theonlinecitizen

a community of singaporeans

My future as a Singapore citizen

Posted by theonlinecitizen on January 23, 2008

By Andrew Ong

Much attention has been on Singapore‘s greying population and it will likely remain a perennial national challenge for many years to come.

According to the United Nations, population ageing will be most significant in Asia. By year 2050, 1.2 billion people in Asia will be 60 years and above – four times the number today.

With our higher life expectancy, Singapore counts as one of the fastest ageing countries in the world. Today, one in 12 Singaporeans are 65 and above.

By the year 2030, that will increase to one in five.

Ageing in Singapore

Anticipating the ageing issues that will arise, our government has made substantial effort to address these issues such as the SICEX 2008 Exhibition that was held at the Suntec Convention Hall two weeks ago.

The Ministerial Committee on Ageing (MCA), led by Mr Lim Boon Heng from the Prime Minister’s Office, has been kept busy since last March by coming up with new initiatives for our more senior citizens. This has come in the forms of advocating employment for older workers to annuities for old age and the tweaking of Eldershield and the CPF.

When explaining the reason behind the key changes of the CPF scheme, PM Lee cited how the government was concerned about Singaporeans’ financial sustainability especially with the rise of life expectancy at 80 years old now.

From a glance, it looks like we do have a government that truly cares for its people with their plans to provide secure retirement for the ageing population. However, if we scratch the surface deeper, we might find another reason.

Tapping on human resource

It is a well-known fact that Singapore, being deprived of all other natural resources, has only our human resource to tap on. That is why the role of education in Singapore is emphasised and is one of our nation’s core foundation.

This also further explains and helps us understand the government’s stance on certain policies or leadership approaches. For instance, we pride ourselves for providing WORKfare and not WELfare.

In Singapore, there is no “free lunch” and all of us are expected to work. If you want welfare, you got to work and contribute to CPF to receive incentives. That is our workfare.

Asset or liability

Imagine when 500,000 Singaporeans retire at age 65 by 2010 out of 4-5 million as projected by statistics. And couple that with the higher life expectancy and the need of healthcare.

Would retirees have enough to survive?

Where would they get the money to survive if their savings are wiped out?

Would there be a sufficient workforce to sustain economic investments and growth?

I believe these questions are our government’s primary concerns. And with the rapid growth of the ageing population, there is an urgent need to find solutions in keeping our economy going.

Not only does a retiree represent un-productivity, he/she also represents in economic terms, a liability.

Why?

Simply because by not working, one no longer contributes to the CPF. Not only does he/she not give, but he/she is taking. Not to mention that our economy, being so dependent on consumer spending in keeping it afloat, would likely experience a big dip with retirees having less spending power.

So if a retiree runs out of money, where does he/she go?

Government lor…

If you don’t believe, you only have to look at our present situation with the rising cases of the poor and needy seeking financial assistance.

Therefore with the number of retirees expected in the years to come, that poses a huge “liability” for our government. And this better explains the initiatives and measures for securing our retirement – welcoming of foreign workers and the recent means testing for healthcare.

Not sure if you agree with me, but all these initiatives, seems to only be for the sustainability of the economy, and not exactly because of any genuine care and concern for us Singaporeans.

Looking hard below the surface, I am faced with the hard truth that I am regarded as nothing more than a mere number contributing to my country’s population statistics.

Work till I die

But to be fair, I applaud the government in doing a fine job in ensuring that our limited human resource in Singapore is fully utilised to contribute productively to our nation’s workforce.

Putting myself in their shoes, this could be a bo bian (no choice) kind of situation.

However, as a working 30 year old Singaporean, my concern is the rising cost of living which will shrink the value of my CPF retirement nest in 30 years’ time.

Another concern is the affordability of healthcare, as by that “retirement age”, healthcare would be a necessity for me to keep working in order to stay alive.

Against such a bleak bo bian backdrop, it is apparent that as a Singapore citizen, I will have to work till I die.

Is our future really ours to make – as an NDP slogan once said?


About the author: A true-blue Singapore heartlander, Andrew Ong is presently working in the Research & Corporate Communicatons division of an NGO which represents the manufacturing sector in Singapore. Other than his work, he enjoys serving others through his church and community work. In his free time, he fuels his passion for writing through his personal blog.

