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Greater peace of mind when S’poreans retire

Govt to enhance social safety nets and help elderly, vulnerable cope

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ANDREA ONG on 17 May 2014

The Straits Times

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MORE will be done to ensure that Singaporeans do not have to worry about their finances when they retire, said President Tony Tan Keng Yam last night.

 

The Government will improve the existing Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings and CPF Life annuity schemes, and develop more options for Singaporeans to unlock the value of their homes on their retirement, he said.

 

These measures to give citizens – who are living longer – financial security in their golden years are part of the overall move to strengthen social safety nets and help the vulnerable and elderly cope with the “vicissitudes of life”, said Dr Tan.

 

He was speaking at the reopening of Parliament last night, after a busy first session that saw the unveiling of such social policies as MediShield Life and the Pioneer Generation Package.

 

“Beyond equal opportunities for fulfilment, every Singaporean should enjoy a fair share of our nation’s success,” said Dr Tan.

 

He pledged to strengthen social safety nets to give all Singaporeans peace of mind as well as to share the fruits of progress more widely, particularly with the lower-income and vulnerable groups.

 

Noting several times in his speech that special attention would be given to the vulnerable, including low-wage workers and the elderly, Dr Tan said social safety nets would get a boost beyond the twin pillars of home ownership and Workfare.

 

Still, helping Singaporeans own their own homes remains a key strategy, he said. Home ownership has made “an enormous contribution” in levelling up society, by enabling citizens – especially the lower-income – to shore up significant assets and have a tangible stake in the nation’s progress.

 

“No other country in the world has done this,” said Dr Tan.

 

Housing will continue to be affordable, while the Government will help low- and middle-income households own their Housing Board homes and build up a retirement nest-egg, he added.

 

New housing options are also in the works to encourage extended families to live closer together.

 

Dr Tan also reiterated the Government’s commitment to ensuring affordable and quality health care for all Singaporeans.

 

In the past year, the Community Health Assist Scheme, which subsidises care for the lower- and middle-income at private GP and dental clinics, has removed its age restrictions to let everyone in these groups benefit.

 

Medisave use has been expanded and outpatient care subsidies raised.

 

Details of MediShield Life, the national health insurance scheme to cover all for life, are being finalised by the review committee, said Dr Tan. “We will ensure that premiums are affordable for all.”

 

But even as more help is extended to the vulnerable, the poor and the old, it is important that people are given the means and incentive to help themselves, said Dr Tan.

 

“Singaporeans believe that personal responsibility and effort are essential to their dignity and self-worth,” he said. “This was the pioneering spirit that built the Singapore we see today.”

 

Dr Tan also sounded a note of caution: While the Government will spend more over the next decade and beyond, especially on social programmes, it must ensure its social spending can be sustained and that it has enough revenue to balance its budget.

 

“But at the same time, government spending, by itself, does not create a wealthier, a better or a happier society,” said Dr Tan, as such spending must be matched by initiatives and effort by individuals and the community.

 

Stressing the importance of active community involvement, he said: “This is how we will build a nation for tomorrow, a home where we feel a sense of responsibility for one another, and not just a sense of entitlement to the benefits of citizenship.”

 

OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL

 

Singapore must remain a nation of opportunities for all. Those who do not succeed at first should have a second chance, indeed must always have the chance to try again. We want an open and inclusive society, where all have opportunities to learn, and to earn our own success.

 

STRONGER SOCIAL SAFETY NETS

 

Every Singaporean should enjoy a fair share of our nation’s success. We will strengthen our social safety nets, not only to give all Singaporeans peace of mind, but also to share the fruits of progress more widely, especially with the lower-income and vulnerable groups.

 

SPENDING MORE, BUT WISELY

 

Government spending will increase over the next decade and beyond, especially on social programmes. We have to ensure that our social spending can be sustained, and that we have enough revenues to balance our budget. But government spending, by itself, does not create a wealthier, a better or a happier society. It must be matched by individual and community effort and initiatives.

 

NOT A MARKETPLACE, BUT HOME

 

Singapore cannot be just a marketplace in the global economy. For every one of us, it is first and foremost our home: where we sink our roots, raise our families and share life’s ups and downs together with one another. Singapore must be a home that endears, with an active citizenry dedicated to creating our shared future.

 

STAYING UNITED, AMID DEBATE

 

We should continue to have vigorous debates on the challenges facing our nation, and be prepared to take necessary and bold decisions for our future... Sometimes these debates will stir great passions, but we cannot allow our differences to pull us apart. So while we may have differing views, all sides must take a long-term perspective for the common good. And once the debate is settled, we must come together again...

 

Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.

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