14 July 2005

Get that Man a Peanut!

Non-moralistic musings on NKF

... are hard to come by these days, with everyone baying for the hide of T.T. Durai, the National Kidney Foundation charity's CEO and rainmaker. Aside from Wang Zhen's posts on the matter, actually.

Readers of my series on the casino issue will know the contempt I have for solely relying on morality to win any argument. This post will similarly identify a non-moral grounds for action against the NKF, among other things.

He who lives by the sword...

Durai's successes in the 90s transformed the NKF from a typical small charity into a multimillion foundation, by forming an alliance wiht Mediacorp to produce frequent charity shows, a kind of circus performance by the country's television stars. While detractors believed the gimmick would soon tire out, Durai proved that the lure of cash, automobile and condo prizes, celebrity power, easy phone pledging, and the option to donate monthly through bank accounts would attract enough donations to make the charity shows a quarterly event.

It didn't take Singapore's ministers much time to honour the entrepeneur with national awards and trumpeting the arrival of a new paradigm for charities. Instead of begging or relying for goodwill, charities should conduct themselves as voluntary welfare organisations operating in a free market system. It doesn't take a genius to decode that into:

1. If every charity were run like a business, as NKF does, the government wouldn't need to partially fund 80% of Singapore's charities.
2. Well, tough luck if NKF happens to take away your donation dollar. It's a free market and you didn't compete hard enough.
3. It's your fault if you can't get enough people to donate to your cause. Don't come crying to the government (see statement 1).
And so on.

NKF has been the poster child for Singapore's unique "free market charities" model. He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword, and since Durai and NKF's board of directors have proudly forced their charity model on us for almost a decade, any condemnation should centre on how well they conducted themselves as a typical member of any really-existing "free market".

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