50 Comments
  1. Thankyou all for the intelligent discussion above.

    From a limited perspective of research into history and an understanding of psychology, I have come to a viewpoint that most people will be right at one time or another. Unfortunately, everyone likes to hold their views and insights in perpetuity where the context is continually changing. This keeps things interesting! It is those that are able to change their minds that can adapt and respond to the change that is constantly challenging our ideas of life, love, health, community, communication, welfare, society, government, finance and ourselves.

    First off, ALL countries are run as a corporation. And citizens are assets of the state.

    That said, for the time being, Deborah has pointed out a few issues with how the national bureaucracy is limited in providing adequate solutions to caring for the aged population of this country. This is a universal problem with the most of the developed world experiencing similar demographics as the baby boomers are approaching retirement age.( For the sake of simplicity I am including any country that has a nationalised savings/ pension plan/ government welfare program as developed). This particular financial construct is a government initiative that has only been in place for the last 79 years in America and others soon after. (from 1889 in Germany) It originally had no funding, but soon after, it took 2% of tax revenue. This has only increased in the time since. To now cover the liabilities of the American pension scheme, the tax revenue required is estimated to be over 21%. Similar shortfalls are seen across other countries with centrally planned pension plans. Singapore’s CPF “may” be better funded or managed. All centrally planned schemes end up costing more than originally envisaged.

    Those in power will always legislate to remain in power and try to make life easier for the most amount of people. Taking the easy choice will always cost more somewhere, somehow. We will see the collapse of all of these funds in the future. The history of the legislation and progressive changes to the threshold values are clear evidence that these funds will run out of money. The only question is time and if you are complicit in the scheme will I die and get all my entitlements before it does? If not, most will opt to forge a future for themselves. The early adopters of the scheme get much better conditions and returns than the latecomers. and for those of you who need it spelt out, this is the very definition of a Ponzi.

    I personally believe that there will eventually be no minimum retirement age, no lump sum payout available and all money that I have had invested for me will never materialise as any benefit. That money is gone. I will never see it.

    We are not the first society that has introduced pension funds.

    The roman empire introduced pensions for government workers (including the roman army) prior to the collapse of the empire. They were also the ones that introduced passports for citizens. And this measure was to stop people hoarding their own wealth and removing it from taxation. I don’t know about you but that certainly sounds similar to some ideas of today – the reduction of choice and coercion to participate in the government schemes. The difficulty is that there will always be people that make unwise choices, whether they are in control of their own lives or that or others.

    Granted, I can certainly understand that Singapore is a far more complex society than we can discuss here, but we will always undergo the same societal changes that have gone before.

    As always awareness and flexibility is key.

    Cheers.

  2. There’s nothing wrong with Singapore. Singapore is just the product of full-blown capitalism, which in my opinion, is destroying the wrold not just Singapore. Just that Singapore is on the extreme spectrum.

    If you think there’s something wrong, why not strive to change it? If this is really your home then you should stay and fight.

  3. Deborah Tan, walk your talk please: “I Can’t Be A Singaporean Anymore.” Please don’t just say it and do nothing.

    I am not a Singaporean, but Singapore is the best country around the area.

    1. Hi Wenshan,
      Love the patient and meticulous way you put across your very well constructed thoughts, answers and rebuttals in all your post. Unfortunately, these anti govt trolls do not, will not and cannot see the our side of the picture.
      So, no matter how you try and change their ways, it’s not going to help because they think we’re are just as weird for not being able to see their side of the picture.
      That’s just way nature is. For every positive there will be a negative.
      We can only hope to persuade the fence sitters to be on our side and tip the scale our way.
      People like Deborah are too far gone to waste your previous words and time, my friend. Believe me, I’ve tried reasoning things, for the longest time, to these weirdos but they thought they same of me too.

  4. Actually, there is no rationalisation needed whatsoever. If you must go, just go. It is a free country and hey, a borderless world (if you really believe what you read) out there awaits you. I’ll get a little more personal space once you leave and thank you very much. :)

  5. We live in a garden city…yet, you say there are not enough green.
    There is no slump in Singapore, yet, you compare our HDB home to slump.
    There are plenty of job even for our old people. Yet, what you see is they are being forced to work.
    The good old CPF is a excellent social security system for our aging population. Yet, you thing it is pitiful.

    Vast majority of the people from the world who visited thinks this is heaven on earth. Yet, to you it is hell.

