SINGAPORE (Aug 6): On June 28, the Binomio Spanish Restaurante located on Craig Road provided a free lunch to a group of elderly, low-income residents in the area. It was participating in the “Golden Treat” programme, in which various restaurants in Minister Indranee Rajah’s Tanjong Pagar-Tiong Bahru ward take turns to offer older people of limited means in the neighbourhood a dining experience they might not otherwise be able to afford.

The upscale Binomio restaurant, where patrons pay $69 for a set of six tapas dishes, is a world away from the hawker centre across the road, where a plate of nasi lemak can be had for less than $3. The way Indranee sees it, without the intervention of social programmes, “it would be that the two worlds never meet”, she tells The Edge Singapore in an interview this past week.

Striving to build a democratic society based on justice and equality is part of the National Pledge. But the competitive market system that Singapore has adopted as the organising principle for its economy does not lead to equal outcomes. And, after 53 years of independence, addressing growing inequality, social mobility and lack of social mixing has become a key element of our national conversation. “That is the essence of being Singaporean. We care enough to want to do something. If we see something wrong, our first instinct is to help, to fix it, to improve the situation,” Indranee said in a speech in Parliament on May 18.

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