Wednesday, September 05, 2007

New Challenges

I was talking with a number of friends the other day, bantering around and we concluded, half jokingly, that Singaporeans below 50 years old, which includes your infant sons and daughters, now have a new challenge. We must ensure that all of us live beyond 80 years old - otherwise whatever money we are forced to put aside for the 'greater good' will never be recovered by ourselves. Of course, I am referring to the compulsory national annuity scheme just announced by the Prime Minister on 9 August 2007.

So not only have our children got to do well in school to secure a place in one of the local Universities (there are only 3 right now, with not enough places for everyone), they also have to secure a good job (career may be an afterthought) that pays enough to pay for the skyrocketing costs of housing and that car too, and earn enough to pay for 10 private tutors for that one son/daughter, never mind that he/she already attends a fee paying 'independent' school, but now, above all, he must ensure that he doesn't work, worry and stress himself so much that he will never see a cent of his forced annuity at age 80 (because he won't live till 80).

Sigh, we can put effort into pursuing our education, work at securing a good job and strive to give our children the best, but to live to a ripe old age is often something that is not entirely within our control. Yes, we can eat wisely and exercise regularly, but even the most health conscious are not guaranteed a long life. Some would say its the luck of the draw, so even before gambling starts at Marina Bay or Sentosa, we are already well on our way to instituting a scheme that is a game of chance - he who reaches 80 and beyond will win that pot that everyone has contributed to.

There are people who extol the virtues of saving for the greater good, that a community spirit of shared risks will usher in a gracious, caring and cultured society. I, too, look forward to such a society, but if it is going to be obtained by coercion, then I am not too keen about it. What kind of compassionate society can result from coercion?

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