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Bertha HarianBertha Harian


Rich list; poor list; good list

Whenever I see a “rich” list, I feel so, so poor.

My eyes glaze over the names of the usual banking, property types to pick out new names. Who are these fellows? Foreigners, or rather ex-foreigners, and some very Singaporean brand names, like Hotel 81 and Sheng Siong, this time round. Oops! I mean their founders. Interesting that BT and Today went with headlines that said The rich got richer – by 9 per cent. So…that’s the income divide fully manifested! ST buried it somewhere in the bowels of the story.

It’s great that rich foreigners have decided to become citizens and sink their lot here. Even better to see the Hotel 81 and Sheng Siong bosses get into the list. So we can all aim to be like those Singapore entreprenuers and not depend on “family” money to be in the ranking.

What’s also interesting is how the Forbes ranking gave some details of their philantrophic deeds – especially in education. Go buy BT. I suppose this provides some leavening. If you are so rich, there will be people who ask what you are doing with all that money. Churlish I suppose. You make your money, you can decide what to do with it. Except that with all that concern over income inequality, it seems in pretty bad taste to simply hoard it for your heirs.

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if there was a “poor” list instead. I guess that would be political unacceptable  and explosive. There will be complaints that the ranking method is wrong (you don’t  really hear this about  a rich list) and a lot of hand wringing and calls to do more for them. I wouldn’t feel so so rich reading a poor list. I will just feel so so bad.

I wish there was an annual Philantrophy list. I know that there are various awards given to donors and the good people. But they are varied, scattered and even ad hoc.  I want to know how those people who have benefited from being part of this place are giving back, whether in terms of their brain power or money. Will this be too onerous for our rich people? Pressuring them to give? By the way, I don’t care if they are doing it for tax purposes. Nor do I  care if this starts a race among top donors or foundation founders or scholarship boards. Better, I think, than Lim Chong Yah’s formula to cut the wages at the  top and give to the bottom. In this case, if you have extra, then give.

Let’s have a “good” list.

It would dampen the politics of envy. And make me feel so so much better.

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An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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