I agree with Minister Lim Boon Heng (Today, 23rd Dec 2008 - page 1). Not that I am a staunch PAP supporter or that I am anti-opposition or that I am a union member. If anything, I am more apathetic politically, so my view this time around, as in many of the past cases I have commented on, is purely based on reason, and perhaps a bit of self-interest. Well, ok, that's a lot of self-interest.
I agree that the Central Provident Fund (CPF) should not be cut in these recessionary times because, as Mr Lim has rightly pointed out, it is a blunt instrument. It will cut the real wages of workers whose organisations are making money in these depressed times just as much as for those organisations which are bleeding red, or at best are just floating above water right now. Now why should workers, salarymen, in profitable companies, be asked to give more of the profit generated through their effort to their employers? So that these employers can buy another couple of houses at depressed prices, and/or mop up shares of blue-chip companies at a bargain, all to their own benefit? If the workers' Unions even contemplate this, they should be run out of the Union house. And since the CPF contribution rates are uniform across the board, then workers in those companies doing badly should also not be touched.
Let's not have a situation where the employers, the bosses, have their cake and eat it too. They can cut the bonuses, other variable wage components and even reduce wages, as suggested by the Union leaders, but not the CPF. We salarymen depend on the money in the CPF account to pay for the roof over our heads We have no choice. Imagine every HDB dweller dumping their houses because they cannot make the mortgage payments. We'll have a crisis worst than the recession on our hands, a situation perhaps akin to the sub-prime mortgage problem in the US. We also need the CPF savings for our retirement years. The government has been harping on the possibility that Singaporeans, in spite of their CPF, may not have enough to retire with. So don't pare it down, don't reduce the quantum of contributions from the employers. Otherwise, reasons for the Retirement Accounts and whatnots that are cooked up from time to time by the government (in good times) will look so hollow.
Singaporeans may be an obedient and disciplined workforce, but we are not stupid. While we do not want to go to the extremes that some American Unions have gone, we need to look out for ourselves too.
Image: morgueFile.com. Author: Dani Simmonds