VITTO BANEZ WRITES – Singapore is very well-off. At least that’s the perception.

The skyline alone illustrates the nation’s growth.  The island country has become a hotspot for rich vacationers attracted by its fancy hotels and world-class cuisine. Looking at all that, it’s hard to believe poverty exists in a place like Singapore. Yes, it’s one of the wealthiest nations in the world, but the wealth of some comes at a high cost to others. And it is becoming increasingly difficult for poverty stricken families to live in such an expensive place.

Singapore was recently ranked as the world’s sixth most expensive city to live in. With an efficient infrastructure and low taxes, one can see why the rich would run to a city with such incentives. The nation also has a strong financial center and the second largest international private banking market. Despite its reputation as an economic success story, the wealth gap is the second highest in Asia, only trumped by Hong Kong.

Poverty contradicts Singapore pristine image. It’s an incredibly clean city without any sign of graffiti or even discarded gum on its pristine sidewalks.  With such a high standard of living, it is difficult for families to sustain decent living conditions. Some families live off weekly groceries from charities as well as a monthly allowance from the government.  Still the BBC reports that some Singaporeans believe that their nation’s poverty problem is not entirely bad when compared to India, China, or the United States.

However, poverty in Singapore often goes unnoticed or obscured due to the lack of a national poverty line. But the absence of a poverty line doesn’t make the problem disappear as Mr. Laurence Lien, Chief Executive Officer of the non-profit National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre, states, “Certainly, poverty is not in your face here, but yes, it is happening here.”  

Poverty does exist in Singapore, though it is hidden under the mask of an unwritten poverty line. Parliament claims to be in the process of ensuring more aid for those families in need, but this seems unlikely since Singapore is ardently opposed to becoming a welfare-dependent state. After triumphantly developing a booming economy after gaining independence from Malaysia, welfare remains an unpopular topic.  In the mean time, those who struggle must continue to live off donated groceries and a monthly allowance.

Despite its glamourous facade, Singapore indeed has an ugly side of poverty and  economic disparity.