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21 Responses to “My future as a Singapore citizen”

  1. James said

    I’ve got a solution for you. Remove the PAP from government. Elect a government that truly cares for the citizens. Begin utilizing the huge national reserves for the betterment of the people. Problem solved.

  2. K.L. Sim said

    Andrew,

    My heart goes out with you when you make the statement ‘Work till I die’. Looking from the outside, I don’t think it is far from the truth. However, putting myself in the ‘baby boomer’ generation, I would take offence when described as a ‘liability’. They work their guts out to build a Singapore you are so proud of. In their twilight years, are not appreciated, adequately catered and cared for, and unable to enjoy the fruit of their labour. Sad isn’t it? Where has the ‘Asian culture’ gone? A phrase so readily spoken by your leaders – hope there are not ’empty words’ or meant for the outside world and not for Singapore.

    I have read somewhere, a survey of 10 countries that Singapore has the highest saving scheme through her CPF – up to 25% of the salary/wage. However, she came out last when funds are available for retirement – why? Is there any shortcoming with the system? Or its policy or other impediment?

    As a nation that pride herself with a team of ‘talented leaders’ and ‘highly educated’ population, will someone examine the true state of affair. I can understand some people will put a brake to the issue by quoting OBM. It is an issue NOT only affecting the current retirees but ‘Generation X’ and ‘Generation Y’ in future. Let not OBM be the term I have in mind – One Ball Missing.

  3. Robert HO said

    RH:
    1. For long, LKY LHL PAP have tried to brainwash us that “Community [as defined by them] Before Self”. This slogan reflects their deepseated belief that we as individuals don’t count, don’t matter. This belief and attitude explain many things, for example, the niggardly sum for public assistance recipients, S$290 a month, insufficient to keep stomachs full. While they are extremely generous to themselves, paying themselves millions because somehow, the slogan does not apply to them.

    2. Taken to its logical conclusion, Community Before Self leads to euthanasia and other forms of induced suicides. Because once you stop working, that is, stop contributing to the all-important economy, you have no reason to remain alive. After all, you would be draining the economy instead of enriching its coffers. This extreme, as usual, unconscious and unthought-out, belief explains almost every policy of the LEEgime and its contempt for the ordinary, non-elite Singaporeans, as mere problems to be “managed”.

    3. When you have long stopped seeing people as people, but only as digits of economic production, or digits to be housed, to be public transported, to be beaten into orderly behaviour and submission by rules, laws, punishment by jail and hanging, etc, it can make for a very efficient, orderly, society but ultimately, not 1 where people, as humans, can be happy or live fulfilling lives. It is survival, even comfortable survival, but not lives to the true potential of God’s creatures. A kind of conditional, coerced, life where if you live along the strictures set by the LEEgime, you will be grudgingly allowed to live whereas if you aspire to live a thinking, feeling, rich life where you question and probe these strictures, you come up against the full force of a machinery designed to crush any humanity or humanness in us. Because we are only digits, not God’s creatures. That is why LKY and LHL are not Christians or believe in any God. All these are the beliefs, actions, policies and works of the Devil.

  4. K.L. Sim said

    I am not sure whether the last comment is meant for my curiosity. I respect your thoughts and perception. However, I would like to believe that Singaporean have progressed beyond the ‘Feudalistic’ concept embedded in the ‘Asian culture’. It has no place in the modern world especially in a First world country.

  5. Andrew Loh said

    KL Sim,

    “I have read somewhere, a survey of 10 countries that Singapore has the highest saving scheme through her CPF – up to 25% of the salary/wage. However, she came out last when funds are available for retirement – why? Is there any shortcoming with the system? Or its policy or other impediment?”

    I think that is the question which no one in govt has yet answered. Singaporeans, through the forced-saving scheme of the CPF, has one of the highest (if not the highest) savings rate in the world. Yet, we are told that we will not have enough for retirement.

    Indeed, your question about whether there is something wrong with the system is a valid and important one. I suspect that it is the overpriced flats that the HDB sells to us that is draining most of our CPF savings.

    Thing is, with every upgrading programme, our CPF funds get drained even more. To me, the whole CPF scheme has become a complete mess.

  6. Gary Teoh said

    The government should use our national reserves to help the poor, and give retirees free health care.At this moment national reserves is used for what purpose? Can anyone tell me? Dont tell me it is used for investment, to help the ailing bank overseas.

