Using "kueh lapis" to dismiss an official poverty line with their "multi-layer help" approach is flawed at the start. Anybody who has seen a sample of the sweet dessert will recognise the many rainbow colored lines, the result of compositing thin layers of butter, eggs and sugar, each laid down alternately and then grilled separately. None are so blind as those who do not see.
Lee Hsien Loong says a poverty line like the World Bank's measure of $1.50 a day is irrelevant since there are no "dead poor" in Singapore, which he defines as those who are starving and unsheltered. By his Cambridge Senior Wrangler (students who gain first-class degrees in mathematics) logic, those living in public housing but can afford only one meal a day are not poor. That must be why Lily Neo had a hard time asking for more money for the poor from Vivian Balakrishnan, and was rebuffed with the wicked hawker center, food court or restaurant line.
Lee said that each group needs a different sort and scale of help. Hmm, those who own a Porsche may need some help in upgrading to a Lamborghini. Those living in the penthouse suite of a condo in Orchard Road could use a helping hand from the Government to move to Sentosa Cove. That could explain doing away with estate duty and removal of tariffs for trading in gold.
Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong could be thinking along similar lines when he told Joo Chiat residents that "Govt will look out for asset-rich, cash-poor". He was responding to a point made by a landed property owner who had to pay a hefty property tax for his home which he bought when it cost "less than the cost of buying a car today". Since no line is drawn in the sand to qualify poverty, help may be coming to those who maxed out their credit lines to own two properties, one to rent out and one to stay in.
There could be a simpler reason for not wanting a poverty line. That would make a blatant liar out of Kishore Mahbuban, Dean and Professor in the Practice of Public Policy of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, and the one who boasted to the whole wide world, "There are no homeless, destitute or starving people (in Singapore). Poverty has been eradicated."