Desperate times sometimes result in desperate measures.
Thankfully, the Government has provided respite for all citizens. As part of the $4.6b Care and Support Package, grocery vouchers are being mailed out to lower-income households living in 1-room and 2-room HDB flats.
But instead of using these vouchers for groceries, some recipients have been reselling them on Carousell.
Worse, others have even turned to breaking the law, stealing the vouchers from out of letterboxes.
Not just for the sake of money
At face-level, it might seem that these people are simply being selfish and taking advantage of government assistance to make a quick buck.
In a reddit post, redditor u/AllGoodNamesTakn wrote: ”Not sure if this is a case of choosing beggars or the winos selling food stamps to buy malt liquor or genuinely these guys do not spend 150 a month at the grocery shop.”
Many redditors disagreed and downvoted his comment, with some even calling him out on his cynical views on the article.
On the flip side, most who commented empathised with the Carousell resellers.
Redditor Wheat-gen-stein commented that this is a reason why cash handouts can be better than vouchers: “Thing is, they [the poor] have a variety of reasons to not want vouchers. Everyone has preferences, some prefer to buy things from the wet market… Some poor people get free groceries regularly and would rather have cash to pay for school fees or electric bills. Some might have even more urgent dues to pay, no point having groceries when you don’t have any electricity or gas to cook with right?”
Redditor u/ybct added: ”If you’re really poor and lose your job, there may be overdue bills like water, electricity and phone bills that need paying in cash before the service is cut off. So try to have some sympathy here.”
The Pride contacted one of the sellers on Carousel to find out more. He was selling $140 worth of vouchers for $135.
When we asked why he needed the money instead of the vouchers themselves, the seller replied that he needed the money to pay his bills.
We then asked how he could afford his groceries without the vouchers and he explained that he had received $300 worth of vouchers and was selling off only half of them.
Low-income families have much more to worry about than just groceries. The vouchers only cover that one aspect of their living needs. They still need to take into account other necessities which require money.
Not just the needy, many Singaporeans are already suffering. Instead of judging people for selling their vouchers, we should practice empathy and put ourselves in their shoes.The last thing we should do is steal their vouchers.
Kindness goes beyond financial ability
This incident took me back to an early experience in my life which shaped my view of the needy.
During class in Primary 4, a teacher came into the classroom with a fully loaded plastic bag. Upon spotting my seatmate Daniel, he went up to him, handed the plastic bag over and left without a word. Daniel was completely nonchalant as if receiving plastic bags was a side-hustle of his.
As I was curious, I peeked into the plastic bag and saw numerous packet drinks and bags of snacks, enough for half the class.
The 10-year-old me instantly felt that it was unjust. Why did Daniel get all these drinks and snacks while the rest of us got nothing?
So I passive-aggressively asked: “Why did the teacher give you all this stuff?” I expected him to get defensive or get offended by my accusatory tone.
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Instead, Daniel quietly replied: “I’m in FAS (Financial Assistance Scheme) so they’re donations for me and my family. We can’t afford it by ourselves.”
His calm demeanour caught me off guard, leaving me speechless.
Daniel then tore open a set of packet drinks and handed one to me. I was completely flabbergasted at this point, so I could only stare at his outstretched hand. I also thought he was joking, which made me even more unsure of how to react.
It was only when he said: “Just take it bro, it’s okay,” that I did, thanking him profusely and feeling terrible about my assumptions.
In that moment, someone from a needy family showed me more kindness than so many others who came from financially stable families. And he did so without a second thought.
Kindness and financial hardship are not mutually exclusive.
Just because some people need more financial help than others, does not mean they do everything for self-gain. Just like the rest of us, they need to survive.
Let’s all learn how to be more understanding of their position. Needy families were already struggling before Covid came about. The pandemic has dealt them an even harder blow.
We shouldn’t be so quick to judge the actions of others. They could be resorting to doing such things simply because they are at their wits’ end and have no other choice.
Desperate times may call for desperate measures, but let’s remember that desperate people need kindness just as much as they need material things.