    There is nothing wrong with Singapore actually. And I suggest that you get your eyes check. You have not been blind for the last 15years. But you have an extremely distorted vision
    that turns all goodness into curse.

    1. Hi Kojak,

      Thank you. Is it possible to post a preview of the article on TRE then and direct your readers to entire article here?

      Regards,
      Deborah

  6. I’m not an economist but this article does strike a chord with me. For all that I hate about the CPF system and inability to understand why some of our government officials are so well-paid, I think I will like to share with you about my interactions with foreigners. Due to my job, I get to interact with many foreigners, who are either here on holiday or are working here. Whenever I explain our housing schemes, CPF and education policies etc, almost 90% of them will tell me “that’s very good and well-thought through” even though I tell them the flaws of it. Of course, some are short-sighted views and we can argue how some of the foreigners are just making a quick buck and then leave but that’s another argument altogether.

    They are appreciative of the low crime rate and compliment on the convenience of our transport system. I am disappointed by the way our country is run, yet each time I speak to these individuals, it sends a message to me that I have to be grateful for what I have. There’s no perfect country in the world. What perhaps we need to do is consider how we can help the ageing population, especially those who do not have families to take care of them. Will individuals or religious groups step out to build nursing homes and elder care centres for the elderly? Will families take the initiative and responsibility to care for their parents so that they need not be doing menial chores at foodcourts? Yes, by right, it should be the government’s job but I can fairly tell you that many weaker parts of our society in Singapore are supported by NGOs. And these groups do make a difference due to the beliefs and principles that are refreshingly different from the government policy holders.

  7. Those of you who are accusing miss deborah tan here of not using her brain … are you f___ing kidding me? It’s becoz she’s using her brain that’s why she’s questioning the entire CPF structure! How is it that everyone can be so blind to what is happening with the way this country is being run!?!?

    Old people ARE either being worked to death OR are wasting their lives away becoz there is nothing to keep them mentally engaged and active. The toilet auntie at my kopitiam should be doing tai-chi in the park, not f___ing wiping your piss and shit up lor!!!! These 2 things are NOT in contradiction with one another. Accusing the writer of being “confused” just shows how f___ing ignorant you are! YOU DON’T HAVE TO TALK TO ANY OLD PEOPLE TO SEE THAT! Just f___ing take a walk around Singapore with your ELITIST eyes opened!!! Have you not read about old people dying alone in their flats, poor, hungry and unhappy?!?!?!

    She’s not complaining! She merely giving a voice to the old people who are not able to speak for themselves!!! How many of you actually know of an old person who can use the f___ing Internet and read up on CPF rules?!?!!?

    You say she’s a troll, a hater, a quitter … c’mon man!!! At least she has the compassion and the heart to put herself in the shoes of helpless old folks who need HELP! Can’t you all see what she’s trying to do here?!?!?! UNBELIEVABLE!

    Instead of letting your hate and prejudice consume you, why don’t you try to be a decent human being and appreciate that someone is trying to WAKE US ALL UP by questioning the system????

    Ohhhhh …. Singapore is great! Ohhhh … Singapore is so clean, safe, and efficient! Stop being so blind!!!! This is a Singapore for the young, healthy who are able to work. Is this a Singapore for the old? Is this a Singapore you really believe you can retire in? You must be earning like $10,000 a month lah!!!

    1. The government increase the CPF is to ensure that the people going forward will not need to work at the old age where they can take their money from their CPF and live decently. To be honest, do you think the youngsters now will have the money or effort to take care of their parents when their parents grow old? The CPF is to relief the children burdens too. What happens to the current old folks maybe due to they do not have CPF or they took out their money in their CPF way too early than they should, which the government had notice and are making changes to avoid such cases. Didnt you heard that some old folks that took out a huge sum of money from CPF was cheated by people or even worst cheated by their own children. CPF is the last resource for people that are retiring. CPF is like 未雨绸缪 for our future, just look at it positively. If you really in need of money now, work hard and earn more instead of complaining about the government taking away your money for future use.

  8. With reference to: George Lam
    May 17, 2014 at 2:25 PM

    The 2nd sentence should read as: “The problem we have in Singapore is a near complete ABSENCE OF empathy of the govt and the top civil service officials for what life is like for more than half of the population.”

  9. I think this troubled lady will carry her issues with her where ever else she goes. Where to begin…

    First, she bemoans that ‘our old people find themselves wasting their days away at void decks and in homes for the aged because there’s just no place that adequately caters to their needs’. Then she claims to be very upset by how old people are still working well beyond retirement age at fast food restaurants and food courts ‘because whatever meager sums they have, they probably have to use it to pay their bills and loans … sums of money so huge, it was impossible to have paid them off by the time they retired.’

