I read with a mix of concern and amusement, the news that NKF was in the red for the first time in 10 years. http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1018819/1/.html
Yes of course, donations have been down, especially since the scandal. It’s down 26% from the last year.
Expenses, aid and subsidies have gone up — we all know it’s getting more expensive in singapore, and more people are needing help. So its nice that the charity is doing its job and providing help.
The one particular thing that really got me noticing was the 97.5% drop in investment income from $3million to $80,000.
Now I really hope that’s because the current management has decided that investment income was something they no longer wanted to depend on and hence made a deliberate effort to not pursue investment income.
Because otherwise, it’s a 97.5% drop!!!! 97.5%!!! wow. If anyone working in an investment firm, Temasek, GIC, Town Council , whatever. A 97.% drop is hilariously unacceptable, I think. ( Maybe it’s just me being ignorant, and I know how irritating it is to encounter ignorant people acting like they know something in my field of expertise (health & biology, not econs), so I’ll be glad to learn something if you point out i’m wrong, and that a 97.5% drop is perfectly normal and OK cos it’s not like any money was lost?!?! )
But that’s not really the point I’m concerned with. What I was thinking was that the ex-management — yes the very one thrown out first by popular uprising, and then taken care of by the judiciary —- was really quite savy with the finances . Be it investment, marketing, or simply creating a financially sustainable charity —- they were damned good, so good that they could help themselves to some of the excess.
I’m definately not trying to defend their crimes or unethical behavior here. But what I’m actually wondering is that perhaps we should take a leaf from the PAP’s book, and start paying charity workers & social workers decently.
Now I’m not talking about paying people 5times what their next highest-paid peers are paid ( http://timesbusiness.typepad.com/money_weblog/2009/04/the-10-highest-paid-politicians-in-the-world.html (Times Absolute Ranking) ; http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/best-paid-politicians/story-0-1225696964080 (Rank by per capita) oh look at that, Ireland comes in tops in Europe! =D )
I’m talking about simply paying charity workers & social workers the amount they deserve — comparable to their other Singaporean peers with equal educational qualifications and effort put into their jobs! Not only would it be decent and fair to charity & social workers, we’ll also be able to retain more good people!
Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying existing workers are no good. What I’ve hear from my charity & social worker friends is that fresh graduates (yes they need a degree, and often a masters degree too! http://www.sasw.org.sg/site/job-vacancies/index.php ) get into the industry with lots of passion, and learn alot on the job through their early years. However, because the pay just isn’t up to scratch, alot of them leave for other better paying jobs when they decide to start a family, simply to give their families a better life! In this way, the industry loses lots of experienced people who could contribute so much more to Singapore’s needy. There are very very few experienced people who stay on after decades, they are so overworked!
Charity and social work is not just about physically taking care of people’s needs. One very important aspect of it is managing the financial sustainability of the organisation and helping it grow. Most companies would hire someone with financial degrees and experience; charity organisations should be no different. But because the Singapore society has this mentality that people who work for charity should be doing it out of their own good heart, they should be unpaid volunteers or paid very minimally. Now we have many people in this industry with good hearts, and rightly so. But lots of this work requires full time workers — who need to live decently, go for upgrading courses, have parent’s who need to see doctors, have children who want to go to the university. Paying people minimally would drive good financial managers away.
TT Durai’s model was actually an excellent one (minus ths fraud and gold toilets, that is). I remember him giving a lecture in NUS about his business model : Instead of a Not-for-Profit oragnisation, he actually has a FOR-profit-charity. This way, good people work for the organisation, grow it, an sustain it. Everyone benefits. Yes, fraud was involved, but with every industry eg. banking, politics etc, as long as the appropriate regulations are not in place, fraud is bound to happen. Profit, however, does not mean fraud. Paying people salaries benchmarked to their peers, is not fraud.
I’ve actually long wanted to write on this, but never got around to doing the research. Today’s article was simply an inpiration.
I did a quick google search and found a few things.
Civil Service Starting Salary for a Basic Degree (2007 ) : $2570, Honours Degree : $2800, Teachers: 2820 http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/277477/1/.html
Social Workers Starting Salary for Fresh Grads (Current) : $1800 – $2400 (Their upper limit doesn’t even come close to a Civil Servant!)
Singapore Top 100 paying jobs (2007) : Social Workers are NOT even in that list!!!!!!!!! The bottom of that list makes about 4000+ . My social worker friends tell me they hit a ceiling of about $3000 after years of experience because of this mentality that social workers shouldn’t be doing this for profit, and definately not on donation money.
I hope this would change.