must be taken care of, but he believes that people are willing to help the less well-off if they can afford it.

PAP's Mariam Jaafar and Liang Eng Hwa: IMF is the best organisation to help countries who need it

In her own speech, PAP MP Mariam Jaafar recounted how the pandemic has devastated economic activity, with the poorest countries facing a debt crisis. She said:

"Singapore is acutely aware of the economic connectedness and the importance of multilateral efforts, multilateral cooperation. And multilateral institutions like the IMF remain the best way to tackle global challenges, whether it is Covid-19 Future pandemics, economic slowdown, or climate change. So their success is vital to us."

Another PAP MP, Liang Eng Hwa, also supported the move, saying that we live in an interdependent world, and Singapore needs to do its part. Liang also asked about Singapore's considerations for supporting this funding round, and if Singapore would have "visibility" as to how IMF would use the funds.

In response, Ong said that it is in Singapore's interests to be part of a community with rules and norms that hold every country to account, along with helping the most vulnerable countries recover more quickly.

As for visibility, Ong said that all the funds are subjected to the oversight of the IMFA executive board, and Singapore is represented in the board.

In response to Lim, Ong said that increasing Singapore's aid contributions would result in a heavier fiscal burden.

However, Singapore contributes in other ways, such as sharing what we have learned in our development with other countries.

Top image from CNA's video.