    Right. Looking beyond the inherent conflict in her confused thoughts…does she know this because she actually talked to them? Or simply conjured this assumption out of her ‘oh-dearie-so-oppressive-Singapore’ fantasy? Is it that improbable to her some old people simply choose to work because they want to stay active and feel useful to society? Maybe you need to rethink why it so offends you that old people are out there, in public society, working. Just like -everyone- else. They each have an individual story. They are not just ‘old people’ who fit beautifully in your broad, sweeping, baseless assumptions.

    Then she bleats on about ‘The indignity of being a Singaporean these days is how we are constantly being confronted by these gleaming condominiums and cars that are now priced way out of our reach’. Right. I love it when these anti-government trolls flaunt their naked envy as if it was something so tragic and noble. In America, immigrants are fired up by these signs of great prosperity and wealth to work hard themselves because they know that they are now so close to opportunities they can grab with their own two hands. That’s called the ‘American Dream’. In Singapore, the trolls don’t see opportunities. They just want everyone else to be reduced to the same level of material comforts as their lazy, complacent selves and rage out at everyone better off than them. What makes you think that ANYTHING is out of your reach if you are truly inspired to work towards it? Go on, share more self-actualization memes and pics on Facebook and Twitter. More power to you. Because that will actually change something.

    Hey, here’s a tip from one of those memes before you call the international moving company. ‘Envy is something you will carry with you anywhere you go. If you are envious in Singapore, you will be envious in Australia, New Zealand and whatever other migrant happy country will take you in as a second class citizen. Because there will always be people richer than your lazy, complacent self everywhere. If you can’t better your own life in a homeland which loves you as a citizen and gives you preferential opportunities, good luck trying that elsewhere.’ Actually, I just wrote that myself. You’re welcome.

    I would tell a story I read in the newspapers about this China from migrant who came to work in Singapore as a construction worker. Now, he is a boss of a construction firm here with hundreds of millions in turnover a year. But I don’t think I will go into the full story, because then you will just go on to bash the government about why it is so preferential to foreigners. Now, here’s the literally million-dollar question: what did this man do as a migrant worker in Singapore to make it rich that you cannot do as a Singaporean? Bam.

    What this lady does NOT say in her blog post is just as telling. She does not refer to her love for her friends and family holding her back from moving. She does not tell of her favourite food stalls in Singapore, the places where she made memories with loved ones, all the little things she may love about Singapore. Sure, broad national issues may piss you off, make you hate the government. But it’s the little personal ties that hold you back, make you love your country, make you stay. Nobody just ups and leaves a country because ‘the gahmen ain’t treating the oldies right’. Perhaps it’s these little personal ties that she needs to think about building and nurturing instead of all her rage about self-perceived issues she thinks she can’t do anything about.

    I mean, seriously woman. Here’s a few tips on how to live life happily anywhere. Stop living in this sad, dystopian novel in which you wrote yourself as a tragi-emo citizen prole heroine. Stop eating all that anti-government rage spewed by haters without adding a healthy dose of rational thought for yourself. You were fortunate enough to be given a brain and an education. Try using them to question all your regurgitated presumptions and attitudes.

    If not, good riddance to whiny, pretentious quitters.

    1. Hi there,

      Thank you for your response. I also want take this opportunity to thank everyone who has aired their comments to this article here and on other social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and their own blogs.

      I believe I owe it to myself to clarify a number of the assumptions made about my person as a result of this article.

      1. Is CPF an issue that concerns us all?
      I hope the answer is a Yes because all of us contribute to our CPF accounts on a regular basis and for what purpose? So we are assured of a good retirement, so we can use it to pay off our property loans.

      Whenever CPF raises the Minimum Sum, it affects our retirement planning whether you are retiring this year or retiring in 30 years’ time. I have learnt from several older relatives their frustrations towards the Minimum Sum scheme. They have several thousands of dollars locked away that they can see but cannot use. They don’t understand why it has to be that way.

      This article is a reaction to the Minimum Sum scheme and it questions whether it is right for the government to decide for each of us if this is the best way we should use our CPF savings. For those of us who will not be able to draw out a sizable amount of money when we are 55, is this not something to think about now?

      2. Am I being melodramatic? Am I being whiny?
      I would like to apologize to everyone if you feel I have been unnecessarily dramatic in my article. But I want you to understand that the bread and butter issues surrounding Singaporeans are very real.