  7. souless said

    Well said Mr Ho,

    The government must realized that the people are not adverse to work or having good work ethics. We all know its relevance in nation building or being part of the “community”. So we can fully comprehend the government’s stance and concern of eroding work ethics if the system allows ‘free lunches’. In any case, most people do not believe in free lunches. Most see the need to work and be self sufficient. However, even slaves work to be self sufficient so the issue is not ‘free lunch’ will lead to sloth or encourage sloth. The issue is: has the system been bias and enslaving by paying peanuts – not the mrs gold version – to an ever increasing burden on hard working majority whilst some white collar sweat are more fragrant or favored than others and thus paid wages above the moon so much so, hard work of the majority find no sabbath rest from their labor or become slaves to their economic masters till death?

    We should be asking whether the godless money system they perpetuate has dehumanize the people, robbing them not only of their voices and their righteousness but also their humanity which is suffocated by more and more hypocritical and rigid rules and regulations and these legal stronghold, mostly arises and complicated by past excesses and indulgences, seems to protect, profit and favor the elites more – even though all men are not equal, neither are we that unequal where sweat is concern!!

    So is the government telling us that as long as you are an average hard working citizen, you shall find no rest from your labor and be slaves to rich elites till their death?

    Man is more than a working animal. Man should be given their rest from labor to reflect, make peace and more importantly, be free to serve their true master at an appointed time. The sabbath rest is there to balance powers and excesses and should not be contravened without the earth and its inhabitants suffering the perils thereof.

  8. Andrew Ong said

    The following music clip was forwarded to me earlier- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ykWPOWd-6g

    Take a look.

    Timely and a good sum-up of this article =p

  9. AY said

    THERE IS NO HOPE!

    Life is unfair with the rich become richer,
    And the poor become poorer,
    Take a look around everywhere,
    People’s lives are in despair,

    In this country young and old,
    Whatever they do, they are being told,
    From the surface looks so jovial,
    Deep down inside is about to crumble.

    A red-dot city with a great ambition,
    Everything works in minute precision,
    What’s the use of being economically sound,
    When the true meaning of freedom is not really found,

    Aiming to be a financial hub,
    Inflationary figures keep going up,
    Then, adding salt to the wound,
    Ministers’ salaries shot up in tune.

    Everyone strives to achieve the 5Cs,
    Materialistic emphasis, the real moral issue they miss,
    What’s the use to acquire the best,
    Eternity is lost when you are laid to rest.

    In this local sombre mood,
    Old men & women working hard for their food,
    What a sight of humiliation and dignity lost,
    Til 65 & beyond, work like a horse

    So my fellow Singaporeans, there is no hope,
    Non-elitists like us find it hard to cope,
    Financially, emotionally, physically or mentally,
    For 40 years, we have never been set free

    If we stay here longer, what will the future bring?
    Not too optimistic and not so promising,
    Every aspect of our lives and business dealings,
    The government wants to control everything,

    In this country, there is nothing so great,
    As people continue to be afraid,
    There is one last thing to do and this cannot wait,
    Is to pack our belongings and emigrate.

    So beloved Singaporeans, economic success possesses no eternal value,
    Worry not what the government say, just smile at their point of view,
    The truth is already there to see,
    They have lost that moral integrity.

    AY 24Jan08

  10. pap have future said

    only PAP have future, the rest have nightmare. so don’t think about future just go fly kite.

  11. saintmoron said

    Despondency has indeed set in AND IT IS REALLY SAD that despite their talents this is what our leadership has brought upon us. PAP which I think stand for Pride and Pomposity has lead us, the majority, to nowhere.

    All the postings here are negative to the utmost and all feel hopeless, whereas our leaders are claiming endlessly for credits. And meanwhile many are overseas telling other leaders how to run their countries, what audacity!

    Unless our leaders can prove to the World that they have ‘run’ their country and citizenry well such that most Singaporeans have happy livings, they should very well stop boasting to their own citizens and to others. I doubt many do believe in them (Singapore Leaders).

    Singaporeans should not despair, there is always hope that the people(citizenry) will prosper and perish together comes the time, we should help others around us if we can and join them to seek justice if need be. Be united, be strong!

  12. SS Lee said

    I have money, but I don’t feel rich.
    I have a roof, but it doesn’t feel mine.
    I have a country, but I don’t feel proud anymore.
    I have a democracy, but no checks.
    I have a vote, but no choice.
    I have Nothing until the 66.6% have a brain.

