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Walter Sim
Thursday, Aug 21, 2014

Singapore

Retirement issues the focus of a third of Rally feedback to government unit Reach

The Straits Times | Walter Sim | Thursday, Aug 21, 2014

About 37 per cent of those who wrote into Reach discussed the new retirement measures, such as the extension of the Lease Buyback Scheme to four-room Housing Board flats and the option for elderly to take out part of their Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings in a lump sum after age 65, subject to limits.


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Statement from Reach:

 Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's message on assurance in retirement was the most discussed topic on REACH platforms since the start of the REACH National Day Rally (NDR) 2014 Feedback Exercise on 17 August.

About 37 per cent of 530 feedback inputs that we received so far were on this theme with many giving feedback on the enhancement to the Housing and Development Board's (HDB) Lease Buyback Scheme, the option for the elderly to take part of the Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings in a lump sum subject to limits, and the Silver Support Scheme.

Achieving our potential (20 per cent) is the next most discussed topic followed by home for all ages (19 per cent).

In terms of the initiatives most discussed, they were the HDB Lease Buyback Scheme, the option for lump sum withdrawal of a portion of the CPF savings by the elderly, and the setting up of a Municipal Services Office to improve the delivery of public services.

Reactions towards the National Day Rally address were largely positive, with contributors lauding PM Lee as "engaging", and his speech as "caring" and with "heart". They were appreciative that PM had made an effort to relate through the sharing of ordinary Singaporeans' stories, and also by addressing current hot topics clearly and setting a path towards resolving the issues.

A good number of contributors commended PM Lee's acknowledgement of the important role played by our pioneers in the early days of nation-building.

Many appreciated that PM honoured the contributions of our pioneers, especially the late President Yusof Ishak, and felt that it was a well-deserved gesture. They said it was "wonderful" to have a culture of honour, and called for this trend to continue so that the younger generation can draw inspiration from our pioneers.

A contributor also pointed out that a key challenge for us today is to uphold the enduring values of our pioneers, to ensure a better future for this country.

The top topics of discussion are outlined in the following paragraphs.

HDB Lease Buyback Scheme

The extension of the Lease Buyback Scheme to include 4-room HDB flats was warmly received by REACH contributors.

They felt that the move would provide a welcomed additional monetisation option to more elderly.

A handful of contributors, however, felt that many would still prefer to leave their house as inheritance for their family. On this point, a majority agreed that the elderly should be more concerned about their own retirement instead of whether they are able to leave an inheritance to their children.

Contributors also acknowledged that the lease buyback scheme is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and that there are other options for the elderly to monetise their housing such as renting out rooms or downgrading by selling the flat in the open market.

Some suggested that the scheme be extended to all public housing, including 5-room flats, to benefit even more Singaporeans.

Silver Support Scheme (SSS)

Contributors were generally optimistic towards the SSS, which will provide low-income elderly Singaporeans with an annual bonus to help with their living expenses. Contributors felt the scheme would be a boon to the lower income, who may not have adequate CPF savings.

Some also welcomed the scheme as a good way to help those in need while balancing personal responsibility and avoiding the ills of a welfare state.

There were suggestions for extensive communication of the scheme to give greater assurance to the elderly. Contributors also felt that the application process, if any, should be simplified to allow senior citizens in genuine need to benefit from it.

Adjustment to allow for CPF lump sum withdrawals

Contributors welcomed PM Lee's announcement that the Government is considering allowing Singaporeans the option of withdrawing a lump sum subject to limits from their CPF once they reach age 65.

Nevertheless, there was recognition that there should be safeguards to prevent over-withdrawal and depletion of CPF funds, and for individuals to take personal responsibility for managing their retirement funds.

To this end, some contributors called for greater public outreach efforts to improve financial literacy among the elderly.

Achieving our Potential

Reactions toward PM Lee's announcements on education and ASPIRE were largely positive , especially toward his comments about valuing those less academically-qualified, and the need to value people based on their contributions, competence and character.

Contributors opined that lifelong learning was the key to "lifelong success", affirming that there are many routes to success. A few urged the Government to take the lead in championing the policy shift for non-graduates to advance in the Public Service as an example for the private sector.

Some noted that there would be challenges ahead.

Municipal Services Office

Contributors welcomed the setting up of a centralised authority for municipal services delivery as a "much-needed effort". They agreed that it would help streamline work processes and improve service delivery.

There were also calls for agencies to work beyond their boundaries to improve public service delivery.

REACH Chairman's Comments

On the REACH NDR 2014 Feedback Exercise, Dr Amy Khor, REACH Chairman said, "Since we started the feedback exercise, REACH as seen vibrant and constructive discussions on the NDR announcements across its various platforms. Singaporeans have largely responded positively to the NDR saying that it was an uplifting, heart-warming and caring message, which resonated with different segments of the population.

They appreciated PM taking pains to explain the mechanics and rationale of the CPF scheme and Minimum Sum to them as well as PM paying tribute to the work and contributions of our Pioneer Generation. Singaporeans have made many useful suggestions and comments such as extensive communication of the various schemes like the Silver Support Scheme to give our low income retirees better assurance."

"I am also particularly heartened to see so many accolades and praises for our pioneer generation. The pioneer generation has done much to build the Singapore that we are proud of today. I hope all Singaporeans can work together to build upon the firm foundation put in place by our pioneers for a better and brighter Singapore."

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