      Are your salaries rising in proportion to inflation? Have you calculated if you will have enough money to live on MINUS the Minimum Sum when you retire? When you retire, do you want to be given “pocket money” or do you want to be able to control your money?

      For me, I would like to think that my government would come to trust me enough to leave me to do what I think is best for myself. The first generation of PAP leaders led us down a very clear path of Do This, Do That. It worked well but will it continue to work?

      3. Am I anti-government? Am I ungrateful?
      No. I would like to state now that I’m definitely not an anti-government troll. Rather, I think speaking my mind on current issues is my way of contributing to the way Singapore will grow as a country.

      We cannot remain silent and allow things to happen to us. And when they do – such as whenever the Minimum Sum is raised – we as citizens must give our feedback to the government.

      Perhaps many people have taken my “whining” about not being able to be a Singaporean as my declaration to turn my back on this country. It’s not. What I am saying is, “Can I continue to live in my homeland if I want to retire comfortably and in peace, knowing that I do not owe tens of thousands of dollar in mortgages?”

      I know my response here will continue to generate more comments – positive and negative. But I hope the point of my article is not lost on everyone:

      The Minimum Sum has been raised and if it is here to stay, how will it affect you when you retire?

      I don’t have children of my own and I am self-employed. I do not have a regular income coming into my account every month. As such, my fear that I cannot meet the Minimum Sum is real and when I’m old and not as energetic, will I be able to still make a decent living and live out the rest of my life in dignity?

      Do these fears not exist in you?

      1. I completely endorse your views. The problem we have in Singapore is a near complete empathy of the govt and the top civil service officials for what life is like for more than half of the population. They are well insulated by the huge (IMO, excessive) salaries they received. In the case of the former, they have purloined for themselves the right to arbitrarily decide how much to pay themselves with the ‘people’s’ money, that ironically, the people have no control of! In the latter, the civil service mandarins, they are hugely rewarded by the political masters for no other reasons than so that they would carry out the bidding of the political masters – they are insulated by the extravagant salaries from the realities the govt imposed on the rest of Singaporeans. For instance, permanent secretaries are give a sum every few tears to help them buy a new car! The way the COE has been going, this is one huge incentive and compromiser of integrity and conscience. And I am sure many of them actually believe that they DESERVE it! It is not difficult to press the business end of a hot branding iron on the sides of Singaporeans when you are the one holding the branding iron by the handle. THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT IS HAPPENING NOW.

      2. I appreciate that you have directly taken on a contrarian view with a reply. Although I am somewhat puzzled that your reply does not address any single point in my original comment but goes on a tangent about CPF. Nonetheless, it is more worthy of a response than some off-point rant.

        If I distill down your points to their essence, what you’re saying is this: “I earn my money and it’s my right to deal with it as I wish down to the very last cent. The government has no right to come in and impose increasingly onerous conditions on how I spend my money.”

        That is all very well and good. But, at the end of the day, what is CPF? It is simply mandatory retirement savings for you, yourself and nobody else. Who does the Minimum Sum go to in the end? You. If you don’t live to spend the last of your CPF? Your estate and your heirs. Just like -anything- else that you own. Not a single cent goes to the government, not even management fees.

        Sure, CPF is a paternalistic concept. It forces you to stuff money away that you earned for when the time when you are old and no longer capable of earning income. People hate being told what to do by their nanny government, especially with money that they earned. It is enforced financial discipline. Why? Because most people are, quite frankly, incapable of it. Who doesn’t want to spend now and enjoy life while you’re young when the consequences are 50 years down the road? Those stories of mounting credit card debt amongst young Singaporeans and $100k weddings are not just anecdotal. They are just reflective of normal, feckless young people without a care for old age.

        Let’s say there is no CPF. And you are the government. 50 years later, you have vast numbers of old people with little to no savings and no income. Who pays for their upkeep? Money has to come from somewhere, it doesn’t magically grow on trees in the Botanic Garden. The youth of the next generation? How would you feel if I told you, young lady, I’m taking away 50% of your annual income because I need to feed these old people who had spent everything they earned in their youth?

        So what is your alternative to the CPF and the Minimum Sum? You have had lots to say about it but what’s your alternative? Where is your constructive suggestion? Sure, CPF is flawed. I dislike very much and cannot buy into the concept of accured interest rate for property payments, myself. But what solution is perfect? Can you offer a better fix instead of your keyboard warrior post bashing every imperfection you see in the system?

