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“That is what we are elected to do” – MP Josephine Teo

Posted by theonlinecitizen on September 27, 2007

By Andrew Loh

In a letter to the Straits Times Forum Page on September 25, MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh, Mrs Josephine Teo (right) said:

“I REFER to the Insight special on CPF reforms (ST, Sept 22). Journalist Li Xueying had raised a number of issues for discussion, one of which referred to an NMP’s comment that making annuities compulsory is the start of a slippery slope where the Government ‘interferes’ in what is essentially CPF members’ own money. She asked if I agree.

I replied that Government’s job is to intervene where necessary. That is what we are elected to do. Singaporeans will have to judge whether the intervention has helped to create better results”

If what Mrs Teo says is representative of the government’s views, then perhaps we should all be quite concerned. For it means that Singaporeans’ CPF money do not belong to Singaporeans anymore – that it is the government which has the final say on how and what Singaporeans do with it.

It would mean that Singaporeans have, somehow, surrendered their ownership and rights to their CPF funds.

Contrary to what Mrs Teo said, that “that is what we are elected to do”, I beg to differ totally.

Singaporeans elected the People’s Action Party (PAP) into government in the belief that the PAP would be a consultative government and one which respects the rights – and property – of Singaporeans.

Certainly, Singaporeans did not elect the PAP so that as the Government it can usurp Singaporeans’ rights and ownership.

Electing the PAP into Government does not, in any way, shape or form, give the PAP blanket approval to “intervene where necessary” into the personal lives and personal belongings of Singaporeans – no matter how well-intentioned such “intervention” may be.

It is the government which should be asking Singaporeans if they (the Singaporeans) approve of what the government intend to do with their CPF money – and not be presumptuous that being elected into Government means Singaporeans have given the PAP blanket approval to do as it pleases.

Mrs Teo seems to have put the cart before the horse and have lost sight of what it means to be a “consultative government”.

*Bishan-Toa Payoh was uncontested in the last General Elections. (link)

Mrs Teo’s full letter is reproduced below, along with a reply from Thomas Koshy which was also published in the ST (Sept 28):

MP tells why she fully supports CPF reforms

I REFER to the Insight special on CPF reforms (ST, Sept 22). Journalist Li Xueying had raised a number of issues for discussion, one of which referred to an NMP’s comment that making annuities compulsory is the start of a slippery slope where the Government ‘interferes’ in what is essentially CPF members’ own money. She asked if I agree.

I replied that Government’s job is to intervene where necessary. That is what we are elected to do. Singaporeans will have to judge whether the intervention has helped to create better results.

As a CPF member myself, I fully support the reforms. These are my reasons.

The most significant changes include the higher interest rates on CPF savings and the enhanced Workfare Income Supplement for mature workers. At the same time, Government will push the drawdown age later and introduce longevity insurance.

The higher interest rates are not a one-off measure affecting very few. Instead, it will benefit all CPF members and Government will pay at least $700 million more each year in interest payments to members. The enhanced Workfare will help many low-wage mature workers, and the price tag of $400 million a year is not low.

These are long-term commitments which will help Singaporeans provide for their retirement needs in significant ways.

These commitments must not only be met by the present Government, but also by future governments. To be sustainable, they must not place unreasonable burdens on future generations of Singaporeans. I think we should be prudent and stick to the present commitments for a start.

Likewise, compulsory annuities are a financially prudent and hence more sustainable way for Singaporeans to plan comprehensively for their retirement.

We do not like all the CPF reforms. But most would agree that changes are needed to better prepare us for our ageing population. With these changes, we have taken big steps in the right direction.

Josephine Teo (Mrs)
Member of Parliament (Bishan-Toa Payoh)

 

Compulsory annuity and CPF members’ rights

IN RESPONSE to a Nominated MP’s comment that making annuities compulsory amounts to an interference with CPF members’ own money, Member of Parliament Josephine Teo said in her letter (‘MP tells why she fully supports CPF reforms’; ST, Sept 25) that ‘Government’s job is to intervene where necessary’.

The implication seems to be that it is Government’s job to spend CPF members’ funds if Government deems it wise to do so.

In my opinion, this is a question that one should not be so quick to answer.

I have no doubt that the intentions of the current Government are noble and I even support the objectives.

However, there is a bigger, fundamental question at stake here. Do CPF funds belong to CPF members? If they do then, surely, members have a right to decide how to spend them.

To draw an analogy, is it the job of Government to step in and manage the personal bank accounts of citizens? Some are careless with savings. But even with the best of intentions, can it be the job of Government to take citizens’ personal funds and manage them more prudently for them? Every man has the basic autonomous right to deal with his property as he chooses.

So the fundamental question is this: Just because it is CPF funds, does Government have the right to decide how they should be spent on behalf of CPF members, even against the wishes of the members?

An affirmative answer would be unprecedented and would mark a definitive change in the nature of members’ rights over their CPF funds. The significance of that decision should at least be appreciated. There is more at stake here than whether an annuity is a good idea.

Apart from the compromise to the property rights of CPF members, consider the situation if a weak government should make bad decisions on how CPF funds should be spent. It will be CPF members who will have to pay the cost of such bad decisions which they had no say in.