  13. sad said

    I am now 45 years old. When I reach 55, I can only withdraw $45,000 from my CPF account. $120,000 will be stuck in the minimum sum scheme, so that the government can continue to punt on Citibank, UBS, Merrill Lynch etc. I thought we had a low tax, but now I realised we have a really HIGH tax on CPF and income tax etc. Can I withdraw my $120,000 and migrate? Anyone can advise?

  14. antz said

    The thing is that we are not among scandanivian countries where hostility level is considered low where i read in books that they had a kinda high level of co-operation among them.Scandinavian regards themselves as one united people.

    While we, is of disadvantaged position where we are a red dot among vast green pastures that have a kinda high and low level of hostility and co-operation.

    In our textbook,since young and in school all of us are taught that only hardwork and endurance are essential for ‘US’ in the real world to survive.

    we were educate since stepping on the working reality zone to fend ourselves.We cannot sit back and relax on a welfare couch as what have been told on and off for the past years.I still remembered there’s a time when SM Goh was being interviewed,he touch upon the issue of an opposition,Mr JB Jeyeratnam-his vision for s’pore.In the interview,he stated that if Govt go for a welfare state,needles to say it will be the end of s’pore as we are not Brunei/Saudi Arabia and oil rich country.

    So am saying did u get a point what he is trying to drive at?

    In the first place,I was a bit confused but after second thoughts i began to realize the seriousness of it.

    That is why we got to slouch till to this day.

  15. TCC said

    singapore very small only. just like a small dragon boat with many paddlers, a drummer and a steerer who control the boat direction. now the drummer and steerer is telling the paddlers that they manage to win competiton bcos of the direction and command given. and telling them they are elite leaders and want more respect and remuneration. i tell them **** off and go row yr boat yrself and we don’t need you. such a small boat and you want to act big. go find much bigger boat if you want more respect and remuneration. only know how to bully yr team mates in the boat. act like a dog when in foreign boat.

    Comments edited by moderator for vulgarities.

  16. AY said

    EMIGRATION – that is the way to go!!

    Be like the frog that gets out from the well and you will realize the sky of opportunities everywhere. Just need to have the guts to take that step. The secret is you need perserverance and tenacity to emigrate.

    Australia or New Zealand:

    – The bottomline is to obtain a skill that they need and plus the related experience your chances of getting a work permit first may be high.

    – After attaining the relevant skill, keep on applying for a job until an employer is willing to employ you especially when there is a skill shortage. The employer will then apply, on your behalf, for a work permit and you can subsequently apply for PR after working in the country for sometime.

    – I think that is the one of the best ways to emigrate since the immigration policies of these two countries have been more stringent in the last few years.

    – Acquire the skills that the country wants and switch to that trade if you want to increase your chances. Tradesmen like: plumbers, electricians, chef, car mechanics, florists, nurses, midwives, IT technicians.etc, are badly needed. I do not include the other professional occupations.

    – After working for a number of years then apply for PR. After a few more years as a PR, you will then be eligible to apply for citizenship of that country. Then you have to decide whether or not to give up Singapore citizenship. At this very point when you officially give up Spore Citisnship, YOU CAN WITHDRAW ALL YOUR MONEY FROM THE CPF. AND MAKE SURE AFTER YOU HAVE WITHDRAWN EVERY CENT, YOU DONT COME BACK. OTHERWISE, THE GOVERNMENT WILL HUMILIATE YOU TO MAKE YOU TO PAY INTEREST IF YOU WANT TO REVERT. SOME HAVE MADE U-TURNS AND THEY COULD NOT GET BACK THEIR SINGAPORE CITIZENSHIPS. SO THINK VERY CAREFULLY AS THE CHOICE IS ENTIRELY YOUR OWN.

    – On a personal note, I have come across many Singaporeans who gave up their citizenship and withdrew their CPF and use the monies to purchase properties overseas. Majority have no regret emigrating but there were some who would still go back to Spore because they lacked the fighting and tenancious spirit like the Chinese nationals, Vietnamese, Koreans or Japanese for that matter.

    You can find tons of information in the website.

    Hope that helps – SAD.

