Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Shifting Track

Well, you must give the government credit. In spite of PM Lee Hsien Loong's very public pronouncement that all Singaporeans under 50 years of age MUST buy an annuity to tide over the rest of their life's needs, the government has backed down. In Parliament yesterday, the Manpower Minister, Mr Ng Eng Hen, said something to the effect that this annuity thing may not be compulsory after all. Yes, people have different needs and different people have different means. You just can't treat everyone the same and say everyone MUST buy into the annuity plan structured by the government. Yes, the government wanted to achieve mass participation so that the cost of the annuity will be low enough to be affordable, yet the yields are high enough to satisfy. But I suppose the people in charge of aging issues were not listening to their colleagues over at the Education Ministry.

The people in charge of education have been saying for some time now that people have different abilities and interests, that we shouldn't treat everyone with a cookie-cutter. Some are more artistic, others are more analytical. Some learn slower, others faster. Some are better with their hands, others are good with their minds. So education has taken a much more diverse offering in recognition of these differences. This, if nothing else, is an enlightened piece of thinking.

Yet, the people at the government's old folks department insist on using the cookie-cutter which the education people have very wisely discarded. What happened to the careful deliberation process, which the Singapore government is well known for, on this issue? It seems that someone or some people just pushed out a half-baked cake for the PM to sell at a very public occasion, which caused a lot of indigestion. Is the nation beginning to be short-changed by some very costly scholars in the civil service who cannot figure out what the man in the street takes a second to do so - that a compulsory annuity takes away PEOPLE's OWN hard earned money without the certainty that they will benefit from it at all. Well, yes, you may say that Singaporean's give generously to charity, but that's all voluntary.

The proposed forced annuity is but another form of deferred taxation, is it not? And worst, it is regressive in nature, like the GST. Poorer people pay proportionately more than do the well off. The premiums paid are effectively redistributed in favour of those who live longer - possibly the more well off because they can better afford life-sustaining medical care.

A committee will now be formed to consider the matter in greater depth. Its seems that the original people/committee that were/was considering this matter in depth (in the PM's department, no less) didn't do that thorough a job. Let's hope the new committee does better.


Anonymous said...

They were hoping the old committee was coming out with "good reasons" to convince the people. Well,
"good reasons" did not work well.

Now, the new committee will attempt to give the "right reasons" to convince people.

MG said...

I think you give too much credit to the MOE by saying that they are enlightened enough to recognise differences. Remember the Alfian Saat incident?

Epilogos said...

mg, I must confess I knew nothing of the Alfian Saat affair until now. I caught up on my ignorance. In spite of the questionable action by the Min Edu in this case, it does not detract from much of the good that they have been doing for an inclusive education system in the last couple of years, since Shanmugaratnam took over.

On the employment/re-employment of relief teachers, I have mine own axe to grind with Min Edu, but I'll leave that for another time. Few things are either black or white. The truth, as they say, lies somewhere in between.

Epilogos said...

"...the new committee will attempt to give the 'right reasons' to convince people."

Well put. But if there are no right reasons to force people to part with their money without a corresponding and certain benefit to themselves, they should just bury the idea.

Anonymous said...

in a democratic society, nothing should be made compulsory... but the fact is when is Singapore democratic?
whatever the reasons from the old/new, this kind of cookie-cutter idea does not fit a vibrant cosmopolitan city-state Singapore is trying to achieve! Any right-minded person will know straightaway this idea should not even be let out to the public (let alone during NDP rally speech!?). This shows how the people-in-charge thinks & works.

James Chia said...

They tried to convince that this annuity policy is going to benefit all of us. But they failed. Obviously people know that it's going to benefit only a small handful of them. You cannot fool everyone everytime.