Gratitude begins at home; Why go to say, Cambodia, to assuage middle-class guilt? Students parachuting in will not have the time nor capacity to comprehend complex issues there

Gratitude begins at home

Monday, June 2, 2014 – 08:04

Melvin Singh

The New Paper

SINGAPORE – Why go to say, Cambodia, to assuage middle-class guilt? Students parachuting in will not have the time nor capacity to comprehend complex issues there. Surely ‘poor’ is not measured by the lack of air conditioning.

Spend taxpayers’ money and send our school children overseas.

Let them sleep under the stars and enjoy the morning dew.

Then they will appreciate Singapore’s infrastructure better.

That was a suggestion made in Parliament by Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng to help the younger generation build a “wind of gratitude”.

The proposal is flawed on several levels, but I will focus on a few.

First, there is no need to send Singaporean children overseas to appreciate what they have.

Send them to one-room flats here.

I don’t mean shoebox apartments, but the HDB flats that are quite common in older estates across Singapore.

Why not instead consider getting the students to help groups that actively seek out needy families, like Loving Heart Multi-Service Centre in Jurong?

On its website, the group describes a programme it runs, Project Home Sweet Home, as “a house visitation and cleaning project” which began in 2010.

The group also provides breakfast for needy families and welcomes volunteers.

Why go to say, Cambodia, to assuage middle-class guilt? Students parachuting in will not have the time nor capacity to comprehend complex issues there. Surely “poor” is not measured by the lack of air conditioning.

And does it smack of arrogance to suggest we use a “poorer country” as a teaching model of what-not-to be?

Stay here. We have enough poor families for students to impose themselves on.

The Loving Heart Multi-Service Centre already engages students to “improve the living environment of needy families and aging elderly in estates within Jurong GRC”. I found them online.

But it’s not just Jurong. There are more than 100,000 families here living on less than $1,500 a month. Workfare and a series of aid initiatives are needed, and given, for these families to get by.

Many do sleep without air-conditioning.

But students must be aware that poor people are still rich in dignity so using them as model for what-not-to-be is also problematic.


The gratitude argument cuts both ways.

Mr Ang, who has experience in the police force and as a senior executive at SBS Transit, should know this.

It’s not an argument about a “wind of gratitude” or “gust of entitlement”. It’s about helping Singaporeans, young and old, understand how things here work.

And to understand that Singaporeans have higher expectations because of the phenomenal material success achieved in such a short time.

Fed on being No. 1 for so long, should Singaporeans expect less now?

As I have argued previously, if they don’t understand, it’s not their fault.

I have a simple mantra: Explain simply, sincerely and repeatedly.

So please drop the idea of sending students overseas.

All of us can learn to soar on a “wind of humility” instead.


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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