        And you are incredibly self-contradictory in your points. First, you say that “There is absolutely no way we can all enjoy our “golden years” with all the regulations surrounding our CPF money. Our government has decided that there is just one and only one way our retirees can use their hard-earned money….It’s a pitiful existence, one that gives you enough to not die…If we have precious little to meet the minimum sum in the first place, will extending our misery by paying us a paltry amount every month help at all?”

        Then you say in your reply: “This article is a reaction to the Minimum Sum scheme and it questions whether it is right for the government to decide for each of us if this is the best way we should use our CPF savings. For those of us who will not be able to draw out a sizable amount of money when we are 55, is this not something to think about now?”

        Honestly, woman, what you want? First, you go on about the low, bare survival rate payout from CPF after retirement page. Then, you cry out about the high Minimum Sum that CPF is now imposing. My question to you is this: how do you justify a higher and better payout without putting more in in the first place? If you want a low Minimum Sum, sure, then your monthly payout after retirement is lower. If you want a higher payout, then of course, your Minimum Sum has to go up. Where does the money for the high payout and low Minimum Sum that you demand come from? Seriously, how do you expect anyone from CPF to take your criticism seriously? There is no way to please you.

        As for your denial that you are an anti-government troll. In my book, anyone who simply bashes government policies without an even-handed consideration of how those policies may have benefited people and constructive suggestions on how to improve the flaws in the policies is an anti-government troll. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, quacks like a duck…

        Here’s a quote from Margaret Thatcher which sums it up nicely, in my opinion.

        “I think we’ve been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it’s the government’s job to cope with it. ‘I have a problem, I’ll get a grant.’ ‘I’m homeless, the government must house me.’ They’re casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations. There’s no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation.”

      3. Hi Wenshan,

        How about the simple concept of “choice”?

        I’m not saying do away with CPF. But when the time comes to decide what to do with what’s inside our CPF accounts, surely it won’t hurt to give us all a CHOICE? Why can’t the Minimum Sum scheme be an option rather than a rule?

        Everyone has their own definition of what it means to lead a quality life. Some may just want to take that money, go on a holiday and then be done with their lives. Who is to say this is wrong?

        You may think I’m contradictory in my argument. As far as I can see it, my starting point has always been the same. I want the choice and the freedom to decide what to do with my future. Whether at 21, 31 or 71, as long as I can wake up tomorrow, I have a future and I want to be the master of it.

        Let’s say I’m 65 … if it turned out that it was a mistake for me to have chosen to withdraw all my money from CPF, at least I would die knowing it was my choice. But I don’t want to die knowing I had all this money sitting inside my CPF as my “minimum sum” and there was nothing I could have done to improve my lot.

        You asked me what I want? I tell you now … I want a CHOICE to opt into this Minimum Sum scheme and I want a CHOICE to say, “No, thank you.”

      4. Sure. Let’s say that you can have your fully libertarian choice. That you can spend every single cent you earned in pursuit of your concept of a ‘quality life’. You can say that you ‘would die knowing it was your choice’ now, while you are still healthy, young and defiant and the consequences are far, far down the road.

        But. When push comes to shove. When you are riddled with age-related degenerative diseases. When you are homeless and on the streets. When you are scrabbling for leftovers in bins. Are you so sure that you can stick to the resolution of your youth and die in squalor with perfect equanimity? Or will you bitterly repent your ‘choice’ and reach out to the government for help? Will you curse the government if it then simply shrugs and points back at your ‘choice’?

        You can’t answer definitively to any of the above. Because that is too radically different from the you now. And aside from what you or the government would do, there is the fact that you and I know that society’s conscience-at-large will not allow the fully destitute to go without help. Unless you intend on sternly rejecting every helping hand then, you and I both know that deep down, you will still be relying on society’s largess to survive after your ‘choice’. And is that fair? That other people have to pay for your profligacy?

        In a way, the scene of destitute old people that you imagine you see is the precisely the scenario that the government is trying to ward off with CPF. The older generations are the people who did not have the benefit of CPF as their safety net. With CPF, the government is simply making every person take responsibility for himself in his old age. And who doesn’t grow old?

        As Thatcher says, there is no such thing as society, we are all individual men and women. It is our duty to look after ourselves first. And then, after our neighbours.

    2. Everything that is in the future remains a hypothetical situation.

      You mean to say if you are in the government, you won’t even let your people try?