If purchase of an annuity is the best way forward for CPF members then it would be best if Government educates and convinces the people to do so voluntarily, rather than take the admittedly easier option of making it compulsory at the expense of the rights of CPF members.

Sometimes it is worth compromising efficiency for propriety.

Thomas Mathew Koshy

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15 Responses to ““That is what we are elected to do” – MP Josephine Teo”

  1. “Every man has the basic autonomous right to deal with his property as he chooses.”

    Damned right.

  2. *Comments deleted by moderator for irrelevance.

  3. grant said

    I believe the government is in control because they want citizens to have a sense of security when they grow older, and need not place a burden on the limiting workforce.
    Imagine what happens to the money in the CPF when the government does not intervene, then the purpose of supporting the elderly through their remaining years is nullified.
    Some may assume they would use the CPF prudently if allowed.
    But most would spend it on material well-being instead of necessary healthcare.

  4. Pui Yee said

    You have got to give it to Chee Soon Juan for spotlighting on CPF years ago.

    CPF is indeed a major tool with which the pappies use to control Singaporeans, together with HDB, ISD and TLC-linked monopolistic companies, just to name a few.

    Now that we’ve seen what an idiot our “elected” hip-hopper MP is, i can’t wait for more “words of wisdom” from the next pappy mp.

  5. Alan Wong said

    I fully agree with Thomas.

    What we have been taught in school is that any commercial transaction should be on the basis of ‘willing buyer willing seller’.

    What if I disagree to join such a compulsory annuity insurance , would it be within my constitutional right to challenge the Govt for forcing me to procure something that is against my own free will, even if it is for my very own good.

    Maybe the Govt should clarify on what basis are they going to make it compulsory, is it on the basis that they have just got 66% of the votes?

  6. Laremy said

    In light of

    Just because it is CPF funds, does Government have the right to decide how they should be spent on behalf of CPF members, even against the wishes of the members?

    isn’t

    Kew Kah Fatt Says:
    September 28th, 2007 at 10:17 am

    *Comments deleted by moderator for irrelevance.

    very ironic?

    Just because it is an irrelevant comment, does the moderator have the right to decide how it should be treated on behalf of the commentator, even against the wishes of the commentator?

    For your response, please.

  7. brendaphua said

    The CPF is like the national bank. So like the bank the person in charge can change the interest rate ect according to the wishes of the people in charge. Hopefully those in charge are not corrupt and swindle off our money. I have no choice but be optimistic and hope that they are benevolent.

  8. NA said

    If the govt wants to interfere with CPF monies, then the CPF contributions should be more correctly referred as tax or social security contributions; it’s no longer a personal savings account where one can withdraw the funds freely to pay his/her bills.
    In the western democracies (where elections are free and fair), the residents pay taxes/SS contributions to the common pool, and the elected govt re-distributes the cash to its people according to socially and politically acceptable policies. If the people don’t like the policies, the govt will be voted out in the next GE and systems will change.

  9. David said

    “The 26,000 over-85s are only 0.55% of the 4.68m”
    Majority of this 26,000 might just easily represent the elite, wealthy and gahmen well since they have money and power to do whatever they want to prolong their life.

    The problem is not whether annuity or any other plan by gov is good or bad. It is whether you want to continue to trust in gov that have along the way lose the credibility and trust from the people. The gov that more interested in doing business, gov that break their own law, gov do whatever they want irrespective of feeling of the Singaporean, and always claiming that whatever they do, they do in love and for good of people.

    It is no secret that gov love to change policy that fit their agenda. I won’t be surprised that in order to appease the people and ensure that the annuity get implement first, gov might just shorten the requirement temporarily from 85 to 75 years old. Then in the future, find some excuse to increasingly increase the year to whoNoWhere. Isn’t this the same with retirement age ? From 55->65->67-> WhoKnowWhere (Only go up but never come down)

    We have see this tactic use over and over again.

    the money today is stronger than future-banana currency in next 30years. What can banana money buy you then ? Just as its name, buy banana and peanut.

  10. The other percentage said

    We voted for consultative goverment, and rightfully we have been consulted, on the Ministers salary increase, GST increase and now the CPF. Consultation does not mean that they will have to agree to the arguments put forward. How much our feedback is valued can be clearly seen by the attitudes of the people in power. The basic assumption regardshless of all the “exam” every five years theory put forward, is that we are are bunch of dumb asses (at least the 66.6%)who for the better part of five years voice their displeasure but leave their brains at home when they go to the polling station. At the end of the day you get what you deserve ($300).and they get what they deserve…millions

  11. truly singapore said

    Hello Grant, I agree with you that from a national perspective, it would be good to put in place a system where everyone’s old age is well taken care of and nobody becomes a liability to anybody else.

    Having said that, if someone is willing to top up his CPF so that it can last him till he is a 100 years old, doesn’t that demonstrate that he would not be a liability in old age? In that case, is it still right to compulse him to buy an annuity?

    There are other avenues, like if he has enough of his own savings, he can decide to draw out his CPF later, or draw less each month. Maybe he has a fully paid 3-room flat which he decides to monetise which gives him more than enough money to last till 100 years old. In all these cases where the person demonstrates that he can take care of himself financially till 100 years old, do we still compulse him to buy an annuity?

