Monday, August 23, 2010

No Golden Years For The Elderly

The experts have confirmed it. Based on a new index put together by Institute of Policy Studies academics Yap Mui Teng and Kang Soon Hock, the older folks in Singapore scored poorly in active ageing: one in five feels that he or she does not have sufficient income for living. Financial security was one of three areas where elderly Singaporeans fell short, the other two being health and community engagement.

Which is strange, considering that when the baby boomers started work, CPF contribution was about 40%. A high savings rate of 40 cents to the dollar should have built up a handsome nest egg for the golden years after a life long chase of the rainbow of dreams. Or Swiss standard of living. Whatever.

Back then, their parents paid something in the region of $13,000 for a 3-room flat. The real deal of a subsidized housing scheme that Lim Kim San was charged to build, with which he succeeded wildly to house some 80% of the public. Somewhere along the line, when Dhanabalan was Minister of National Development, someone got greedy and argued that land allotted for public housing could be sold to the private sector at market prices. And that was the start of the slippery slope, and eventual legacy perpetuated by Mah Bow Tan, that ended up with today's horrific prices. With the same definition of subsidy as used by TT Durai's NKF.

The composition of CPF balances from the official website shows that withdrawals under the Public Housing Scheme (PHS) sucked up as much as $91 billion in 2009. Meaning more members are using more of their CPF savings to service housing loans for their HDB flats, leaving little or nought for health or community participation issues. The CPF document confirms home financing as "likely main cause for the dip in the proportion of OA (Ordinary Account) savings".

Retired military officer James Law, 63, puts it succinctly: "It's hard to age well when you don't have health and money."

Meanwhile, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Lim Boon Heng, put in charge of ageing policies, talks of a $20 million fund to cultivate interest groups (to get elderlies involved in the community). Maybe he wasn't listening when MP for Jalan Besar Lily Neo was questioning Transport Minister Raymond Lim why one in three seniors has to pay more for the new distance-based fares. There's no point in organising activities when the cash strapped has to bleed further for the transportation to get there. Yes, it's that sad.


  1. I like the quote "it's hard to age well when you don't have health and money"

    We can now add "it's hard to age well when you don't have health, money and TIME" We are expected to work as long as we can, meaning work until we drop dead

    The high property prices really do a lot of Singaporeans in. Many don't realise that, until it is too late. For the property buyers, they are forced to buy at very high prices and end up servicing the loan for 20, 30 years or more. This is in fact a lifetime of debt, that they never actually own a flat(since all HDB flats are leased from HDB). Their CPF gets sucked up in servicing the housing loan, leaving little for retirement

    For the property buyers wanting to flip or make a quick bucks out of the transaction, it is like playing the musical chair. The property bubble will burst at some time, what goes up will come down

    There is always a school of thoughts that Singapore economy is growing well and growing strong, and property prices will continue to climb. But think deeper and think further, what and how have those economic growth benefit Singaporeans? If property prices escalate because Singaporeans are paid more (real wages increase) or business activities has increased, then it is ok. But i don't see that happening. One day, the foreign buyers will withdraw and go. Then the Singaporeasn will get burnt and "gripe". Well when that day comes, we already know what and how the govt will respond to our "gripe", don't we?


  2. Very interesting analysis. Adds proof to the theory that there will be less interests in politics, and less oppositions to fix, if you have to work dawn to dusk to make ends meet.

  3. Old folks have no economic value which is why there is "not enough" in Kuan Yew's economy to care for them in their old age. Hence the need to retire later and to contribute to the economy.

    Singapore is a nation BEFORE it is an economy. The elderly are citizens with the right to health care and a degree of comfort because they are human beings and citizens and not part of the cost benefit analysis of the economy.

    This basic issue of Singapore as a nation before it is economy needs to be looked at afresh by the electorate.

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