      1. I suspect Wenshan is using the concept of time consistency.

        Its like the classic story of Ulysses. You want to hear the Siren’s song, you tell yourself you will not jump into the water when u hear it.

        But you know when you finally hear the song, you know you are not going to stick to that decision, so the only way is to prevent that is to tie yourself to the boat, to remove that option from you.

    3. So. If you are the government, you will happily run the very high probability risk that many people will be living without adequate savings into their retirement and that they will be destitute and looking to you every day for a handout to survive. And your young people will be put under an increasingly heavy burden to pay for these destitute old people. All in the name of this ‘free choice’ that is your vaunted rallying flag.

      Here’s what will happen. Your superbly educated, mobile young people will get sick of high taxes and leave for the next Singapore. With decreasing income taxes, your government will take on more debt in order to support the increasing numbers of destitute old because everyone wants to ride your gravy choo choo train now. You get into so much debt that your debtors question whether you can really pay it all off and they stop giving you cheap debt. Eventually, merely the interest you pay yearly will exceed your entire revenue. Then nobody wants to lend you any more money no matter how high the interest rate because they are scared that you won’t be able to pay it back. Your economy crashes because besides relying on debt to pay for your aged, you also need cashflow to pay to keep your infrastructure running. That’s more or less, the end of your country because none of your neighbours really liked you in the first place and they will hardly be willing to come out of their pockets to bail you out.

      But that’s all ok right? Because “Everything that is in the future remains a hypothetical situation.”

      I think your visions for Singapore’s future and mine are too different. I have said enough.

      By the way, the scenario I set out above? That’s Greece. And they had the whole financial muscle of the EU to bail them out. Guess who’s not in the EU?

      1. You’re offering a false dilemma. Just because many Singaporeans don’t want their retirement funds to be managed by the government, it does not follow that they don’t want their retirement funds to be managed at all.

      2. Alvin: You’re assuming that left to their own devices, all Singaporeans will be a) financially prudent b) thrifty c) actively planning ahead for their own retirement. Ok. If you want to believe that, I have a bridge near Suntec City to sell you….

        As Deborah said at one point (regardless of her later confusion), CPF payouts really only cover your minimum needs. If you’re truly financially savvy, you’re already saving more than CPF for your retirement because you want to lead a comfortable lifestyle after retirement. If you’re going to be putting money in retirement savings, what’s your objection to putting it in CPF? How is putting money in CPF worse than putting it in private funds? You get a guaranteed interest rate, guaranteed capital without paying a single cent in management fees. If you can make a fair comparison between CPF and other pension funds in the world and show that CPF is far worse off, that’s some solid proof that CPF is detrimental to Singapore citizens.

        Second, people can allow private managers to manage their CPF funds. CPF allows their account holders to invest in a fairly wide selection of private funds and equities as well. There are people who actively invest with their CPF funds and are better off for it. Kudos to them. There are also certain reports I recall which show that people who have done so suffered losses and would actually have been better off keeping their money in their accounts. But the takeaway at the end of the day is this: Yes, people can get private managers to manage their CPF funds. So…what are you talking about again?

        I fail to see what my quote has anything to do with me endorsing the private sector managing retirement plans. Perhaps you may need to re-read my quote again. Please do not confuse my quoting -one- Thatcher quote as my wholesale buy-in into ‘Prrrivvate goood. Puuuublic baaaad’ Thatcherism. Nothing is as simple as that.

    4. This is addressed to Wenshan: if you seriously believed what you quoted from Margaret Thatcher, you would want the private rather than the public sector to manage your retirement savings.

  10. For Singaporeans who are thinking/planning to leave, it’s perfectly doable if you put your mind at it. Research on immigration, have a solid plan, save up and go. Don’t doubt yourself or think that you’re not good enough to start afresh abroad. We Singaporeans are a competitive and tenacious bunch so bring this attitude with you when you move abroad. That’s your strength right there. And foreign employers will appreciate it.

    ps: I left SG in 2010 for North America. I met many ex-Singaporeans with this dogged determination in them which really sets them apart & made them shine.

  11. Hi, Deborah.

    I’m a 25-yr-old Singaporean living in South Africa. Life here has provided much-needed perspective for me. For example, we are blessed to, at the very least, have roofs over our heads, a capable public transport system and ridiculously low crime rates in Singapore. I know there are some families living in tents at East Coast Park, but your comparison of HDB flats to slums seems misplaced to me. There are real slums here in Johannesburg with little or no access to water and electricity, and, even worse, hundreds of thousands living on the streets with a blanket or two, if they’re lucky.

