Singapore today has progressed by leaps and bounds from the land of slums, beggars and child-labourers it once was to a country that is today a wealthy and competitive global market player. Going by human development statistics, the nation has done extremely well. It has low infant mortality rates, high levels of literacy (96.3%) and high levels of home ownership (88.8%). Its GDP per capita places it among the top ten countries in the world. Such has been the progress in a little over 40 years.
NGO’s in Singapore have played a role of catalyst in achieving these figures. The participatory process of NGO’s in Singapore is a unique one. It takes the form of what local commentators have referred to as 'Eastern-style democracy', which emphasises moderation. Although this is a different model from that of Western environmental NGOs, the role of Singapore NGO’s is by no means a diminished one. Local NGOs have shown that they are satisfied to play a supporting role to the Government in the development of laws and policy. It is, in turn, encouraging to see the way in which the Government has, in line with its new consultative approach, opened broad channels for continuing participation, by NGOs and the stakeholders they represent, at all significant levels of decision-making.
Yet, there are lot many issues which needs attention. Though, the government has performed well in achieving the required economical standards, it has fall short of achieving social health standards. The Total Fertility Ratio (TFR) is below replacement levels. The gap between the income levels of richest 20% and the poorest 20% of the population is the second widest amongst developed countries in the world. In Singapore, poor and needy struggle with “relative poverty” —simply defined as that their financial resources fall substantially below what is needed to pay for the necessities of living in Singapore.
There are emerging stories of struggles in getting jobs, having independent incomes, finding shelter, seeking medical treatments and receiving education. There is also a disconnect between people not knowing which schemes are available or considering it onerous to seek help. The factors above suggests the need for NGO’s to work more with grass root level organizations to get the maximum people have governmental benefits and have them meet their basic necessities.
Milaap, a social enterprise, headquartered in Singapore works with its field partners to improvise sanitation, water, education and energy standards particularly in rural India. It allows anyone around the world to lend to the poor in India and has transformed lives of millions of Indian poor.