  17. […] and elitism – My Way: Eliminate Your Competition the Singaporean Way – The Online Citizen: My future as a Singapore citizen – Simply Jean: The letter that caused a furore in the Straits Times discussion board – Organic […]

  18. Jackson said

    With regards to Singapore’s ageing issue and the lack of retirement funds after age 65, I fully agree with the notion that Singaporeans, indeed, have no choice but to work till they die. It is very sad that this should be the case for a country whose government actually proclaimed itself a First World country. As a Singaporean, I agree with Mr Andrew Ong that there seems to have many flaws deep within our social policies towards handling ageing population as well as future developments in general. Singapore really needs a change that will reverse the tide, otherwise the country will approach the end of the peak and start to fall.

    Upon reading much news from the media and the Internet, I discovered that the policies which the First World government had implemented were actually wrong. Taking the recent inclusion of new ERP gantries for example, Transport Minister Raymond Lim said that increasing ERP rates as well as setting up more gantries is meant to encourage more people to take public transport. I would like to highlight one important point that this statement has been made for so many years YET we don’t really see an improvement in traffic congestion. As usual, road users continue to use the roads during peak hours. With the lowering of COE and road taxes, they only serve to allow people to buy cars more easily, but more expensive to drive them on the roads. In addition, bus fare and MRT fare hikes in the face of more ERP gantries do not make any sense at all because if the First World government really mean to encourage more public transport usage, by right they should lower the fares, but they went ‘by left’ and increased it instead. What amused me is that since the demand for public transport is already very high (One SMRT poster mentioned 2 million commuters), raising fares has no logic at all because it will only put off commuters. Both driving cars and taking public transport are expensive, so the First World government is not doing the right thing.

    The CPF issue of delaying the minimum withdrawal age from 67 to 85 was a topic hotly debated both in Parliament as well as the public domains back in end-2007. Under the new scheme, people who opted to withdraw their CPF savings at a later age will get to enjoy the benefits in the form of higher interest rates. The problem is: how many Singaporeans can live till 85 and still be as active as what the First World government claims to be? Government sources indicate 1 out of 2 Singaporeans can live beyond 85 and this is a very big question mark, rejected by me. SM Goh Chok Tong once mentioned that if given two scenarios – either work while you healthy then withdraw CPF later OR withdraw CPF early but risk insufficient retirement funds – he will choose the former. I’m also puzzled by this statement because I believe that everyone has a right to enjoy good life using the savings he/she has accumulated over years of hard work, rather than not enjoying life, slogging work all the time and then use the money only for medical bills in later years. Of these two, the first one seems more humane than the second one. Any rational being may agree with me.

    The last thing I will like to highlight before I end my response is the issue of attracting foreign talents. Singapore is a small country with no natural resources, so I do agree with the idea of attracting foreign talents, but not to the extent of employing them ALL THE TIME and EVERYWHERE as Singapore itself does have a pool of local talents, though small and ‘not very valued’ by the First World government. The reason for being human resource limited is linked to falling birth rates, which is, in my opinion, totally wrecked by the First World government. PM Lee Hsien Loong mentioned Baby Bonus Schemes of a few thousands of dollars for every certain number of babies born. I want to remind everyone that in order to raise a child from a baby to at least age 21 is definitely more expensive than a few thousands of dollars which is actually very small. Back to issue, local talents should be preferred over foreign talents, not because they should be highly paid than the foreign talents, but because of loyalty to nation. In schools, for example, the number of foreign students is increasing and because they are bonded by government scholarships, they are guaranteed jobs while most local students aren’t. In this case, my answer is that they come here to occupy our places in education and then occupy our jobs in the working world. I as a Singaporean NSman, am obliged to protect this country in times of war but is not given any assurance of occupying at least a decent highly-paid job in my own country because the First World government prefers foreign talents over local talents.

    With this, I end my response. Hopefully no one sues me because of what I said. 🙂 Just my feeling lar…

  19. Antz,

    That’s just one side of the coin. Sure, we’re in a realist pond, but you never mix foreign policy wholesale with domestic politics.

    Period.

  20. zzZ said

    hard work?!

    I can’t believe it lah!
    Work till old? old already still work… those poor old chaps will have such a hard time.
    It’s really a bo bian choice lah. What can we do? T.T

    And then now everyone is told to buy insurance?
    =.=”’

  21. robertdi said

    just stopping by to say hey 🙂

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