    I was frustrated with Singapore and its policies, systems and institutions when I lived there, but I’ve had an enormous change of heart since I moved here. There is no perfect country — even Iceland and Australia have their faults — and Singapore is definitely not utopia, but it comes awfully close when I think about how we have access to the most basic comforts (food/water, transport, shelter, a functioning administrative government) that most of rest of the world doesn’t. I am not remotely nationalistic or patriotic in the truest sense of both words because I know that Singapore has many flaws and I will never close one eye to any of them, but what I grew up with over there is something I will never take for granted again.

    Best,
    Ruth

  12. There is a Chinese saying that water available from a distant source could not be used to fight a fire near at hand. When a person retires without sufficient funds for his or her current needs, it is cold comfort that he or she has funds in the CPF that can be drawn out for use only 10-20 years down the road. When a person does not even have enough funds to keep body and soul together right now, in what shape do you think the person would be 10-20 years later in order to ‘enjoy’ the monthly pittance of his/her own money? Only a fool and simpleton would believe that a mere few hundred dollars a month is sufficient to live on 10-20 years from now!

    In any case, is Singapore a capitalist or a communist state? The answer is NEITHER. For a capitalist country would never indulge in what the Singapore govt is doing right now – withholding and denying retirees the use of their own hard earned savings. In a communist state, the govt provides the means for retirees to live without withholding part of his monthly wages during their working lives. Only in a DICTATORIAL country such as Singapore do you find unprincipled and selfish govt behaviour like what the incumbent leaders are doing – coming out with policies that only takes care of their own self interest first rather than that of the people.

  13. At the end of the day, there are some key questions we need to answer:
    1. How is Singapore faring compared with other countries?
    2. What are we willing to give in order to build the ideal home we want?
    3. Which matters more – what we need, or what we want?

    It is easy to identify things we don’t like about people, places, and definitely Singapore. In response to these things we don’t like, I think the far more important question to answer is – what am I doing about this, and how am I contributing to it?

    Rather than just complain, start something. Build something. Be the change. That has far more value.

    1. you are merely turning this around and laying the responsibility on the individual. while the individual has to take most of the burden for the welfare of his/her own life, you should see that it cannot happen if efforts toward that end are systemically undermined by apathetic policies.

      allow me to rephrase your questions for a better understanding:

      1. does the average singaporean feel happier than the average, for example, thai person?

      2. what is your ideal home based around? material possessions (remember condo, credit card, car, career, and cash?) or other intrinsic values that cannot be quantified, and hence not valued by our current society, so easily?

      3. are our needs and wants determined by the ruling government, or should we be free to choose what is needed and what is wanted?

      it is a panglossian view (that our world is the best of all other possible worlds) that we have been conditioned to and many people are so used to this thinking that it becomes a fault. the pap under our founders has done well in lifting us up to where we are, but its old methods cannot sustain us into the future. there has been a corruption, a corruption of ideals, and this is what we are seeking to address.

      you say that we need to be the change, but what recourses are availed to us? let me tell you of one: we begin by pricking the consciousness of our peers, raising awareness to the problems at hand, and only then are we capable of making a change. (to clarify: ‘change’ used in this context refers to a palpable shift in policies, governance, and/or political/economic/social systems that affects the current way of life, work, mentalities, and behaviours. i believe that people like miss deborah tan has already become the change they wish to see simply by speaking out.)

      p.s. i am no linguist nor a man of letters. this post may contain many grammar mistakes that others will find glaring, or syntax errors that may expose some form of technical fallacies, but the essence of my reply stands.

  14. I have learned something more about Singaporeans’ thinking, during this episode with the CPF minimum sum.

    They seem to have no problem with conscription, which requires u to surrender control over their own physical bodies, for the sake of the greater good of society.

    However, they somehow have a serious problem with surrendering control over their CPF monies, for the sake of the same greater good of society.

    Conclusion: Many Singaporeans seem to value money more than their own physical bodies.

    1. Hi Kelvin, i don’t think we are talking about our value of money here. Rather it is about a basic human right to make our own informed decisions. CPF was right at the start engineered to be compulsory retirement savings to be returned to its citizens once they retire. The govt had totally changed the rules of the game by introducing the minimum sum scheme in 2003.