    So you see, the govt is doing a terribly wrong thing in forcing people to buy things they don’t want and they don’t need. Are they any better than gangsters?

  12. truly singapore said

    Hello Laremy,

    The difference between:

    “Just because it is CPF funds, does Government have the right to decide how they should be spent on behalf of CPF members, even against the wishes of the members?”

    and

    “Kew Kah Fatt Says:
    September 28th, 2007 at 10:17 am

    *Comments deleted by moderator for irrelevance.”

    is that in the former case, CPF monies are owned by CPF members, not the govt whereas in the latter case, this space that we’re writing on is owned by The Online Citizen.

    For the sake of our convenience, we are allowed to post first and they edit later. Can you imagine Straits Times publishing everything that people writes in without filtering or editing? You’d get a newspaper full of rubbish.

    So it isn’t ironic at all …

    There are certain house rules, I suppose if we abide by those rules, our personal viewpoints will see the light of day …

  13. […] & Annuities – The Online Citizen: “That is what we are elected to do” – MP Josephine Teo – vinyarb’s Xanga site: a case against annuity? – Feed me to the Fish: Before I die – Diary […]

  14. […] http://theonlinecitizen.com/2007/09/27/that-is-what-we-are-elected-to-do-mp-josephine-teo/ […]

  15. Anonymous said

    I totally disagree with the compulsory annuity issue. I am 56yrs old. after withdrawing a very small sum of money to pay for my difficult years’ of education money owned to friends and relative at age 55. I have $0 withdrawal. But at least I am glad I paid my debts to good people who helped me through those difficult financial years and had waited without unkindness. Because I have very low salary income, I could not afford to fork out layout cash to buy a 2 or 3-room hdb from open market. HDB then told me they do not have 3-room available and pushed to 4-room to me. I declined as I was then already in my late 40++ and earning only $1200 per month. Somehow, I forseen(19998)that the age issue will creep into my employability. Now at age 56, it came true! thanks to the government foreign workers’ policy on ratio employment quota : 7 foreigners to 2 Singaporean. Indeed, the Singaporean’s and foreign’s bosses chose younger, less educated workers at the expense of the older, capable and definitely hardworking older Singapore!!! My pay check never risen to more than $1200 as I grow older. When I called up, discrimination is blatant and bold…”sorry, my boss will take interview for age not more than 40 years old++”. However, if you said you are 40 years old… they’ll revise the age bar to not more than 30 years old! If I email, they never reply! I even ended up calling for factory work (I have GCE 4 ‘O’ level)and the excuse from them are the same! Here, they accused Singaporean for being choosy. Whoever gave these information, obviously did not wear the old, weary, sad job-seeker like us. My previous so-called friend gave me a salary for $2000 10 years back and asked to me advertise for a secretary. Tons of applications: well-qualified 40-50 years old; true blue-blood Singaporeans. Guess what, he don’t even bother to read about it but chose a young Filippino (so-called Philippine’s university cert)and gave her $1300 but she can’t write gramatically, don’t know what is D/O, Invoices, can’t spell and I had to do her work on every Saturday while she has the off-day. When I protested, he said,” help me(him) out, lah?” Then, he asked me to write a letter to Immigration to lie about her salary being $2500 so she could get her Singapore Citizen (she n her husband been here 9 years!). I refused and packed my bag immediately! Why Singaporean bosses do that!…they want pretty, healthy(think so only), girls!!! never mind about Singapore. It is an individual boss’ survival mentality. cheap labour, young thing. Since then, I had even worked as a low-paid cook among a whole bunch of Malaysian, Filippinos, China nationalities and always… the only thorns or two among these cohorts of foreigners (7 foreigners to 2 Singaporean). Most of the time, the coffee-house and restaurants employed women(aunties) Singaporean by that ratio. While we aunties at 40-50 years old worked out guts out, the foreigners guys(male) smoked, chatted and while their time away. On one occasion at a Japanese restuarant at Great World City (all Malaysia…top brass to 3rd grade cooks) bully, sniggered at me and another only Singaporean ‘old lady’, they eventually told this old Singaporean lady (not me, as I was fiercer)to drag a 20-kg rice sack to them from store-room to the cook area! She can’t even drag it, I helped, but it almost killed me. At that moment, when I finally dragged it to them, I told them off and left the job. She followed through after one month…suffering bullying until she gave out. Read these and thank Mr Mah Bow Tan and Gan Kim Yong who at their high chairs, never even for a second… walk, breathe and feel like we old Singaporean did. We tried, but get sidelined by Singapore bosses and Foreign ones. Even at foodcourt and shop houses, see how the China workers (customer services/service staff) spoke to us in Mandarin and refused to converse in English (their inadequcies)and twice, I was even told off by these girls that they don’t speak English as they are CHINESE!!! What an insults to us. They came, took our jobs, conquers and had the galls to insult! On both incidents, I told them to go back to China as Singaporean we are not racist!! Chinese people’s skin-color are no better than anyone…we are Singaporean!

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