      This is akin to you buying an insurance policy having a compounded guaranteed payout of 4% for a locked-in 30 year tenure, and then having them tell you 30 years later oops sorry buddy, you cant withdraw it! You will mostly likely wile it away cuz youre a foolish old man who cant handle your finances! Instead for your own good, we will give you back 4% each year till you die, and btw, your principal sum will be reduced too! * its for your own good really! It doesnt benefit me at all ! *

      1. I definitely agree with you that the CPF system has a large degree of coercion involved. It doesn’t benefit the individual for sure, coercion rarely does that.

        But do you think it is possible for the rest of us to benefit from you being forced to save for your retirement?

    2. There is a Chinese saying that water available from a distant source could not be used to fight a fire near at hand. When a person retires without sufficient funds for his or her current needs, it is cold comfort that he or she has funds in the CPF that can be drawn out for use only 10-20 years down the road. When a person does not even have enough funds to keep body and soul together right now, in what shape do you think the person would be 10-20 years later in order to ‘enjoy’ the monthly pittance of his/her own money? Only a fool and simpleton would believe that a mere few hundred dollars a month is sufficient to live on 10-20 years from now!

      In any case, is Singapore a capitalist or a communist state? The answer is NEITHER. For a capitalist country would never indulge in what the Singapore govt is doing right now – withholding and denying retirees the use of their own hard earned savings. In a communist state, the govt provides the means for retirees to live without withholding part of his monthly wages during their working lives. Only in a DICTATORIAL country such as Singapore do you find unprincipled and selfish govt behaviour like what the incumbent leaders are doing – coming out with policies that only takes care of their own self interest first rather than that of the people.

    3. I disagree with conscription along with many of the people who I served with during my NS. People who serve NS loses both time and money and it is cumulative. Many serve not by choice, but by force. The government and people who aren’t affected by it (Over 50%) decided that for the ‘greater’ good for the nation, those people affected have to sacrifice.

      If you believe people are willing to serve NS willingly, please tell the government to make it optional for both males and females or make it compulsory for both males and females. People will only start to get concerned if they are affected by it.

      CPF? Everyone is affected, hence the problem.

      1. Thanks for the reply. I think you are falling into the trap set by pro-conscription folks. They have this strange dichotomy that no conscription means no army, which is a false dilemma.

        If there was no conscription, to raise a professional army that is as “effective” as what we have now, may require a pay of say, $X a month, where X can be 5000, 10 000 or even 20 000.

        This would require raising taxes across the board to everyone. I think this is fairer than asking male conscripts to bear most of the tax instead under conscription. But society decided otherwise.

        Likewise, without CPF as a compulsory savings scheme, we would have to implement social security tax to tax the current working young to fund the retirement of the old. But society decided otherwise.

        The alternatives to both policies involve higher taxes on everyone. This reasoning relates to the “greater good for society” that I was referring to in my opening post.

      2. Hi Kelvin,

        In no way did I mention no NS equates no army. I only wrote ‘The government and people who aren’t affected by it (Over 50%) decided that for the ‘greater’ good for the nation’ .

        However, volunteer professional army have failed in the past in Singapore due to insufficient volunteers (poor pay and ‘work conditions’) and has failed in Taiwan due to similar reasons. To make joining the forces more desirable, the government needs funds. And the government is unwilling to take the risk of increasing tax across the board in order to remain a tax haven and to stay competitive. The other supporter of NS are actually Singaporean women. 99% of Singaporean women felt that national service is good, but only 1 in 10 is willing to serve.

        In short, I was against your conclusion of ‘Many Singaporeans seem to value money more than their own physical bodies.’ I’m believe people are selfish and will sacrifice others as long as they are not affected for their own gain.

  15. I totally agree with you! the so-called nation is just a company, and we have to slog our lives to make money for them. it is so saddening that gone are the days where people can live freely without worrying about high standard of living, complaining about expensive food, transport, accommodation etc. here we are, in a world of ungracious people, a world of selfish people, and a world that don’t care any more. how sad…the greeneries, the localities, the warmth, and the smile are all covered with the dollar signs. people chased after money for living, the poor will just be left over…what can we as the owner of this place do seriously?

  16. I just have to agree with you Deborah. It breaks my heart to see the chasm between rich and poor here grow ever wider. Singapore is run like a company, not a country. There has to be some sort of safety net in place. All the places of my childhood have disappeared – nothing is sacred when it comes to progress and the place is becoming colder as it gets crowded. It is still a lovely country, but I dread what it will be like in ten years if the population paper of seven million comes to pass. I wonder what will anchor people here in the future. Sure it is not the shopping malls…and even our traditional street food is dying because hawkers just can’t afford to keep going because of sky high rents……